learn to read thai Archives - Page 2 of 2 - LTfaWG

Alphabet – Part 4 – More Letters

What do we know so far?  Not nearly enough.  Can you read any of this stuff below yet?

  1. กา   crow
  2. เจ    vegetarian
  3. ด้าน  side
  4. บ้าน  house; home
  5. อ่าง  basin; sink

Lets go over these a bit.

First there is กา.  This is that kinda Gaah when certain people with certain accents say ‘garden.’  Long vowel, to say it properly you need to hold that vowel a moment longer than you would in English.

เจ – uh-oh.  Did I even cover this letter yet?  Lets just say its a not too distant Asian cousin of the letter ‘J.’ Added on to that vowel that is pretty close to the vowel in words like pay, stay, ray, day.  Why you might even get away with this word by simply saying the letter “J,”  because in English we throw vowels into our letters without writing them.  How confusing!

ด้าน  The sperm on top of the ด here changes the tone to falling.  So its that “D-ish” letter with a long aaah + n-like consonant at the end.  Got it?

บ้าน Just like ด้าน except our “D-izm” turns into a “B-izl.”  It can’t get any easier than this.  No really it can’t and it won’t so please enjoy the moment while you can.

อ่าง So the อ is as usual just a place holder here.  Since it is paired up with า ..we simply say ‘aaah’ and then throw in the last consonant to make a fun syllable thats great for washing your hands or bathing out of a large barrel.  The tone mark makes it a low tona-fied word.  More on tonal-y stuff later.  What is that funny letter at the end anyways?  Why its a ง [งอ งู] of course.  If one was forced to transliterate it, and I feel forced at the moment, we would do so as Ng.  Some people have lots of trouble with this sound, so I will spend more time on it later.  But the way I learned it was simply to keep saying words in English (which I could pronounce fairly well to begin with) that ended in -ing and then practice adding vowel sounds onto the end of that until I could drop the English in the beginning.  You just need to find what your mouth is doing when you say English words and train it to be able to use it to start the word.   sing–uu, sing–aaah, sing–ohh.  Eventually it just falls into place and you give up all that sin and just have gnuu งู, gnaah งา, gnoo โง่. All useful words.

Are you feeling fluent yet?  Don’t worry, we’re almost there.  We’ve almost done it.  We’ve almost mastered the middle class consonants.  The smallest group of letters in Thai.  We will need to memorize that these are middle class consonants at some point so I’m going to just keep reminding you until we’ve covered them all.

*ง and น are low class consonants.  The middle consonants are จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ.

Thai Alphabet – Middle Class Consonants Part 3

The Thai alphabet has oodles of vowels. We need to cover more of them so you can begin to work out the names of some of the other middle class consonants.

What vowels do we know so far?

อา

ไอ ใอ

เอ

เอา

Let’s throw 2 more into the mix.

อุ and อู. Think of these vowels as siblings. They are essentially the same sound, but the longer shaped vowel, has um, the longer sound. Remember that the actual vowel symbols are simply ุ and ู while the อ is just a place holder we use to spell the vowels. Note that they go under the letter they are modifying.

While we’re at it, I should mention the long อา vowel sounds sidekick อะ. So the อ [ออ อ่าง] along with those sperm or comma-like symbols give us the short vowel อะ. This is one of those sounds your gonna need to hear. Kinda like the ‘a’ in about.

Oh yea, if you want big pretty pictures of the Thai alphabet, you can find some at learningthai.com.

How to Learn the Thai Script

Learning the Thai script can seem intimidating at first, but it is one of the most important steps in learning to speak Thai. Don’t think of it as reading so much as a map of the Thai sounds for your brain.

Thai Consonants

The Thai script has 44 consonants which are used to represent 21 different consonant sounds. The Thai consonants are then divided into 3 groups or classes: Middle, High and Low. The consonant classes are important as the class of the initial consonant in any particular word is used in identifying the tone of the word.

Let’s take a look at how consonants and vowels are put together.

[กอ ไก่] ไก่ chicken

[ออ อ่อง] ไอ to cough

Next up is [ดอ เด็ก] เด็ก means kid or child. We’ll get to how to read it shortly. This letter ด is very close to the letter D in English. Lets throw an ไ vowel in front of it to give us a word that sounds a lot like ‘die’ in English.

ได ไก่ ได ไอ

Time to throw another vowel in the mix. The vowel [สระ อา] า. This is a long vowel. Comparable to the sound you make when the doctor tells you to open up and say ‘aah.’ Well, perhaps not quite that long. But maybe something like the vowel sound in dark if you got rid of the r and k and replaced it with some more ‘aah.’ The vowel is like a candy cane. And the sound you might make while trying to shove the whole thing in your mouth at once isn’t very different from the vowel sound.

กา อา ดา

Still with me? Probably not, but it’ll make more sense when I get the sound files up. Soon friend, soon.

บ [บอ ใบไม้] ใบไม้ means is 2 syllables and means leaf. The บ sound is a lot like ‘b,’ and that should suffice for now. The vowel ใอ is pronounced exactly the same as ไอ and the first one which is rounded at the top only appears in about 20 words and is important only for spelling.

Lets go over all the vowels we have so far –

กา บา ดา อา

ไก + ใก, ไบ + ใบ, ได + ใด differ only in the spelling of vowel.

We’d better cover another vowel before moving on. The vowel เ [สระ เอ] is a long vowel which sounds like the way we say the letter ‘A’ when spelling a word. Like in ‘day, tray, pay, say, and so forth. It looks like a tiny lowercase b and always appears before the consonant it affects.

เด เบ เก เอ

We need to add in another consonant and a vowel.

ต [ตอ เต่า] Some people have trouble pronouncing this letter so I’m gonna try to describe it. Its somewhere between d and th in English. Your tongue should be face up like a ‘th,’ but it shouldn’t actually go out past your teeth. It should stay kind of cupping your upper teeth. Keep your tongue loose and relaxed when practicing this sound.

เต่า means turtle. Notice that we have both the เ before and the า after the letter. These 2 vowels when enveloping a letter, actually become a new sound. Yay!

So what vowels do we know now? None? Erm. Well, lets pretend we do and try reading these mostly nonsense words below:

เอ อา เอา ออ

เก กอ กา เกา

บา เบ เบา บอ

เตา เต ตา ตอ

ใบ ไต ไก ไอ

*ออ is pronounced like ‘awe.’ Remember that the first อ is a placeholder and the second อ acts as a vowel.