De-Farang-ify Archives - Learn Thai from a White Guy

How to Practice Tones

I’ve been making lots of new videos lately.  If you haven’t subscribed to my youtube channel or liked my facebook page then consider doing so.  It’ll take me a while to post everything I’ve filmed in the past few weeks, but much of it is already up there.  I won’t ever post anything spam-y so when I put something up, I assume it will be useful to you, or particularly funny (in a Thai way).

Here’s an easy way for beginners to practice tones in a tonal language like Thai:

Learn to Read Thai in 2 Weeks

Want to learn to read Thai in about 2 weeks?*

Here’s what you will be able to do after mastering the script:

  • You will be able to read nearly any word you come across in Thai
  • You will be able to figure out what tone the word is supposed to be.
  • You will know the correct pronunciation of all of the vowels/consonants and suddenly realize that everything you and your friends have been saying all along was wrong and you will begin to understand why.
  • You will be able to tell all your friends that they are actually saying the Thai word for coffee wrong.  (then we can laugh at them together)
  • You will be able to cook Thai food (it may not taste very good).
Here is what you will not be able to do after completing the course:
  • You will not be able to read Harry Potter in Thai and understand much if anything (although if you already speak Thai you’ll catch on much faster than someone who is fob)
  • You probably will not be able to pronounce the vowels/consonants and tones perfectly just yet (but you’ll know how they are supposed to sound and just like when you exercise the bigger muscles in your body the little ones in your mouth will get better with practice)
  • You will not yet be able to understand much more than you did beforehand.  Listening is its own skill and takes time.  (this happens super fast once you get used to the sounds)
  • Your skin will not change color and you won’t look any more or less Asian than you did before you started studying with me.  (maybe after a solid year of practice you may have a shot at someone asking you if you are a ลูกครึ่ง – even if you are as non-asian-looking as I am.)
  • You will still suck at Muay Thai.

Sign up for the free lesson now and start reading right away and you’ll be reading the Thai alphabet in no time!

  • Don’t wanna study online?
  • Can’t afford private lessons?
  • Are sick of schools not teaching you how to read?


Check out my step by step course to learning how to read Thai in 2 weeks*.

Click here to learn more.

*Individual results may vary, but if you spend about 30 minutes a day on the lessons, you shouldn’t have any problem completing the course in about 2 weeks.


Hear me talking in fluent English on Bangkok Podcast if you still aren’t convinced.

LTfaWG – Why study with me?

I realize that while I have created a number of resources here, much of it isn’t very useful for a beginner that doesn’t know where to begin.  So I’m offering myself to you, dear readers.

Reading is ez!  It takes most people about 2 weeks* to go through the alphabet and all the tone rules, however, it will take a bit of regular practice before you are able to fully master/internalize everything.   From there we start reading the Wimpy kid books. We start easy with captions and go back and forth with that while drilling essential phrases until you can handle longer passages.  Then I keep feeding you useful language bits while you keep reading and working out the class/tone rules until you no longer need to think about them. I supply you with flashcards with audio for everything so you can review it.

*Individual results may vary. My system was developed over a period of about 10 years and in the last 5 years or so of teaching Thai privately, it generally took 6 hours of 1 on 1 lessons to cover all the material that you can now find in my online course. The time it takes someone to complete the 50 or so lessons in the online course will likely take you somewhere in the vicinity of 10-20 hours including review time.

Once you are ready for longer passages, we jump around in the Wimpy Kid books with you reading while I create flashcards for the more useful phrases and tell you what things mean. After you have a decent vocab and have begun to figure out how the language works, you can go off on your own or you can cut back your time spent with me and we can go through the whole book together.

It works slightly better in person because the internet in Thailand isn’t what I would call reliable, but via the magic of skype or google voice/vid chat distance really isn’t much of an obstacle.

Key Points/Strategies in my Method –

  • No Textbooks
  • No Phonetics/Transliteration
  • Only Authentic Material that is Interesting (Wimpy Kid books!)
  • SRS Flashcards (So you can’t forget)
  • No Word Lists
  • Fun Super-Useful Phrases (ie – 100 sentence project)
  • No Pressure
  • More Bang  for your Baht

Making Your Words Flow

Getting used to the sounds in any language takes practice.  Getting used to them in a tonal language when you are coming from a non-tonal language is a bit tougher, but as with anything else, it is easily accomplished with a bit of time and effort.

One simple piece of advice that can make a big difference in your pronunciation is to emphasize the last tone of a sentence and to a lesser degree of a stop in a phrase.  Open your mouth a bit when you talk.  Pay attention to what native speakers are doing with their mouths now and then.

Know how to say 3 ?  Know how to say it correctly?  Your mouth should be opening wide at the sides in a big smile-like expression.

Look at the following sentence – พรุ่งนี้  ไม่ว่าง (tomorrow – not free)

There are 2 great opportunities to make your speech sound ชัด here.  Hold that high toned นี้ in พร่งนี้ and make it long and hold it for a moment.  Not too long, but long enough that its a clear high tone.  Then on the ว่าง of ไม่ว่าง…remember its a long vowel and its falling.  The sounds we hear right before a pause are more memorable than the ones that precede them and when you are still trying to climb up that slippery language ladder, little tricks like these will make you sound ชัด beyond your ability bringing the praise that motivates you to keep going.