How to Learn the Thai Script - LTfaWG

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.

Comments

  1. Good stuff. The description for how to sound out ต is great. I was just asking a Thai friend about this today.

    Rock on.

  2. Good stuff! You can actually describe it as the [t] in the word ‘stop’. Just clip off the and you have the sound! The same goes for the [k] in ‘ski’ and [p] in ‘speed’.

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