Middle Class Consonants - Learn Thai from a White Guy

Middle Class Consonants

Every letter in the Thai alphabet has a word associated with it. This word is used to refer to or as a name for the letter. It’s a bit like if in English, we referred to the letter “D” by saying “Dee Dog” or “Bee Bird.”

We are going to use the English translation of the names of the letters to give us our first memory hook. This will help us quickly associate the letter with its name even before we know the word in Thai.  This will also allow us to start recognizing letters before we are comfortable with the sounds they represent.

The word in parenthesis is the word in Thai used to name the letter.  Feel free to listen to the name of the letter, but the goal for this lesson is to be able to recognize and differentiate between the 7 letters below on sight.  Don’t worry too much about the sounds just yet.  We’ll spend time on that very soon.

Thai consonants when standing alone, have what’s known as an “inherent vowel.”  This just means that if we see a Thai letter and it doesn’t have a vowel attached to it, we automatically assign the AWWW vowel to it.  So when you click on any of the audio files below, you will hear the consonant sound pronounced along with an AWWW (like in JAW) vowel after them.  This is great for us, because it’s a lot easier to hear the sound of a consonant when it’s attached to something.  We’ll learn to read that vowel in a future lesson.

– kid; child ( เด็ก)
mnemonic: A kid in a white-sheet ghost costume, but with only 1 eye hole

– chicken ( ไก่)
mnemonic: This one’s easy. It looks like the head of a bird!

 – fish ( ปลา)
mnemonic: Imagine a fishhook except it’s a bit squared up rather than round. The little circle on the hook can be the bait.

 – turtle ( เต่า)
mnemonic: Imagine a turtle with a long dent/crevice running down the back of it’s shell.* Compare ต (turtle) with ด (kid).
*Need help with pronouncing the turtle?

 – leaf ( ใบไม้)
mnemonic: Using your imagination you might see this as a bucket or a basket. Now all we need to do is fill it up with leaves.* Compare บ (leaf) with ป (fish).

– plate; dish ( จาน)
mnemonic: This one is a bit tough. How about we just dropped that plate on the ground and pick up the largest remaining shard which looks mysteriously like that letter.  Really, close your eyes for 10 seconds and imagine it.

– basin ( อ่าง)
mnemonic: This one all looks like a container which helps.  Think of the basin as a large barrel of water with a lid attached that is partially open.
* This letter is special in that it can serve as both a consonant and a vowel.

Make sure you’ve read through this a couple of times and then scroll down here and spend a few minutes drilling until you can remember them all before moving on to the next lesson.

  • chicken

  • child

  • leaf

  • turtle

  • fish

  • plate

  • basin
  • All Done!

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