Say Ahhh - Learn Thai from a White Guy

Say Ahhh

Now that you can remember the keywords for the first 7 letters as a group, it should be much easier to begin to associate a sound for each of them. This saves us from having to associate something new, in this case, a funny looking letter with a funny sound. The first rule of remembering is to connect new information to something you already know (the words in English.)

Remember the CHICKEN? We’re going to use her to show us how vowels attach themselves to consonants in Thai. In Thai, VOWELS WILL ALWAYS BE ATTACHED TO A CONSONANT.  Just like Thai people, Thai vowels never stand alone by themselves. They would get lonely.

What sound does the CHICKEN make? It will sound a lot like a “G” to you, but we want to think of it more like a “K”. The most important difference between the CHICKEN “K” and a regular old “K” in English, is that this one does not have a strong blast of air when you say the letter. Say the following English words out loud and hold your hand up to your mouth so you can feel the blast of air:

  • KILL
  • KYLIE
  • CANE
  • CORN

The first vowel looks like a cane and sounds like a long AHHHHH. Imagine that you are holding a giant candy cane and you are trying to fit it all into your mouth at once. You need to open your mouth pretty wide to get it in there (and to say this vowel sound correctly).

Listen to what the CHICKEN sounds like when you attach that AHHH Vowel to it:
Click the word to hear the sound as many times as you need to and remember you can always come back to this page later to review.

There are 3 things you want to pay attention to:

  1. The length of the vowel: It’s always long like this so make sure to hold that AHHH for a few milliseconds longer than is comfortable.
  2. The difference between the sound of the “K” you are used to and ““. It’s very important to be able to distinguish these, but it may take a little while for your ear to adjust so don’t worry if they still sound similar. For now, just be aware that they are 2 distinct sounds and why (the blast of air).
  3. The position of the AHHH vowel in relation to the chicken. (It’s on the right…)

So first we had กา which also happens to be the first syllable in the Thai version of the word “coffee” – กาแฟ.

If you need to review the letter associations, feel free to look back over the first lesson. Skipping those word associations may cause problems later on when you come across letters where the sound and/or shape is similar and you have no way to tell them apart. It’s worth spending the 5 minutes to learn them.

Let’s attach the AHHH vowel to the LEAF, CHICKEN and CHILD. Click around with these 3 letters + the AHHH vowel until you are comfortable and then move on.

We’ll be doing the same with the other 4 letters, but they each require a bit of explanation:

  • จา – the PLATE letter is a “CH” sound without the blast of air. After clicking to hear the syllable a few times, try to repeat it while holding your hand in front of your mouth. You should not be feeling a strong blast of air.  You will still need to breathe to stay alive, but there is a noticeable difference between an aspirated consonant (K or CH in English) and an unaspirated one.

    The FISH makes a “P” sound, but as you may have guessed, it has no blast of air when you say it. So it’s not the “p” in “party”. This “P” does sometimes show up in English, however.

    It’s a little weird since you’ve never had to distinguish that sound before, but you can definitely say it and just need a bit of practice to be able to say it at will.

    Read the words below aloud while putting your hand in front of your mouth.  Say them slowly by breaking them down one syllable at a time. If the air flow coming out of your mouth when you say the words has a strong blast of air, then you still haven’t gotten it right.  Saying it softly sometimes helps.  It might take a few minutes, and it might take a few tries.  Don’t stress if you can’t get it every time yet.  You’ll get it soon.

    In the meantime,  you may want to try singing Mmmbop as you’ll say it a bunch of times in there.

    When you are back from singing Hanson songs, try saying the following words out loud slowly, breaking the syllables down and paying attention to the “P” in the second syllable.

    • HIPPO (HIP-PO)
    • PEPPER (PEP-PER)
    • PIPER (PIE-PER)

    Now listen to the FISH attached to the AHHH vowel and a few other vowels so you can try to wrap your ears around this sound. For the new vowels, don’t worry about the shape. Just listen for that FISH and try to copy the speaker.

    Next up is the mighty TURTLE. Don’t stress about the new vowels Just listen to the TURTLE do his thing.

    To say the TURTLE correctly, you’ll need to push the tip of your tongue to just behind your top teeth. Put a bit of pressure on, then bounce off into the vowel. If your tongue is too far back and not touching your teeth, you’ll be saying a different letter. Try to imagine push a tiny turtle who has attached itself to the back of your top teeth.

    Finally, we have the BASIN. The BASIN is special. It has no sound value when it’s a consonant.
    Remember how we said that vowels always attach themselves to a consonant? Well, when you actually want to say a sound like AHHH or EEEE or OHHHH, you will need to use the basin. The basin acts as a special place holder to hold the vowel together and let us know that it has its own syllable.

    Here’s the BASIN with the AHHH vowel:

    Notice anything? It’s just the AHHH that we have been practicing all along. I’ll never again refer to it as AHHH in any of the lessons. From now on, it’s just plain old อา.

    Now you should be able to associate the English word with the corresponding Thai letter and have begun to connect those to the sounds of the consonants. Spend as much time drilling these as you need and then come back and do it again later today and/or tomorrow. It may take 2 or 3 rounds to get them all in your head.

    The cards should shuffle each time you do them and you can also reload the page if you want to mix it up. Clicking on the X will keep the card in the current instance of the deck, while on the check mark will remove that card from the current instance. This allows you to focus your energy on the cards you still don’t know.

    • กา
      กา
      CHICKEN + AHHH
    • บา
      บา
      LEAF + AHHH
    • ดา
      ดา
      CHILD + AHHH
    • ปา
      ปา
      FISH + AHHH
    • จา
      จา
      PLATE + AHHH
    • ตา
      ตา
      TURTLE + AHHH
    • อา
      อา
      BASIN + AHHH
    • All Done!

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