Low Class Consonants - Learn Thai from a White Guy

Low Class Consonants

There are 24 low class consonants in Thai.  This is the largest group of letters.  This post will just cover some of the more common ones.  It is assumed you are familiar with the vowels covered in previous alphabet-related posts.  These vowels are  – อา อิ อี  เอ เอา ไอ ใอ ออ  อุ  อู

If you’d like to learn the entire Thai script, check out my 4 course online program, the Learn Thai Inner Circle.  The program has audio for all Thai , flashcards and much more detailed explanations than this old post.

If it isn’t already obvious, the best way to go about this is to memorize the 2 other groups of letters (high and mid) so that when you encounter a letter that you know isn’t high or mid, you know its low.  With a bit of time spent trying to read, it will all become second nature and you will no longer need to think in terms of high, mid or low.

As I mentioned above, there are 24 letters in the low class.  Today we are just going to cover 14 of them.   As usual, I strongly recommend learning the alphabet ASAP as it is very difficult to separate sounds within a language while you are associating the sounds with your native alphabet/syllabary.  So learn the damn alphabet already.  It’s easy.   If you are going to be in Chiang Mai (or Bangkok if I happen to be there) and need help, I can pound the bulk of the alphabet into your head in 6-8 nearly painless hours and help you start reading (fun easy stuff) so it stays put.

ค ง ช ซ ท น พ ฟ ภ ม ย ร ล ว

(คอ ควาย) is very much like the ‘k’ in English.  You should note that the only difference (in appearance) between this letter and ด (ดอ เด็ก) is the circle placement.

Mnemonic – The line in the middle is an arm.  The circle is a fist holding a dagger.  If you are trying to kill someone the blade of the dagger is coming out the bottom of your hand while you stab them you might shout “I’m gonna kill ya!” in order to remember the ‘k’ sound — ค

If you are holding the dagger the other way (blade up) you are more likely to be ‘defending yourself.’ — ด

ง  (งอ งู) is like the ‘ng’ in singing, but in Thai it can be the first sound in a word.  The letter is called snake and it looks like one.  Or it looks like a lower-case ‘g’, whatever works for ya.  I’d go with a snake that makes งงงงง  sounds rather than hiss instead.

(ชอ ช้าง) This one is like a ‘ch.’ The name of the letter ‘ช้าง’ (chaang + high tone) means elephant so you might consider the last line which heads off to the top right being the elephant’s trunk.

(ซอ โซ่) This is the only ‘s’ sound that is low class (the rest are high).  โซ่ means chain and has a nick in the tail of the elephant, so lets imagine a chain wrapped around the poor creature’s tail.  It helps to create a mental image.

*This letter is the only ‘s’ sound that can be any tone (high class consonants leading a word restrict the word to rising, falling or low)

(ทอ ทหาร) is just like a ‘t’ and the letter’s name means soldier.  Maybe this soldier is holding one fist (the circle) high in some sort of salute….

(นอ หนู) – ‘n’  the name of the letter is ‘mouse’ or ‘rat.’  This letter looks a lot like an ‘N’ to me.  The connecting line in the English letter is mousing its way along the floor only to scamper up the other side.

(พอ พาน) like a ‘p,’ and the name of the letter is a type of tray or dish that has a pedestal base.  Let’s just think of it as pedestal-ed plate (จาน) with a big P on it.

(ฟอ ฟัน) like an ‘f,’ and the name means ‘tooth.’

(ภอ สำเภา) – ‘p’ – type of boat (junk).

(มอ ม้า) ‘m’ – horse

(ยอ ยักษ์) ‘y’ – ‘giant’ *often used as a semi-vowel

(รอ เรือ) – ‘r’ (often pronounced as ‘l’ or half-ass’d ‘r’ *correct pronunciation involves a trill, but this is almost always dropped in colloquial speech)  – boat (any kind)

(ลอ ลิง) ‘l’ – monkey *monkey down on all 4’s with unusually long tail extending high over its head

(วอ แหวน) ‘w’ – a ring *Mnemonic – here someone has presented you with a very odd ring – its far too small to fit on your finger (the circle) and it has a long curved claw jutting out of the top.  Maybe if you just hung the claw over your finger… 


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