Speaking Thai

bangpain culture of thailand If you learn to speak Thai -- even a little bit -- and learn the correct pronounciation and polite syntax, you will be rewarded! Even a clumsy but sincere attempt at the language will be appreciated by the Thais. Just don't be misguided when Thais say, "Oh, you speak Thai very well." You probably don't but they are being polite.

Thai is a tonal language. It has five tones.

  • neutral
  • high
  • rising
  • low
  • falling
  • .

Thai can only be transliterated into Roman letters. A transliteration must also be accompanied by some system that indicates

  • tone
  • aspiration of consonants
  • abruptness of ending a word or syllable
  • "length/duration" of the vowel sounds

This page uses the "Robertson's Practical English-Thai Dictionary" system.

Thai Grammar tips

  • Object --> Modifier (modifier follows object) Ex: Thai's wouldn't say "black shoes", but would say, "shoes black."
  • Repeating an object indicates a plural. Ex: "cat, cat" would mean "cats."
  • Aspiration When the speaking of a consonant produces a small puff of air it is said to be an aspirated consonant. As an example, notice the puff of air when saying "pop". Those consonants will be marked in the table with "(a)"
  • Syllable Endings in Thai are of two types; abrupt and normal. An abrupt ending such as in "pop" will be designated with a "!"
  • Vowels that tend to lengthen the vowel sound will be expressed with a double vowel

Go to ... speaking basic Thai

neutralno indicator
Consonant Phonetic Sound ConsonantPhonetic Sound
k(a)kitey(y)es or m(y)
Vowel Phonetic Sound VowelPhonetic Sound
a, ahfatherao, owchow
ai, i, ylie, by

 *Notes: "bp" and "dt" have no English equivalents, but are a combined sound of both letters. Thai has no equivalent to a soft "g". Thai has no "th" sound as in "the". "ng" can be found as a beginning consonant in numerous Thai words.

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