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Thailand | Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 14

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Fortunately for foreigners, some signs in Thailand are universally understood

Fortunately for foreigners, some signs in Thailand are universally understood

 

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Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 14

Benefits Of Reading Thai

Bpuat chee

 

Here's another pictorial sign in Thailand that can be easily understood without the need to be able to read Thai.

Unfortunately for foreigners, most signs are of the written variety. There is a huge amount of extremely useful information written on signs in Thailand, but this information is only accessible to those who can read Thai.

One example is the way that Thais advertise. If they are offering a product or service for sale they will make signs and stick these on lampposts around the neighbourhood. Foreigners looking for a house to rent who can't read Thai will walk past lots of signs offering exactly what they want because they can't read.

If you visit Thailand often, and especially if you live in Thailand permanently, it is well worth the effort to learn to read some basic Thai.

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Tone Rules

I have learnt all the basics from two authors: David Smyth and Benjawan Poomsan Becker. Both of these authors are excellent and can be highly recommended. In fact, they are almost gods in the small world of farangs learning Thai.

I have found that one or the other sometimes explains certain things better. I discovered through Benjawan that tones of certain words didn't follow the tone rules. On the other hand, I find her description of the rules quite confusing.

I think that David Smyth explains the tone rules in a very simple way and that is the way I have learnt.

The first thing I look for in a word or syllable is a tone mark. There are four of these but just like Thai consonants, there is a big variation in their usage. The first two get used all the time but the third and fourth don't appear very often.

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Tone Marks

If the word has a tone mark written above the initial consonant, the tone is easy to determine.

First, here are the four tone marks. Remember that the first two are extremely common, whereas the third and fourth tone marks aren't used very much.

1st tone mark

 

ไม้ เอก

mai ayk

Symbol: อ่

2nd tone mark

 

ไม้ โท

mai tor

Symbol: อ้

3rd tone mark

 

ไม้ ตรี

mai dtree

Symbol: อ๊

4th tone mark

 

ไม้ จัตวา

mai jut-dta-waa

Symbol: อ๋

After checking to see whether a tone mark is used, I then check the initial consonant class. When a consonant cluster is used, the tone mark is written above the second consonant in the cluster, but the first consonant in the cluster is the initial consonant for tone purposes.

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High Class Consonants

 

อักษรสูง - uksorn soong (11)

ข ฃ ฉ ถ ผ ฝ ศ ษ ส ห ฐ

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Mid Class Consonants

 

อักษรกลาง - uksorn glaang (9)

ก จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ

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Low Class Consonants

 

อักษรต่ำ - uksorn dtum (24)

ค ฅ ฆ ง ช ซ ฌ ญ ฑ ฒ ณ ท ธ น พ ฟ ภ ม ย ร ล ว ฬ ฮ

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Words With Tone Marks

If a word uses a tone mark, use the following rules:

Low Class Initial Consonant

1st tone mark = falling tone

2nd tone mark = high tone

3rd tone mark = high tone

4th tone mark = rising tone

Mid Class Initial Consonant

1st tone mark = low tone

2nd tone mark = falling tone

3rd tone mark = high tone

4th tone mark = rising tone

High Class Initial Consonant

1st tone mark = low tone

2nd tone mark = falling tone

3rd tone mark = high tone

4th tone mark = rising tone

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Words Without Tone Marks

If a word doesn't use a tone mark, the tone is a bit trickier to work out. First, you need to decide whether the syllable is live or dead. A quick way to check if it is a live syllable is to see if you can continue voicing the sound. If it ends with a long vowel (such as 'aa') you can continue voicing the sound. You can also do this if it ends with an 'ng', 'n' or 'm' sound. If it ends with a short vowel or an unreleased 'p', 'k' ot 't' glottal-stop sound, then you can't continue voicing it so it is a dead syllable.

If it is a dead syllable, you then need to check if the vowel is long or short. An 'aat' sound would be a dead syllable with a long vowel but an 'ut' sound would be a dead syllable with a short vowel.

Vowel Lengths

Long vowels:

- | - | | อี | อู | อื | | | เอีย | เอือ | อัว | เอิ

Short vowels:

อั | - | - | อิ | อุ | อึ | เอ็ | แอ็ | เอา | -

Once you have determined the vowel length and whether the syllable is live or dead, you can use the following rules:

Low Class Initial Consonant

Live syllable = mid tone

Dead syllable/short vowel = high tone

Dead syllable/long vowel = falling tone

Mid Class Initial Consonant

Live syllable = mid tone

Dead syllable/short vowel = low tone

Dead syllable/long vowel = low tone

High Class Initial Consonant

Live syllable = rising tone

Dead syllable/short vowel = low tone

Dead syllable/long vowel = low tone

That's all there is to it.

Consonant Classes

There are more low class consonants than mid or high class ones. If you can remember the mid and high class consonants, then all the rest are low.

Thais use a couple of little rhymes to help them remember consonant classes. The initial consonants of the words in each rhyme are the same class. I'm not quite sure how this works because the rhymes do not include all the consonants; just some of them.

High class consonants

ผี (pee)

ฝาก (faak)

ไข่ (kai)

ใส่ (sai)

ถุง (tuung)

ให้ (hai)

ฉัน (chun)

This is something about a ghost giving me an egg which I then put into my bag.

Mid class consonants

ไก่ (gai)

จิก (jik)

เด็ก (dek) or เฎ็ก (dek)

ตาย (dtaay) or ฏาย (dtaay)

บน (bon)

ปาก (bpaak)

โอ่ง (ong)

And this is something about a chicken pecking a child, who then died, on an earthen jar.

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Questions And Feedback

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to contact me. Your feedback will help me to improve these pages.

Recommended Books

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Downloadable Worksheets

Downloadable worksheets

The best way to remember the various characters used in Thai script is by writing them down on paper. In addition to improving your writing skills, the very act of writing the characters on paper will commit them to memory.

This is how Thai children learn and it is a very effective approach. The best way to practice your writing is by using the same worksheets that Thai children use. They are available everywhere in Thailand, but a lot more difficult to find outside of Thailand.

Downloadable Worksheets

Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.

If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand

 

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