Thailand | Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 29

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The PSU Open Week will be held on 18/19 August in 2015

The PSU Open Week will be held on 18/19 August in 2015


Learn To Read Thai - Tutorial 29

Why Bother?

Why should you bother learning to read Thai days and dates?

Many foreigners in Thailand never bother to learn, but I find it essential. If I have a medical issue and wish to see a doctor I find that clinic opening times are always written in Thai. This also applies to most shops.

I run a local guide about Hat Yai, which includes an Events Calendar. Most of the information I need is written on large signs around town and I need to be able to read the signs so that I can post the information in English. The sign at the top of the page advertising 'Open Week' at Hat Yai's Prince Of Songkla University is one such example.

There are many advantages being able to read Thai, and just one disadvantage. The disadvantage is that initially it takes a little time and effort to learn. However, the advantages far outweigh this one minor issue. Further, if my four year-old daughter can learn to read and write both Thai and English, I'm sure that it can't be that difficult for an adult in Thailand to learn to read just Thai.

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The Thai word wun (pronounced 'one' not 'wan') means day and prefixes the name for each day. Prefixes are a big thing in Thai. Everything vaguely liquid is prefixed with naam, every fish name is prefixed with bplaa, every bird name prefixed with nok, etc.

วัน - wun (day)

The days of the week use lots of gaa-run symbols, which is an indication that the words came from another language, in this case Sanskrit.

วันจันทร์ - wun jun (Monday)

วันอังคาร - wun ung-karn (Tuesday)

วันพุธ - wun puut (Wednesday)

วันพฤหัส ฯ - wun pa-reu-hut (Thursday)

วันศุกร์ - wun suuk (Friday)

วันเสาร์ - wun sao (Saturday)

วันอาทิตย์ - wun aa-tit (Sunday)

Observant readers will have noticed the bpai yaan-noy symbol after the Thai word for Thursday, indicating that the word written here has been abbreviated.

The actual Thai name for Thursday is wun pa-reu-hut-bo-dee, but I don't think I have ever heard anyone say this. They always leave off the last two syllables. Nonetheless, Thais are very correct with their writing and if they don't write out the name in full they add bpai yaan-noy to indicate that the word has been abbreviated.

วันพฤหัสบดี - wun pa-reu-hut-bo-dee (Thursday)

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I've never had any great problems remembering Thai words but, for some reason, it took me a long time to remember the months - even though there are only 12. It was the same with Thai numbers, even though there are only 10.

เดือน - deu-un (Month)

For months that have 31 days the final syllable of the month is kom and for months having 30 days the final syllable is yon. The Thai word for February ends with pun.

มกราคม - mok-ga-raa-kom (January)

กุมภาพันธ์ - guum-paa-pun (February)

มีนาคม - mee-naa-kom (March)

เมษายน - may-saa-yon (April)

พฤษภาคม - preu-sa-paa-kom (May)

มิถุนายน - mit-tuu-naa-yon (June)

กรกฎาคม - ga-rak-ga-daa-kom (July)

สิงหาคม - sing-haa-kom (August)

กันยายน - gun-yaa-yon (September)

ตุลาคม - dtuu-laa-kom (October)

พฤศจิกายน - preu-sa-jik-gaa-yon (November)

ธันวาคม - tun-waa-kom (December)

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Years in Thailand very nearly always follow the Buddhist era calendar, which preceded the Christian era calendar by 543 years. To convert, simply add 543.

For example, the year 2000 was the year 2543 in Thailand.

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Dates are prefixed with wun-tee, therefore 18th January would be wun-tee sip bpairt mok-ga-raa-kom.

วันที่ - wun-tee (Used for dates)

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In the Thai value system, very little importance is placed on time. Thais will happily waste their own time, as well as other people's time and not think anything of it. It isn't unusual for Thais to arrive one hour late (or much later) for an appointment.

This casual attitude to time is reflected in the way that Thais tell the time. There is very little punctuality and the word gwaa (more than, over) is used a lot. If someone makes an appointment and tells you tee-ung gwaa, meaning 'after midday' it can be absolutely any time after midday, or possibly the next day or not at all.

There are also other problems.

On several occasions, Thais wanting to meet at 8pm have told me 2pm in English. If you understand how Thais tell the time it is easy to understand why and it is an easy mistake to spot. My usual response is, "Sawng tuum, chai mai?" Agreement then follows and an acknowledgment that what the speaker really meant was 8pm. This is because Thais use a six hour clock.

Also, there doesn't seem to be any real consistency and different people will tell you the same time in slightly different ways. There may also be some regional differences, but my experience is almost 100% in southern Thailand.

Be careful when arranging times with Thais. I have only ever missed one flight in my life and that was because a Thai taxi I had ordered didn't arrive. I told them the time in Thai for a morning pick up, but they told me they thought it was an evening pick up. jet mong chao sounds nothing like neung tuum, but Thais make many assumptions when they listen to foreigners.

Thais don't expect foreigners to be able to speak Thai or tell the time in Thai and will often make their own assumptions based on what they think you are saying. Be very careful with times in Thailand.

ตี - dtee (to hit, to strike)

01:00 - dtee neung

02:00 - dtee sawng

03:00 - dtee saam

04:00 - dtee see

05:00 - dtee haa

โมงเช้า - mong chao (chao = morning)

06:00 - hok mong chao (although sometimes dtee hok)

07:00 - jet mong chao (although sometimes mong chao)

08:00 - bpairt mong chao (although sometimes sawng mong chao)

09:00 - gao mong chao (although sometimes saam mong chao)

10:00 - sip mong chao (although sometimes see mong chao)

11:00 - sip et mong chao (although sometimes haa mong chao)

เที่ยง - tee-ung (noon/midday)

บ่ายโมง - baay-mong (baay = afternoon)

โมงเย็น - mong-yen (yen = evening)

Different Thais have different ideas about when afternoon ends and evening begins.

13:00 - baay mong

14:00 - baay sawng or baay sawng mong

15:00 - baay saam or baay saam mong

16:00 - baay see or baay see mong or see mong yen

17:00 - haa mong yen

18:00 - hok mong yen

The final part of the six hour clock system in Thailand uses the word tuum.

ทุ่ม - tuum

19:00 - neung tuum or tuum neung

20:00 - sawng tuum

21:00 - saam tuum

22:00 - see tuum

23:00 - haa tuum

เที่ยงคืน - tee-ung keun (midnight)

When Thais use the 24 hour clock system they use the suffix naa-li-gaa, which means 'clock' or 'watch' (noun). In written form this gets abbreviated to just the initial consonant of naa-li-gaa, which is nor noo.

นาฬิกา - naa-li-gaa (clock, watch)

Therefore, yee-sip naa-li-gaa would be 20:00, or sawng tuum or sometimes (when Thais attempt to speak English) two o/clock.

Sign showing use of nor noo for naa-li-gaa

Sign showing use of nor noo for naa-li-gaa.

Thais don't use 'quarter to' or 'quarter past'. The Thai word for 'half' is kreung, which is used.

ครึ่ง - kreung (half)

20:30 would therefore be sawng tuum kreung.

The Thai word for 'minute' is naa-tee.

นาที - naa-tee (minute)

20:40 would be sawng tuum kreung see-sip naa-tee.

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Reading Practice

The two stages of learning to read Thai are first learning from books, or websites, and then learning to recognise Thai script written in real world fonts. Have a go with the following signs.

Concert advertisement

Concert advertisement

The advertisers of this concert obviously didn't want any farangs attending as great effort has been taken to ensure that every piece of information (apart from the Arabic numerals) is only accessible to Thai readers.

However, if you have followed everything in this tutorial you will know that the date is Saturday 25th July and the time is 5pm to 10pm.

Here's another real word sign, this time for a medical clinic.

Real world sign for a clinic in Thailand

Real world sign for a clinic in Thailand

way-laa is 'time' and tum garn means 'to do (something)'. The English equivalent would be 'Opening Times' or 'Hours of Business' or something to that effect.

Using the information above, you should be able to see that the clinic is open at the following times:

Monday to Thursday: 5pm to 8pm

Saturday/Sunday: 9am to midday

หยุด - yuut (to stop, cease, pause)

wun yuut is 'day closed' and you can see at the bottom of the sign that this clinic is closed on Fridays.

This sign also includes a very unusual term.

นักขัตฤกษ์ - nuk-kut-dta-reuk (public holidays)

Thailand has lots of public holidays, but this clinic is open on public holidays from 5pm to 8pm.

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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. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia. used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.

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.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand