บ (b) า (aa) ท (t) spell a word you already know and can see every day (if you’re in Thailand): บาท (baht, or bath as the Thais often spell it). Look for it on a Thai banknote or coin.
า (aa: a long ah sound) is easy to remember. Think of an old man struggling with a walking stick and saying “aaaaah”.
บ (b) you can remember by thinking of it as a bathtub. As with all Thai characters, when writing it, you start by drawing the small circle. Then, without removing pen from paper, draw three sides of a square: down, across, up. Make sure the left and right sides are the same length. The bit you can see sticking out of the bottom left corner with some fonts is not important.
ท (t). Start with a small circle and then continue by drawing n. The sound of most Thai consonants depends on whether they’re at the start or end of a syllable. In Thai there is never a d or t sound at the end of a syllable. Instead it is a cross between the two: a ‘dt’ sound. Scary? No. This sound already exists in European languages. Try saying star and sdar. Sound the same, don’t they? The t in star is exactly the dt sound we need at the end of บาท. Put your hand close to your mouth and say Bart and Bard. You should feel a small puff of air at the end. Now say a cross between the two so that you can’t hear if it is really a t or d at the end: Bardt. If you’re doing it right, there is no puff of air. The final dt is almost inaudible but the word should still sound different from Bar.
- ทา (taa) = to spread, apply (e.g. butter, cream)
Note that ท is often transliterated as ‘th’ although there is no ‘th’ sound (as in ‘the’ or ‘thin’) in Thai. See L7 for more on this.
See L0 for an overview of this blog.
Next lesson: L2.
ฝ (f) is the high-class letter f. It is drawn in the same way as ผ (p) but with a longer final stroke. You can remember it by thinking of powerful. Be aware that the low-class letter f (ฟ) looks similar. Note that with ฝ, the starting circle is on the right of the first downwards stroke.
- ฝน (fǒn) = rain
- ฝัน = dream, to dream
- ฝา (fǎa) = lid
- ฝ ฝา (fǒr fǎa) = the letter ฝ, ฝ for ฝา
ผ (p) is the high-class letter p and is often transliterated as ‘ph’ to emphasize the fact that it is aspirated. It looks like a W with the starting circle on the inside. If you like, think of the starting circle as a clenched fist and ผ as an arm with the bump in the middle a flexed muscle: power. There is a similar looking low-class letter p (พ). Note that with ผ, the starting circle is on the right of the first downwards stroke. You can remember this by the fact that high-class people tend to be more right-wing (and have smaller biceps) than low-class people!
- ผม (pǒm) = I (for males only)
- ผม (pǒm) = hair (on head only)
- ผอม (pǒrm) = thin
- ผัว (pǔa) = male lover; husband (informal)
- ผิว (pǐu) = skin
- ผล (pǒn) = outcome
- ผลงาน (pǒn ngaan)= results, output
- เผา (pǎo) = to burn, cremate
- ผี (pěe) = ghost
- ผง (pǒng) = powder
- ผวน (pǔan) = to turn around
เ_ว (eho) is the เ (eh) sound followed by the ‘ow’ sound in ‘low’. It can only occur at the end of a syllable.
- เลว (leho) = bad (this is a strong word; it is more usual to say ไม่ดี (mâi dee) = not good)
- เอว (eho) = waist
เ_า (ao) is a short version of าว (aaow) and like าว, it must be at the end of a syllable.
- เอา (ao) = to want (things; when used with people it has sexual connotations)
- เอา…มา = to bring …
- เอา…ไป = to take …
- เอาใจ = to please, follow someone’s wishes
- เขา (káo) = he/she [this word breaks the normal tone rules; it has the 3rd non-neutral tone (a high rising one)]
- เขา (kǎo) = mountain
- เรา (rao) = we, (sometimes also I; and can mean you in the case of an older person talking to a younger person)
- วันเสาร์ = Saturday
- ดาวเสาร์ (daaow-sǎo) = Saturn
- เทา (tao), สีเทา (sěe tao) = grey
- เบา (bao) = light, soft (volume)
- เดา (dao) = to guess
- สำเนา = copy
- เมา (mao) = drunk
- เกา (gao) = to scratch
- เสา (sǎo) = pole, column
- เตา (dtao) = stove
- เงา (ngao) = shadow
ข (k) is a high-class consonant. It looks like a thin version of บ (b) with an extra bend on the way down. You can draw it more simply by starting with the small circle and then drawing a capital V. (It is important that the left and right hand sides don’t meet at the ‘bend’ and that the right-hand side is straight, if you draw it in a way that looks like the standard printed version. Otherwise you get the low class consonant ช (ch).)
ข is often transliterated as ‘kh’ to emphasize that it is an aspirated ‘k’. A lot of Thai women say it in a ‘noisy’ way with a rough sound like the Spanish ‘j’ or German ‘ch’.
- ขอ… (kǒr) = I/we’d like …
ขอ… is a very simple and useful construction to know. Put it in front of anything you want or want to do to make the request polite. If you say it correctly (using a long ‘or’ sound with a clear rising tone) the Thai person you are speaking to will immediately switch to Thai (rather than English) receiving mode.
- ของ (kǒrng) = of
- ของ (kǒrng) = thing
- ของกิน (kǒrng-gin) = food
- ขา (kǎa) = leg
- ขวา (kwǎa) = right (as opposed to left)
- ขาย (kǎiy) = to sell
- ขาว (kǎaow), สีขาว (sěe kǎaow) = white
- ขาวดำ = black-and-white
- ขาวนวล (kǎaow-nuan) = pale yellow, cream
- ขม (kǒm) = bitter
- เขิน (kěrn) = shy
- ขน (kǒn) = hair (but not head hair), feather
- ขนตา (kǒn-dtaa) = eyelash
- ขวาง (kwǎang) = to obstruct, lie across
- ขิง (kǐng) = ginger
- ขำ = witty; to be amused, to giggle
- ขวาน (kwǎan) = axe
- ขิม (kǐm) = Thai cymbalom
- กางเขน (gaang-kěhn) = cross (as at a grave)
- สงขลา (sǒng-klǎa) = Songkhla (a province in Southern Thailand)
เ ิ (er) and เ_อ (er) sound like the ‘er’ in herb (or the German ö, which is why it is sometimes transliterated as oe). In the syllable it is used in, the first form must be followed by a consonant symbol which sounds (i.e., does not have a ์ above it), whereas the second form must not be followed by a consonant symbol that sounds, with the exception of some words taken from English.
- เงิน (ngern) = money; silver
- การเงิน (gaan-ngern) = finance, cashier
- เดิน (dern) = to walk
- เจอ (jer) = to see, find
- เจอกัน (jer g(a/u)n) = to meet
- เบอร์ (ber) = number
- …เกินไป (gern bpai) = too …
- …เดิม (derm) = same … as before
- เติม (dterm) = to insert
- เทอม (term) = term
- ดำเนิน = to proceed, to carry out
- เออ (er) = yeah (not polite, used among friends)
- เรอ (rer) = to burp
- เนิน (nern) = mound
ษ (s) never occurs at the start of a word (with a few very rare exceptions that most Thais have never heard of) although it can appear at the start of a syllable. When at the end, like ส, it has the ‘dt’ sound. It is drawn the same way as บ with an extra ั added.
- เมษายน (meh-sǎa-yon) = April
- เม.ย. = Apr