If you had the chance to read our previous post looking at the Thai alphabet/script, you will know that there are a total of 44 Thai consonants.
While that may seem like a lot, I don’t think it is as difficult to learn them all as it first appears. In fact, you probably don’t need to learn all them all anyway as not all the consonants in Thai are used.
Today, we will look at each of the Thai consonants one by one, seeing how they are pronounced and what they look like. I hope this basic guide will help you begin your journey to reading and writing Thai.
Before we get started, there are a few things that need to be covered. Remember that this is just a guide to pronunciation as the Thai language doesn’t have an official transliteration system. This means that books and websites will write out a Thai word using the latin alphabet in different ways.
This is due to the use of aspirated consonants in Thai, which isn’t present in the English language. As such, they try to find ways to signify or replicate the sound. There is also some more difficult pronunciations that don’t really have an equivalent in English. Either way, keep in mind that different sources will write things out differently.
Another thing to mention is that there are no upper or lower case versions of characters. They stay the same wherever they are in the sentence. This should, of course, be good news for all of us learning Thai as we don’t need to be able to identify more character varieties.
Traditionally, Thai characters are shown with a acrophonic, meaning words that start with that consonants sound. This would be like saying ‘U as in Universe’ in English. For example: the Thai character ‘ก’ is usually shown with ‘ก ไก่’ which is pronounced as ‘ko kai’. The ‘ko’ is the way the individual character is pronounced, while the ‘kai’ is an example of word that starts with that character.
|ก||ก ไก่||ko kai||chicken|
|ข||ข ไข่||kho khai||egg|
|ฃ||ฃ ขวด||kho khuat||bottle (no longer in use)|
|ฅ||ฅ คน||kho khon||person (no longer in use)|
|ง||ง งู||ngo ngu||snake|
|จ||จ จาน||cho chan||plate|
|ฉ||ฉ ฉิ่ง||cho ching||cymbals|
|ช||ช ช้าง||cho chang||elephant|
|ซ||ซ โซ่||so so||chain|
|ฐ||ฐ ฐาน||tho than||pedestal|
|ฒ||ฒ ผู้เฒ่า||tho phu-thao||elder|
|ณ||ณเณร||no nen||novice monk|
|ด||ด เด็ก||do dek||child|
|ต||ต เต่า||to tao||turtle|
|ถ||ถ ถุง||tho thung||sack|
|ธ||ธ ธง||tho thong||flag|
|น||น หนู||no nu||mouse|
|ผ||ผ ผึ้ง||pho phueng||bee|
|ฝ||ฝ ฝา||fo fa||lid|
|ฟ||ฟ ฟัน||fo fan||teeth|
|ภ||ภสำเภา||pho sam-phao||junk boat|
|ม||ม ม้า||mo ma||horse|
|ร||ร เรือ||ro ruea||boat|
|ล||ล ลิง||lo ling||monkey|
|ษ||ษ ฤๅษี||so rue-si||hermit|
|ส||ส เสือ||so suea||tiger|
|ห||ห หีบ||ho hip||chest|
|อ||อ อ่าง||o ang||basin|
|ฮ||ฮ นกฮูก||ho nok-huk||owl|
While there are 44 consonants in the Thai alphabet, not all of them are still in use today. There are two characters that no longer get used in everyday reading and writing. These are ฃ and ฅ (I made sure to mark them above). So, there are now 42 that you will need to learn, while the other two can be focussed on a bit less.
You also may have noticed in this list that some of the characters look almost exactly the same as each other. For example, ผ and ฝ are nearly identical other than an extended line. This means that, especially when written by hand, it can be difficult to tell which it should be. The same can happen with different fonts. Ultimately, you will need to train yourself and learn each of these to the best of your ability.
So these are all 44 of the Thai consonants. It is an incredibly long list of characters to learn to read and eventually write. Some look incredibly similar to one another, while others seem very complex to write out. However, I assure you that things are not as difficult as they first seem. You can use this guide as a reference for practising pronunciations and writing out the characters. Written Thai has a very unique appearance which makes it all the more enjoyable to explore.
One great way to practice writing Thai characters is to use the Ling Thai app. There are many tests available that can help you to learn these consonants and their pronunciations.