Writing is one of the main elements of a language. Alongside reading and speaking, it is a core skill essential to truly learn and understand a language.
Learning Thai often focuses heavily on speaking skills, overlooking other crucial aspects. This post introduces the basics of Thai writing, laying the foundation for mastering vocals and vowels. Let’s get started!
Thai Alphabet: The Basics
The Thai language traces its roots back to the old Khmer script, known as ‘aksorn Thai’ (อักษรไทย), created by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great in 1283. While Thai writing may seem like a combination of squiggles, circles, and lines, we’ll explore the unique and beautiful characters in the Thai language. It is written left to right, but the order of characters may require looking above or to the right for proper reading. Traditionally, Thai is written without punctuation or spaces between words, although modern usage may incorporate some punctuation and spaces. Now, let’s delve into the characters that form the Thai Alphabet.
Thai Alphabet Chart
The Thai language‘s alphabet consists of 72 characters, including 44 consonants and 28 vowels, categorized into 3 consonant classes, 12 long vowels, and 16 short vowels. Six characters are no longer used, stemming from old Thai, Sanskrit, or Pali.
Learning Thai pronunciation can be challenging due to the absence of an official transliteration system, with variations in Latin alphabet representations. Aspirated consonants and unique pronunciations add complexity.
Notably, there are no upper or lower-case variations in Thai characters, making it simpler for learners. Thai consonants are often shown acrophonically, associating them with words starting with the consonant’s sound.
Introduction To Thai Writing: Thai Consonants & Their Pronunciation
|bottle (no longer in use)
|person (no longer a direct object)
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.
What Are The Thai Vowels And How To Pronounce Them
While we say that there are 28 vowels, it is better categorized as a combination of long and short vowel sounds. There are actually 32 in total but 4 are no longer in everyday use.
Once again, there is no real transliteration system in place, meaning that different books and websites may write out a Thai word using the Latin alphabet using different characters.
As we talked about previously, Thai words are written in a unique way. The vowels don’t necessarily follow the consonant to its right and instead can be placed above, below, to the left, and to the right of it. They can also be in a combination of these placements. It may therefore help to learn the consonants first so that you can recognize these characters, then you can identify the vowels. The consonants act as a base for these vowels, after all.
Finally, the word for the vowel in Thai is ‘sara’ (สระ). When writing out the vowels, it is typical to write this before each individual vowel. For example, ‘sara a’ (สระอะ) is written, which would be the same as writing ‘vowel a’ in English.
What Are The Thai Vowels
There are 7 vowels that can change their form. This happens when they are followed by a consonant and is done to help prevent confusion that can happen with certain combinations while making things clearer and faster overall. Note that these only change the way they are written and do not impact the pronunciation or tone. We can look at these another time.
Otherwise, as you can tell by the two tables, the Thai language distinguishes between the length of vowels. That means that the vowel length can change the meaning of a word. You will have to learn to be strict about the length you pronounce as you learn or you might be misunderstood.
How Is The Punctuation In Thai?
The Thai language does not use punctuation like in English, but not to the same extent. While full stops/periods can be used to signify the end of a sentence, blank spaces are used more often. Commas can also appear with the same function as in English. There are brackets and quotation marks too.
One form of punctuation unique to Thai is the ‘kho mut’ ๛ (โคมูตร). This symbol is used to signify the end of a story or document. There are also some other special Thai characters you should know when learning how to write and read the Thai language.
Why Is Learning The Thai Alphabet Important?
As mentioned, reading and writing, two skills that require an understanding of the Thai Alphabet, make up a significant part of language learning. While speaking ability alone can get you far, there will be some occasions where reading and writing will also prove useful.
Another thing to point out is that learning the Thai Alphabet can also help you with your speaking. Let’s not forget that a lot more opportunities to learn will open up. You can start reading documents, books, and other materials that you couldn’t read before. This will greatly increase the speed at which you can learn and improve your skills. Your vocabulary will increase significantly, and you will gain further insight into the culture of Thailand.
When visiting Thailand, you will find that many of the more authentic experiences, eating or otherwise, are not always signposted in English or any other language. They will use their native Thai to write out their menu or whatever else they have on offer. As a traveler, you may well be looking for an authentic Thai cultural experience rather than a tourist-orientated one. For this reason, learning to read Thai can be invaluable for visitors to Thailand.
Secrets To Learning The Thai Alphabet Fast!
Learning the Thai Alphabet takes time, but you can make it easier. Start by practicing each letter’s sound. Knowing how long to say vowels is important, so pay attention to that. It helps avoid saying things in a funny way.
Connect sounds with familiar things, like saying a letter looks like a tooth. For example, when you see (ต), think ‘tooth.’ Do this for all letters to remember them better.
Focus more on the main letters first. Vowels can be tricky because they can go next to, above, or behind main letters. But if you know the main ones well, finding vowels becomes easier.
Lastly, try writing the letters by hand. It’s cool to see how your handwriting gets better over time. Plus, seeing your progress makes you want to keep going!
Learn More Thai With Related Lessons You’ll Find In Ling
There are some related lessons you can learn in the Ling app related to learning the Thai Alphabet. As well as having its own alphabet, Thai also has its own number system. These Thai numerals can be seen in many places, including on banknotes. Some shopkeepers have been known to use these Thai numerals to hide the ‘local’ prices of their goods from foreigners.
However, they appear alongside the number system we are familiar with in the West the majority of the time. Either way, it is useful to learn Thai using a language learning app too.
When it comes to writing, you will unlock the ability to test your understanding of grammar. You can better communicate with other people. This is especially the case when it comes to the online and digital worlds.