Are you ready to learn the Thai vowels? After looking at Thai consonants before, we have learnt a few things about writing in Thai.
You have seen all 44 of the consonants and learnt how to pronounce them. You even know a word that begins with the sound. In knowing these words, you can also start to learn and recognize some of the vowels that are used in Thai.
So, once again, we will be taking a dive into the Thai alphabet and learn how to pronounce and write Thai vowels. Don’t worry, there are not 44 more characters to learn this time. There are actually 28 which, while still a lot, is much less to worry about.
While we say that there are 28 vowels, it is better categorised 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 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.
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.
Now that we have covered the 44 Thai consonants and the 28 Thai vowels, we are much closer to learning the Thai alphabet, and the language as a whole. Using these guides, we are able to practise these pronunciations and recognize the individual characters that make up words. Hopefully now, the Thai language should appear much less daunting than before. Soon, you may be able to read off of Thai menus and order exactly what you want.
Another way that can help you improve your ability to read and write in Thai is with the Ling Thai app. There are plenty of tests and exercises that will help you practise to perfection.