Learn Thai Language & Culture

A Woman Learning Thai... and some men too ;)

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway: Paiboon Publishing & Word in the Hand

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

Paiboon Publishing & Word in the Hand…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015As I mentioned in the previous post, Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition, for seven weeks (a week for each year WLT has been online) there will be giveaways by top movers and shakers in the learning Thai industry.

WLTs Thai Language GiveawayAnd what better way to kick it off than with three of my favourite Thai apps from Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand: The Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary, the Thai for Beginners course, and the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Phrasebook (soon to be rolled into the dictionary).

Over the years, Benjawan Poomsan Becker (Paiboon Publishing) and Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand) have been incredibly generous to readers of WLT, gifting handfuls of apps whenever they’ve come out with a totally new app, or when they’ve updated an app. Thanks you two!

For WLT’s Thai Language Giveaway they are sponsoring FOUR EACH of the apps. Details below.

Talking Thai–Eng–Thai Dictionary…

Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary
Price: US$24.99
Version: 1.8
Seller: Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand
Updated: Oct 23, 2014 (major update coming)
Word count: 150,000+ entries
Audio: 100% native speaker
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: Yes
Font control: Yes
Help: Yes (extensive)
Requires iOS: 6.0 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

WLT Review: English Thai iOS App Dictionaries: iPhone and iPad

Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook…

Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook
Price: US$14.99
Version: 1.9
Seller: Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand
Released: 06 April 2015
Word count: 12,000+
Audio: Native speaker (female)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Turn off Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: No need
Font control: Yes
Help: Yes (amazing)
Requires iOS: 5.1.1 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

WLT Review: Win a Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App!

Thai for Beginners…

Thai for BeginnersThai for Beginners - Paiboon Publishing
Price: US$19.99
Version: 1.10 (major update coming)
Author: Dominique Mayrand ©2010 Benjawan Poomsan
Date: Nov 21, 2013
Internet connection required: No
Word count: 3,000+ words and phrases
Thai script: Yes
Tone tips: Yes
Zoom: Not needed
Sound: Yes, male and female
Quiz: Yes

WLT Review: Thai for Beginners iPhone App: Four Apps to Win

Rules for WLTs Thai Language Giveaway…

As with previous draws, I’ve kept the rules as simple as possible.

  • To be included in the draw, leave comments below.
  • Comment(s) need to add to the conversation (it really does matter).
  • Each relevant comment gets counted, so please do leave as many as you like!
  • If you don’t collect your prize within a week of the announcement, it will be given away to the next person in line.

I will not be responsible for choosing the winners so even if we are the best of buddies, don’t be shy, you too can win. Actually, you can win every week as there is no limit to how many prizes you can walk away with.

Important: If you already own any of the apps, please let us know in the comments so we can adjust the prizes.

The draw will run from this moment until the 3rd of June, 6am Thai time. As soon as I get word from Chris and Benjawan, I’ll announce the winners in the comments below.

Good luck everyone. And my thanks again to Chris and Benjawan for sponsoring these wonderful prizes!

Oh, and before I forget … if you haven’t voted in the Language Lovers Competition, please do. Cheers!

Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Please VOTE for the Top 100 Language Lovers…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015It’s that time again, the Top 100 Language Lovers Competition! To vote for Language Learning Blogs, please click on the button to your right (I’m in the A’s this time – oh yah).

There are five categories to vote in: Language Learning Blogs, Language Professionals Blogs, Language Facebook Pages, Language Twitter Accounts, and Language YouTube Channels.

Competition rules: You can only vote for one entry per section. For more about the competition go to: Top 100 Language Lovers 2015 – Let’s Get Started!

Language bloggers have worked hard all year long, so please do show your support by voting for your favourites.

Psst: WLT also made it into the Language Facebook Page section this year.

I look forward to the Language Lovers Competition organised by bab.la and Lexiophiles each year because it inspires me to improve WLT. This year I’ve totally revamped the site (as you can clearly see). And with over 700 posts (aren’t Guest Writers wonderful) I’ve also added a Please Start Here page with an easy access button. I hope it helps.

But hold on – there’s more! As WLT is turning seven (my lucky number) there will be Thai product giveaways each week for seven weeks. So every week there will be new winners. Yay for you!

What I did was approach the top movers and shakers in the Thai industry to see if they’d be interested in donating their fabulous products. And everyone said yes! I’m so grateful because I can now share what I believe are some of the best products available for learning Thai.

My sincere thanks goes to Stu Jay Raj (Jcademy), Duke (Duke Language School), Bingo-Lingo (Read Thai in 10 Days), Jo and Jay (Learn Thai Podcast), Tom and Kruu Jiab (Learn Thai Style), Benjawan Poomsan Becker (Paiboon Publishing), Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand), Yuki and Miki (PickupThai Podcast), James Higbie and David Smyth via Danny at DCO Thai and Orchid Press.

In total, they have generously contributed over US$4500 in prizes. Wow.

Seven weeks of FREE giveaways…

Jcademy (July 2): FIVE of Stu’s Ultimate Thai Combo packages (includes the Full Cracking Thai Fundamentals program, Thai Bites and Glossika Thai Fluency 1). If you already have the combo, you can go with the new subscription package (yet to be announced).

Duke Language School and Bingo-Lingo (Arthit Juyaso) (July 9): FOUR copies of Bingo’s detailed book and CD, Read Thai in 10 Days. And FOUR budding Thai students will receive Duke Language School’s Survival 1 group lessons, which includes the textbook as well as free access to the beta version of Duke’s online course.

Learn Thai Podcast (June 18): FOUR subscriptions to Learn to speak, read, write Thai via LTP’s massive Thai course that has over 800 video, audio and text lessons.

Learn Thai Style (June 25): FOUR Speak Thai Course winners will receive a lifetime access to over 40 hours of audio and video materials, over 300 worksheets (with or without transliteration), online quizzes, self study materials, learn Thai blog access, as well as access to over 700 trained teachers (UK, USA, Singapore, Thailand and Skype).

Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand (May 28): FOUR EACH of the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary apps, Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Phrasebook apps, and Thai for Beginners apps.

PickupThai Podcast (June 11): FOUR winners get 15 podcasts each of either Sweet Green or Spicy Red. Winners get to choose their level (beginner to advanced).

DCO Books and Orchid Press (June 4): TWO sets (four books) of James Hibgies Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar, as well as Smyth’s Essential Grammar and Segaller Thai Without Tears.

The rules for the giveaways are simple:

  1. Leave as many relevant comments as you like (with a stress on ‘relevant’).
  2. Comment in as many of the giveaways as you want (there is no limit on how many prizes you can win).
  3. Claim your prize before the week is out (unclaimed prizes will go to the next in line).

Note: Those donating will be responsible for choosing the winners. That’s right. So even if you are one of my closest buddies, don’t stay away! Yes, everyone can win. Good luck all!

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Picnicly: These Foreigners Love Thai (Language)


These foreigners love Thai…

After studying languages on and off for the majority of my life, I’ve started to develop some theories as to what works and what doesn’t work. Thing is, I’m not an education expect, so it’s really all just guesses as to what’s best. A sample size of one doesn’t make a full research project.

Last week I got together three friends who all speak Thai fluently and asked them about their own tricks and techniques. It really interested me to find out that they all have different approaches, different ways to get to the same destination. The only thing I really found in common was an initial total immersion period of around a year where they didn’t socialize with people from their own country. Where they forced themselves to speak only Thai.

One other common factor is that everyone was motivated to learn Thai, they all really wanted to understand their adoptive homes through its language as much as possible.

After watching, I’d love to hear what you all think. My “research” still has a very small sample size, so let me know what works for you and what doesn’t.

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Test Your Might: Online Thai Language Proficiency Tests

Test Your Might

Online Thai language proficiency tests…

Testing your Thai language proficiency is a delicate process and most likely one would need to pay hefty fees to registered language institutes to get something really official going on. There are however, websites where you can get practice rounds! One of these will be covered in this little write-up of mine that Catherine asked me to do. Is it useful? Does it carry any value whatsoever? Are these tests a good way to actually measure ones proficiency? Read on and find out!

So here is the story; Catherine (WLT) asked me to review a particular website, and you know, she made a fair point. A lot of Farangs are able to converse at a pretty high level with Thais and a lot of those are in the precious Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook group. But how well would they perform on an actual proficiency test? I consider myself not too proficient in Thai. Sure, I can hold conversations pretty well, I can read a novel or two in one and a half hours, I understand a lot of spoken Thai, and maybe, just maybe, when speaking Thai I can fool someone if the conversation doesn’t drag out for too long. But I have no idea if I am really proficient in using the Thai language, or not. I’m sure there is a lot more to it, and we are going to find out just how well I rank on a Thai language test.

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Okay so first things first. The website I am going to use for the biggest part of this review can be found at TruePlookpanya. There are literally pages and pages of online tests that can be done. All tests are timed, and at the end of the ride a score is calculated based on how well you performed.

The nice thing is that most of these tests – if not all of them – are as Thai as humanly possible. They are made by Thais in Thailand and made for Thai people as per design. This high level of Thainess also means that a measly 55% score will be enough to, you know, pass the test. Yes, you read that right! I actually heard somewhere that most Thais would score 50%-60% on official language proficiency tests (so no mere website) at school, so that takes away a heavy burden from my (and your!) shoulders to do “well”!

So on to the actual testing: We’ll start off easy. I brushed off my shoulders, took a sip from a glass of water (early morning so beer was not an option) and started the first test: ข้อใดผิด.

Which of the following is wrong? Basically you are given two words and you have to find which of the two are spelled incorrectly. I had to go with my gut feeling with a lot of these questions, but in the end I scored 50%. I redid the test and let my wife do it as well. She also scored 50%… Is something wrong here? So I went and checked thai2english.com and carefully noted down the correct answers and redid it just to be sure. Again, 50%… Oh wait a second!! A timer is being set off as soon as you start, right? So probably I had to do this as fast as possible. I retried, doing the test again as fast as I could. I was literally sitting there, clicking the mouse like a trained monkey, only to end up with 50% yet again! What on earth…? Then it finally struck me. The first half of the questions asked which of the following were WRONG and in the second half it was reversed, asking which of the answers were CORRECT! Being too hasty from our end rated us each 50%. So I redid it and scored 100%! Bingo bango! But in my opinion you can’t just change the rules like that, even though one could argue that I should just learn to read better! On to the next test!

The second one was called: การรักษาวาจามารยาท. Now that sounds interesting! So here we go again. I am now warned though! I knew I had to read the questions carefully because they try to trick you just like they did back in high school (which seemed like an eternity ago). The questions for this test are a tad harder and I really had to read them carefully in order to fully understand what was going on.

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

I scored 100% but I have no idea how I managed to pull it off. I bet it has something to do with the fact that there were just five questions and I had to guess some of the questions to get the correct answers. This guessing game also reminds me of high school, where sometimes you guessed and got lucky and other times you hit the brick wall hard and had to redo the test. I felt less confident doing this test than the previous one even though I passed it in one go with maximum score, but to be frank, it was a 50/50 situation I think. Two of the five questions I didn’t really get at all and I just clicked the answer that looked the best in my eyes or made the most sense. Just like I did when I was a 15 year old doing a multiple choice test in the French language. And let me tell you, my French is rock-bottom. This guessing phenomenon will be happening a lot as we see later on… and not only the Farangs are participating in the guessing game. A lot of Thais had to guess for their answers as well! Makes one wonder…

This brings me to the following point. None of these tests are actually meaningful because just about everyone can gamble their way to certain glory. When I was doing these kind of tests at high school I could pass, sure, but this wouldn’t tell me or the teacher anything in regards of my actual proficiency level of the language being tested. Sometimes I didn’t even get the question and chose the correct answer because I guessed right. This is about as meaningful as a Thai saying that you are เก่งมาก for that matter. Still, I do think these tests have their place. I think these tests are useful to learn and practice Thai but they won’t tell you anything about your Thai language proficiency. At this point in time, I suggest that you use them for training only, not to measure your level.

Here is one more test I did:

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

You have to find the correct classifier for the noun that is being given. That sounds easy! Thank god I knew all these words and scored 100%. With this test I was pretty confident but all tests are for the ป2 level, which are kids play, obviously. I would really have to move to some of the harder tests to see how bad I actually am in this Thai language thing, so I decided to ไปตายเอาดาบหน้า for this one and clicked page five and chose a random test.

Oh boy, here we go with THPB511325 การเขียนเรียงความ!

This is where it’s at. Let’s do this! Well, as I opened up the test and read the first question I noticed right off the bat this was really a lot harder and you really need a good grasp of words used in the grammar aspect of Thai language learning. I also noticed that this test doesn’t measure your Thai language proficiency. It won’t show you how well you understand the Thai language or how well you are able to converse in the Thai language at all. Basically, it is all theory. Well here you have it; 60% is my score!

It really got me thinking though. How well would my wife do for this one? How well would a real Thai native score for this test? It was just five questions and my wife is quite the impatient type but five questions wouldn’t scare her off right? So I asked my wife and took other Thai people along with her into the deep dark depths of Online Thai Language Testing! In total I asked around 10 Thai people from different environments to do this test. I asked bargirls to university graduates. I think I got ‘em all covered! I also asked if they had to guess for some of the answers or not. Then I asked a couple of Farangs who I know are great performers when it comes to Thai Language. Because of the fact I don’t want to cause any fuzz and because I like the statistics more than the individual naming and shaming of persons, I kept the results anonymous. But let me tell you that all of the Farangs I asked did not disappoint!

Here the results from 10 Thai persons, all from totally different environments.

2 people got 100%
5 people got 80%
1 person got 60%
2 people got 40%

Most of the participants had to guess for some of the answers. I then passed the ball to a couple of Farangs to do the same. While it was a fun experiment I think in the grand scheme of things the data received is not that valuable and won’t provide valuable insight. A native speaker scoring 40% on a test and me as a total beginner scoring 60% really begs the question. I guess I was just better at the guessing game (if that makes any sense).

Okay, so after checking the website I took some time checking Google for more “Thai Language Proficiency Tests” and checked the links. The first link brought me to learnspeakingthailanguage.org and it had basic background information and a lot of dead links. Apparently one of the closest things to an official Thai language proficiency test has been created for Japanese people, so unless you are Japanese or any good at the Japanese language, this is not the right place to start. The second link brought me to Thai Visa, but ugh. After a short while of skimming through that I ended up in Google again where I found this one: Chulalongkorn University Proficiency Test of Thai as a Foreign Language.

This test is a paid version, and is probably a lot more official than the website I reviewed previously. It ends up at 3000 baht for the ENTIRE Thai proficiency test but I haven’t taken it. Yet. If someone has any experience or is willing to take it, go ahead and let us know how it went. I think it looks a bit more promising than the website I reviewed. I also found a link with details of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam. The data derives from 2009 though so I don’t know how actual it is. It even tells us about the dresscode though and how many but questions in how many minutes you have to answer. I think it is worth a read. Check it out: Anatomy of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam.

To conclude: So there are a lot of language tests online and it would be impossible to do them all for this review. But I urge you to go through these for fun and giggles, just to check how well you perform! You really have to get used to the weird way they ask questions, and for most people going from ป1 to ป3 shouldn’t be that big of a hassle. Remember, you just need 50% to pass the tests!

On the flipside: I don’t attach too much value to most of the scores because even native speakers needed to guess for some of the answers. You win some you lose some. Also, none of these tests actually measure how well one would perform in real life conversations, or how well you actually speak! I would recommend using these tests for fun and practice, but basically the scores carry as much value as a Thai who will tell you that you พูดไทยเก่งมาก. My advice is to use them for study but not for measuring your language skills.

Again, there are paid websites where you can pay some fees and get a test going, but I don’t know how much bang for the buck they are as I haven’t tested myself. Just to keep you going here, is a list of all the language proficiency test sites I found in a short time googling. Just go out there, test your might, and use your own powers for good! Good luck guys and gals!

Maarten Tummers,

Hang Lek: Fortune-telling Numerals of Thailand and Cambodia

Hang Lek

Fortune-telling Numerals of Thailand and Cambodia…

I first came across the numerals know as หางเลข when attempting to ascertain if the system of marking tone in Thai was influenced by a previous tradition of using cantillation markers to mark tonal variation in Buddhist chanting manuscripts or by the familiarity with svara markers, found in certain chanted Sanskrit manuscripts. An issue I will however, save for another time.

Hang Lek

In some such manuscripts, numerals were used to mark tonal variations. Thus my obsession with numerals and their development was born, collecting anything remotely connected to the numerals in Southeast Asia and India that I could get my hands on.

German polymath Adolf Bastian, who traveled in Southeast Asia during the 1860’s, writes of a shortened form of the full numerals (rendered as “Hong-Lek” by Bastian). His remark set me on the quest to find samples of such numerals. It was something that proved more difficult than I had first thought, which added to my joy when I finally found the first samples in a reprint of an article entitled Boransueksa Lae Rattanaphimphawong [Ancient Education and the Chronicle of the Emerald Buddha] first published in the Wachirayan Journal in 1896.

Although the numerals previously used in arithmetic and divination seem to have been largely overlooked by both Thai and Foreign scholars, they are still known; although rarely used, in some astrological circles. One might come across these numerals on the cover on some of the modern fortune telling manuals known as ตำราเลข ๗ ตัว, yet few Thais will be able to recognize these symbols as numerals even when shown images of them.

Hang Lek

As these numerals were customarily used when doing calculations with chalk on blackboards, samples are generally not found in manuscripts or printed texts. And as their name implies, the หางเลข are a shortened form of the Thai/Khmer numerals, with only the tail of the full form being retained. They eventually lost out to the Hindu-Arabic numerals during the end of the 20th century. My paper is a humble attempt to draw attention to these numerals and provide a summary of my findings.

Numerous people have been helpful in locating sources and answering my questions. Special thanks to Luke Bruder Bauer for reading and critiquing a draft of the paper. Any mistakes are of course mine alone.

Download pdf: Hang Lek, Fortune-telling Numerals of Thailand and Cambodia

Fredrik Almstedt
Almstedt Översättning | Thai – Svenska – Engelska

Hang Lek

Interview: Biff is Getting by in Thai

Interview: Biff

Biff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Biff (nickname, long story!)
Nationality: English (UK citizen)
Age: 51
Sex: Male
Location: London/Chiang Rai
Profession: Railway worker (latest in a long line of occupations)

What is your Thai level? Intermediate / Intermediate + / Intermediate ++

I would say Intermediate + probably about the B1 level (in the CEFR scale) for spoken Thai and maybe B2 for written materials.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

Central Thai, I would say around 70%. Thai is all about context though, so if you jump into a conversation half way through, even native speakers will need some help! Sometimes I have to ask people to explain things again if I don’t get certain words. Vocabulary is a never ending learning curve! Kam Meuang, about 5 words, Lao Isaan a few more, but with both those dialects lots of Central Thai words and structures cross over and you can kind of botch a sentence together.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

Ok, here I think I need to expand on these definitions a little. I know they’re used throughout this interview series, but I kind of need to delve into them a little bit!

1. Street Thai. That depends where the street is! If it’s in Bangkok that could mean Isaan Thai, if it’s in Isaan then one of the many Isaan dialects (or Lao Isaan as my neighbour calls it), some of which get more and more Khmer the nearer you get to Cambodia. If it’s in the north, where I spend most of my time in Thailand, it would be one of the variants of Kam Meuang, or Northern Thai.

But lets deal with Central Thai only for a moment. There is a difference between spoken and written Thai, but ภาษาพูด (spoken language) isn’t a form of slang, or something that you hear ‘on the street’ in the sense that it’s kind of ‘working class’ language. It’s just less formal than written Thai that you might find in official documents, or reports in a workplace. It’s perfectly acceptable for use in pretty much any situation you might find yourself in.

There is something called ภาษาตลาด or ‘market language’ which is informal language that will include slang terms and might throw some Thai learners off track a little. That might be referred to as ‘street Thai’ and it can be a bit coarse sometimes :) Now, as for myself, I suppose I can be caught being a bit ‘market language’ in my home with my wife and close friends. When out and about it’s definitely ภาษาพูด and I try to remember to use the more polite particles and plenty of ครับ/ครับผม and MUCH less of the เออๆ type of language. That in itself can be a challenge sometimes!

Professional Thai, as in the language you might expect to use in business emails/letters, I am starting to use that more and more these days. Purely because I’m writing business type emails and reading things that use a more formal type of language.

In our area, right up in the very north of Chiang Rai province, there are about 4 different dialects (actually, in our street!) Northern Thai (Kam Meuang) Lao (or Lao Lao, as my neighbour calls it, so as to differentiate it from Lao Isaan) Central Thai (learned at school) and my wife and her sister rabbiting on in their very own Korat dialect, which nobody else understands!

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

This is an easy one. So that I could speak to my wife’s family. Mainly my two lovely step daughters (11 and 13 years old) who can’t speak English beyond “Hello how are you I’m fine thank you”. I was also motivated to be able to speak to the neighbours who are, mostly, very nice decent folk. I also believe that if you are going to commit yourself to a relationship with a person, and that person has a different mother tongue to you, then it is a matter of respect that you should at the very least make an attempt to learn how to communicate in that language. I still haven’t managed that by the way. Turns out her mother tongue is the Korat dialect which I have a total of zero words in! But central Thai is the language we mostly communicate in, although we do have some very strange (to other people’s ears) conversations where she speaks English and I speak Thai!

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

I started about 5 years ago, shortly after I met my now, wife. But I suppose I started seriously applying myself around 4 years ago.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

I’ve recently started to have formal lessons for the first time, so now it’s one hour per week actual one-to-one lessons and a few hours homework. Although, right from the start, I immersed myself in Thai music (nothing else is on my playlists on all my devices) Thai news articles (started with YouTube news and current affairs clips, even though I didn’t understand them!) which I ploughed through one word at a time when I first started to learn the Thai script) and generally threw myself into hearing, speaking and reading all things Thai right from the start. I used to go to sleep with the Pimsleur Thai recordings playing on my phone as I fell asleep hoping that it would somehow seep into my brain!

So, it’s an ongoing constant thing with me. Difficult to quantify. The formal lessons have definitely re-ignited my hunger for learning Thai. I felt a bit ‘stuck’ till I found the very helpful people at Thai-Style (shameless plug!)

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

I do now, see above :)

What Thai language learning methods are you using?

My wonderful teacher ครูแก้ว. Thai-language.com is my ‘go to’ dictionary on my laptop, iPhone/iPad. The fantastic FCLT Facebook group and news sites like khaosod.co.th are all resources that I use frequently.

As for methods, I would say that I’m at a stage now where I can find vocabulary, write it down or look it up in my dictionary and try to form sentences using it. I speak Thai every day, even when bumbling around the house in London talking to myself! I start trains of thought in Thai, I swear at my neighbour’s cat in Thai too! Stub my toe and Thai words come out. Not very nice Thai words, but hey, it’s all learning!

Does one method stand out over all others?

Stu Jay Raj. I haven’t mentioned him before, but when I watched his videos about changing the way you form the basic sounds that you use to speak, it was one of those eureka moments! Once you have the building blocks to make the right sounds, everything else starts to fall into place. As for regular learning methods, at the start, the Pimsleur stuff was a good foundation to get me to start putting basic sentences together. Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Beginners was also a big boost for me.

But the main stand out method, as far as I’m concerned is speaking and listening. Speak, listen, imitate. Copy what you hear Thai people saying. Make the same sounds as they do. Change the way you use your voice. If you don’t, and you use the same sounds as you do when you speak English for example, you won’t be speaking Thai. You’ll be sort of half speaking something that kind of sounds a bit like Thai if a Thai person who’s used to hearing foreigners butcher their beautiful language really stretches their imagination :)

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, as soon as I got fed up with the transliteration ‘thing’ (didn’t take long!)

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No, not really. It can be a bit daunting at first I suppose. But written language is a code. Once you understand how it works, and you can crack the code, your brain takes over and it becomes language. It stops being squiggles and starts to become words. It really doesn’t take long.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

About ten minutes :) What’s the point of learning how to say ‘hello’ if you don’t say ‘hello’ to anyone?

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

Longer than ten minutes! I would say maybe a month or so? It’s difficult to remember actually, but it wasn’t long. Once you understand that you have to mimic the sounds you hear, you become understandable quite quickly. The problem that that causes is that the Thai person then speaks back! So you have a few situations where you have said something, been understood, but don’t understand the reply. That’s fun :)

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

Ordering a plate of unfortunate mountains. One of the words for ‘rice’ in a restaurant is actually ‘beautiful rice’ ข้าวสวย khao suay (rice beautiful) and a similar word is เขา, mountain (which also can be transliterated as khao) and ซวย unlucky, or jinxed (also looks like suay). They are different words with different tones. I butchered the tones and asked for unlucky mountains. That made me start learning the Thai script as you don’t make those mistakes when you see the different spellings!

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

Hmmm let me think. Probably that it’s too difficult. At first it seems like there’s just so much to learn, If you’ve already been exposed to a few other languages for the same family as English (for native English speakers) like when we learn French or German at school, there are already a good few thousand words we can pick up almost at once (Latin Greek influences in all the European languages mean we share words) but Thai is a different family, so we start from scratch. But even though that may be true, it’s still possible to get going. Also, the other one is, if you have a Thai partner that they will be able to teach you. Unless they’re a language teacher, they probably won’t. Speaking a language doesn’t mean you can teach it.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Ordering the unlucky mountains :) “Ah Ha” I need to learn to read properly :)

How do you learn languages?

By trying to think using the language. Immersing myself in as many things as possible to do with that language. It becomes the main focus of my day, every day.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths I would say are pronunciation, being able to reproduce the sounds used to speak Thai. My memory is pretty good too, once I’ve used a word or phrase regularly enough, it kind of sticks.

Weakness, tone rules! Spelling. I was completely self-taught at first (that phrase doesn’t in any way acknowledge the huge efforts by all concerned that put together all of the learning resources that I used to learn what I learned, but I mean that I didn’t take formal lessons until about two months ago). I’m trying to get my head around them now, asking my teacher to give me more homework on them so that I can, hopefully, internalise them, finally! At the moment, I just remember how to spell words and what the tone is. That’s just not good enough!

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Some French, I had a house in France for a while. Some German too. I always loved the language and have spent a bit of time there too. My Spanish consists of being able to say “I don’t speak Spanish” which is less than useful as it confuses the person you’ve just said it to :)

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes, it’s pretty much knocked them out of me completely! If I start to try to form a sentence in French, Thai words jump into it and it all goes downhill from there!

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

Including Thai, three.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No. Maybe because of the way that I learn, immersing myself in the language, I don’t think that would work for me.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

No, I’m currently in the UK and the longest I’ve been in Thailand in one stretch was for 3 months. I go at least twice a year, for 4-6 weeks in the spring, and 2-4 weeks in the winter.

My wife visits London every summer for about 3 months, then it gets cold(er) and she goes home complaining bitterly that she hasn’t seen any snow!

Plans are afoot for a permanent relocation to Thailand.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

No, although I used to be a sound engineer and produced music using computers, but no coding experience at all.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument?

Yes, always loved music and was a musician for a number of my ‘formative’ years. I played drums, bass guitar and kind of one-two fingered keyboards!

What learning advice would you give to other students of the Thai language?

Change the sounds you use to speak with. The sounds you use with your native language are not the ones you need to speak Thai with. Learn the script as soon as you can. Use the language every day, listen to the language every day. Find the beauty in the language. There are some beautiful sounds and rhythms in Thai, let them roll off your tongue, it’s magical stuff!

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Tone rules! :) continue with my lessons, eat up all the vocabulary that I can, speak more, listen more, read more, understand more.


Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

Thai Language Connectors: Opening Connectors

Thai Language Connectors

Opening Connectors for Thai learners…

As mentioned in the first post of the series, Thai Language Connectors: Starter Pack, Opening Connectors are responses to questions – they give you breathing time to mentally form answers.

Anthony Lauder: When you are asked a question, it can put you on the spot. Your mind can go blank, and soon you don’t know how to even start answering. Opening connectors are really useful for getting the first few words out of your mouth (“breaking the silence”) while you settle down to give the real answer to the question

Included in Anthony’s 100 Language Connectors mentioned in his Starter Pack there were four Opening Connectors: “Thank you heartily”, “That is such a good question”, “That is a difficult question”, and “Once upon a time, long ago…”. In this post we’ll complete the set from his spreadsheet.

Note: For various reasons, not all of Anthony’s phrases have been translated into Thai.

Opening Connectors for Thai learners…

I must first say that…
ก่อนอื่น ผม/ฉันต้องบอกก่อนว่า…
gòn èun pŏm/chăn dtông bòk gòn wâa…

I will be talking for about ten minutes.
pŏm/chăn jà chái way-laa pôot bprà-maan sìp naa-tee

I’ll start with… and afterwards move on to…
ผม/ฉันจะเริ่มจาก… จากนั้นก็จะพูดถึง…
pŏm/chăn jà rêrm jàak … jàak nán gôr jà pôot tĕung…

The reason why I am here is…
hàyt pŏn têe pŏm/chăn maa pôot hâi kun fang wan née gôr keu…

Note: Literal meaning: “The reason why I came to speak to you today is…”

Today we shall look at…
วันนี้ เราจะมาดูเรื่อง…
wan née rao jà maa doo rêuang…

Today’s topic is…
hŭa kôr têe rao jà kui gan wan née keu…

Today I will be talking about…
วันนี้ ผม/ฉันจะมาพูดเกี่ยวกับ…
wan née pŏm/chăn jà maa pôot gìeow gàp…

I know that there isn’t time to spare, so I’d better make a start.
ผม/ฉันรู้ว่าเรามีเวลาไม่มาก เพราะฉะนั้นผม/ฉันขอเริ่มเลยก็แล้วกัน
pŏm/chăn róo wâa rao mee way-laa mâi mâak · prór chà-nán pŏm/chăn kŏr rêrm loie gôr láew gan

I’d like to start with a general overview and after focus on…
kŏr rêrm pôot tĕung pâap-pá-ruam krâao krâao gòn láew kôi jòr léuk raai lá-ìat…

Note: Literal meaning: “Let me start with an rough overview and then, go into the details later.”

Downloads: Thai Language Opening Connectors…

Thai Language Opening Connectors (with transliteration): Pdf 395kb
Thai Language Opening Connectors (without transliteration): Pdf 395kb
Thai Language Opening Connectors: Audio (Male) 848kb
Thai Language Opening Connectors: Audio (Female) 686kb
Thai Language Opening Connectors: Audio (Female-singles) 603kb

Note: These files are for personal use only (please do not place them on other websites).

More Thai Language Connectors…

Following will be: Filler Connectors, Apologising Connectors, Qualifying Connectors, Agreeing and Disagreeing Connectors, Elaborating Connectors, Quoting Connectors, Switching Connectors, Closing Connectors and Passing Connectors (in that order).

Cheers! Catherine & Yuki

Yuki Tachaya, Web: PickupThai | YouTube: PickupThai | twitter: @PickupThai

Thai Time: Relearn Thai Tense the Thai Way (Part 2)

Bingo Lingo

Relearn Thai tense the Thai way (Part 2)…

In the previous post, we’ve talked about some of the most common time markers in Thai. Actually, I forgot the experience particle เคย /koei/ which is also a VERY important time marker! So before we move on to the next step of our advanced time manipulation like I promised, let’s take a look at this word for a second…

เคย /koei/ – experience particle…

เคย /koei/ is used to describe past experience. This past experience can be a one-off thing that you’ve ‘ever’ done, or it can be something you used to do habitually. Just like มา /maa/, /koei/ is another true tense marker because it only describes events of the past. Experience can only be a thing of the past, right?

chán koei bpai gaolĭi
I’ve been to Korea.

The speaker has been to Korea; she has the experience of travelling there. In this case /koei/ refers to the speaker’s one-off experience that she has ‘EVER’ been to Korea (unless she adds “twice”, “three times”, etc.)

chán koei yùu gaolĭi
I used to live in Korea.

The speaker in this sentence has an experience in Korea too, but in her case she has the experience of living there. Notice how /koei/ translates to different tenses in English depending on the context of the event. In this case, it is not a one-off experience. She used to live there for an extended period of time. It was constant.

pǒm koei súe kǒrng tîi ráan nán bòi
I used to buy stuff from that shop all the time.

The /koei/ in this case doesn’t describe a one-off experience, nor a continual state of being, but the habituality of the speaker.

If you speak any Romance language, the last 2 usages are an equivalent of the “imperfect tense” like the Italian “Io parlavo”, Spanish “Yo hablaba”, or Portuguese “Eu falava”.

It’s about time – putting the building blocks of time together…

We have learnt what these 8 time markers actually mean and how to use them individually, now it’s time for more complex stuff. By combining these time markers you can create a multitude of expressions of time. Imagine that these time markers are like building blocks. Each individual word has its own primary attribute, and when you put them together they create compound references of time.

However, I am not going to spoon-feed you. As a believer in active learning, I am going to present you with sentences containing multiple time markers. You’re going to read each sentence, consult translation for the words you don’t know, going over the meaning of the particles in part one if necessary. Guess what the sentence might mean in terms of temporal reference, then you can read my explanation. It’s important you try to do it yourself, as long-term knowledge sticks better if you rattle your brain trying to come up with your own answer first. You may forget what you remember, but you will never forget what you understand.

Ready? Scroll carefully or you might accidentally see the answer!

káo gamlang bpai láeo

เค้า /káo/ – he/she, ไป /bpai/ – to go

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: “He’s on the way now.”

/gamlang/ and /láeo/ create the meaning of ‘an ongoing action that has already been set in motion’. He has fulfilled the requirement for ‘going’ by perhaps actually having already left the place, or packing up and getting ready to leave. Either way something is being done in order to go to the destination, but that something is still in process so you won’t be seeing him at point B just yet because he’s still actively working on getting there.

pôr yang norn yùu

พ่อ /pôr/ – father, นอน /norn/ – to sleep

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: “Dad’s still sleeping.”

/yang/ and /yùu/ create the meaning of ‘an ongoing state that is still unfinished or pending’. The father’s state of ‘sleeping’ is not complete because he hasn’t woken up yet. The sleeping state /norn yùu/ will be complete once the father wakes up or is woken up by someone.

túkkon gamlang jà bpai

ทุกคน /túkkon/ – everyone

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: “Everyone’s about to leave.”

/gamlang/ and /jà/ create a meaning of ‘an ongoing action intended to happen’, i.e. “to be about to”. Everyone is still not ready to leave yet, but they are now planning to do so. This is different from #1 กำลัง…แล้ว /gamlang…láeo/ because in #1 the subject is already ‘in the process’ of doing the action, whilst in #3 the subject is only planning to do the action in the near future.

lûukkáa yang mâi dâi jàai ngern

ลูกค้า /lûukkáa/ – customer, จ่ายเงิน /jàai ngern/ – to pay (money)

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: The customer still hasn’t paid yet.

/yang/ and /mâi dâi/ create the meaning of ‘an action that has not been achieved yet and is incomplete’. You can just say ลูกค้ายังไม่จ่ายเงิน /lûukkáa yang mâi jàai ngern/ without the word /dâi/ as well, but keeping the word /dâi/ there makes it seem less deliberate and may imply that the customer ‘hasn’t got around to doing it yet, not because he’s not going to’.

pǒm jà glàp bâan láeo

ผม /pǒm/ – I (male), กลับบ้าน /glàp bâan/ – to go home

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: I’m going home right now.

/jà/ and /láeo/, going back to the initial question I posed in part 1, create the meaning of ‘an action intended to be set in motion any time soon’. In this example, the speaker hasn’t started going home yet, but he is so close to doing that, perhaps in a matter of minutes or even seconds. This structure shows how imminent the action is.

chán jà yang mâi súe rót

ชั้น /chán/ – I (mostly female), ซื้อ /súe/ – to buy, รถ /rót/ – car

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: I won’t buy a car just yet.

/jà/ and /yang mâi/ create the meaning of ‘an action that is intentionally prevented from being fulfilled’. You can just say ชั้นยังไม่ซื้อรถ /chán yang mâi súe rót/ without the word /jà/ as well, but keeping the word /jà/ there makes it clear that the speaker has made a conscious decision NOT to buy a car. That conscious decision or intention is implied just by the word /jà/.

nákrian koei dâi rian bòt níi láeo

นักเรียน /nákrian/ – student, เรียน /rian/ – to study, บท /bòt/ – lesson, นี้ /níi/ – this

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: The students have already studied this lesson.

Here comes a combination of 3 particles! /koei/, /dâi/ and /láeo/ create the meaning of ‘an experience that the subject has achieved and has already completed’. The students, in this case, have been taught this lesson and have completed it in its entirety. The past experience has been completely achieved.

John dâi bpen hǔanâa maa sǎam duean láeo

เป็น /bpen/ – to be, หัวหน้า /hǔanâa/ – boss, สาม /sǎam/ – three, เดือน /duean/ – month

(Stop scrolling here!)

Answer: John has been the boss for 3 months already.

/dâi/, /maa/ and /láeo/ create a meaning of ‘an achievement that has been continuing from the past up until the present and has completed a certain milestone’. John has been promoted in the past (which is an achievement). That achievement has been in effect up until now (past progressive), and he has just completed a period of 3 months as the boss.

How did you do? Don’t fret if your answers are not quite the same as mine. The accuracy in deeper meaning comes from getting a lot of input from native speakers and repeated use. I hope you take away something from my posts and use it to improve your understanding of Thai. Remember, the most important thing is stop comparing Thai time to your native language and try to construct your understanding from the ground up. Good luck and happy learning!

(Bingo) Arthit Juyaso
Principal of Duke Language School
My book on reading Thai fast: Read Thai in 10 Days

WINNERS of FIVE Fabulous Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS Apps

Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook

That’s right. There are FIVE winners!…

Benjawan (the Queen of Thai learning materials) agreed to choose the winners of the Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App. Only, instead of FOUR winners, she’s chosen FIVE! Fabulous.

Here are the winners: Jaime, Mary, Manu, Alan S and Charles Soon. If the winners would please send a message via my contact form and I’ll get the codes to you asap. And could you please do us a favour? We’d seriously love to hear your experience with the phrasebook. You can do that by leaving a comment below or emailing. Either are fine.

My thanks goes to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. And note that a month of giveaways is coming soon, so please do keep an eye on WLT.

I would also like to thank the creators of this wonderful phrasebook, Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand) and Benjawan Becker (Paiboon Publishing). Working crazy hours, they continue to give the Thai language community the cream of Thai learning resources. Both their Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook and Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary are truly amazing.

If you didn’t win the Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App…

For everyone who didn’t win this wonderful Phrasebook app, below are the details at iTunes (just click on the logo and it’ll take you there).

Talking Thai–English–Thai PhrasebookPrice: $14.99
Seller: Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand
Released: 06 April 2015
Version: 1.9
Word count: 12,000+
Audio: Native speaker (female)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Turn off Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: No need
Font control: Yes
Help: Yes (amazing)
Requires iOS: 5.1.1 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

If you are arriving here without reading my review, here it is in all its glory: Review and Draw: Win a Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App!

Better luck next time! And there will be a next time. Soon…

Review and Draw: Win a Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App!

Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook

FREE Draw: Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App…

If you weren’t one of the winners at Richard Barrow’s Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook review and giveaway, then you have another chance to win the iOS version of this app. There will be four phrasebooks being given away on WLT this run, with another four gifted in the future.

As with previous draws, the rules are simple:

  • Leave comments below.
  • Comment(s) need to add to the conversation.

NOTE: Each relevant comment gets counted, so leave as many as you like.

The draw will run from this moment until the 22nd of April, 6am Thai time. As soon I’m awake(ish) I’ll throw the numbers into random.org, and then announce the four winners.

It’s a beaut of an app, so good luck!

Review: Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook iOS App…

Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook by Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand: This phrasebook + mini-dictionary app is in a league of its own, with full-text search access to more than 12,000 professionally edited words, phrases, and ready-to-use, customizable complete sentences organized into 250+ practical categories like “Language Difficulties,” “Hotel,” “Renting a Place,” “Food/Drink,” “Price Haggling,” “Transportation,” “Health,” “Shopping,” “Sightseeing,” “Love/Romance/Sex” and even “Swearing/Insults.”

The Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app has leapfrogged into the Smartphone market. Traditional Thai phrasebook apps have sentences and a smattering of vocabulary, leaving you searching in vain for an exact fit. The Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Phrasebook also gives you sentences and vocabulary but the real magic comes with sentence patterns.

To show you what I mean, let’s put off a detailed overview of the app for the moment and go straight to the Domestic Help section in the Categories. You might recognise some of the phrases from my HouseTalk series.

Categories >> Domestic Help >> Maid >>

Talking Thai-English-Thai PhrasebookTo select the phrase you need, scroll down the list by sliding your finger south along the face of your iPhone, or by using the see-through blue scroll button on the righthand side of the screen.

You’ll find three types of sentences: Complete sentences, sentences with placeholders where you can insert words and numbers from a list, and sentences with grammatical placeholders.

Complete sentences are obviously used as is. Clicking on placeholders in sentences with insertable words comes back with subjects such as: Currency conversions, numbers, dates and time, locations, colours, materials, and things you might want to buy.

Grammatical placeholders are complex creatures so will appear in a future update. Until then, clicking on the placeholder gives you the grammar rules for that particular pattern. But in the meantime it’s dead simple to work with the placeholders sans inserts. Some of the results won’t be exactly correct but you’ll be understood. Here you go.

  • Select the sentence pattern you want to work with.
  • Click the grey ‘add to favourites’ box (look for the plus).
  • Click the search icon at the bottom left nav to find the word you need.
  • Favourite that word as well by clicking the plus in the box.
  • Click on the favourites icon at the bottom right nav.
  • To hear both, check the box to the left of each selection.
  • Practice saying them in the correct sequence a few times and voila you have your new sentence!

Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook

Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook: Settings…

Before you go any further with the Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook it’s a good idea to get your settings sorted.

  • First up, adjust the text size of both the English and Thai together or separately (for me, I’ve made the English small and the Thai script large).
  • Next set the volume for playback and keyboard clicks (my volume is turned on high and the keyboard clicks turned off).
  • Following is gender (I’m a female and like my ฉัน and ค่ะ/คะ’s thank you very much).
  • If you want to use transliteration there’s a whole slue to choose from: Paiboon (two types), Easy Thai, TLC (thai-language.com), Tiger, Haas, IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet), ALA-LC (American Library Ass), TYT (Teach Yourself Thai), LP (Lonely Planet), T2E (thai2english.com), and Thai Govt+.
  • And now comes the setting I’ve been waiting for. You can hide the pronunciation! Fabulous.
  • Here’s the rest of what you can do in settings: Keyboard selection, digits, currency, clocks (I went with 12 over 24 hour).

Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook: Navigation…

The navigation abilities are all over this app. Across the top left is a home icon (takes you back to the home of the section you are in), an up arrow (takes you to the top of that the screen you are in). And across the top right are simple forward and backward arrows that navigate you to where you’ve recently been and back again. The arrows might be skinny little things but they are huge timesavers.

On the nav across the bottom of the app there’s Search, Categories, Help, Settings, and Favourites. We’ve already discussed Settings and Favourites, so here are the rest.

  • Search: You can search using English, via Thai sounds (transliteration), and Thai script. There’s also an extensive ‘how to’ that walks you through all the fiddly bits.
  • Categories: As there are over 250 categories I won’t list them individually, but along with over 12,000 words and phrases, they are tucked inside Essentials, Situations, Conversation, Glossary, and Places.
  • Help: The help is incredible. It not only shows you how to use the app, but includes a mini-course on the Thai language. The Speaking and Listening section teaches initial and final consonants, vowels (length and sounds), tones, similar sounds, syllable and stress, irregular sounds, parts of speech, verbs, objects, prepositions, questions and classifiers, word register, months, and the 12 year cycle. Wow.

I’m not exactly saving the best for last, but to me, the ability to suggest a word and/or phrase is a big deal. If a search comes back with “no matches” you can suggest it. What does that mean? By clicking on the proffered link that takes you to Paiboon Publishing, you can then suggest that your word or phrase gets added to the next update. How great is that? It’s like you are one of the team, helping to improve an already wonderful app.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In late 2015 the Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook will be rolled into the Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary. If you don’t have the dictionary and you get the phrasebook now, via an in app purchase you can upgrade to the dictionary. But if you already have the dictionary and you don’t want to wait for the phrases, then by all means, go for it. It won’t break the bank and will help support the ongoing development of Paiboon apps (quality always costs more to build than is expected).

More about the Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook iOS app…

Talking Thai–English–Thai PhrasebookPrice: 14.99
Seller: Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand
Released: 06 April 2015
Version: 1.9
Word count: 12,000+
Audio: Native speaker (female)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Turn off Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: No need
Font control: Yes
Help: Yes (amazing)
Requires iOS: 5.1.1 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Reminder: The draw will run from now until the 22nd of April, 6am Thai time. Good luck!

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