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Thai Phrase Books with a Twist

Thai Language Phrase Books with a Twist

Even more Thai phrase books…

When I went on my Thai phrase book buying spree, several that were not quite right got caught up in the effort. And instead of ignoring their contribution, I decided to include them here.

Bua Luang Phrase HandBook

Bua Luang Phrase BookAuthor: Samorn Chaiyana
Publisher: Bua Luang Pub. Co.
Date: 2003 Third Edition
Pages: 397
Size: 7-1/2 x 5-1/8 x 1″
Sound files: No
Dictionary: No
Estimated phrases: 2000+

Overview:: This is a wonderful resource for getting your foot in the door, but it’s more of an introduction to the Thai language and culture than a traditional phrase book (hence Phrase Handbook included in the title). The design is old-fashioned but nicely laid out and the Thai script is legible.

Possible negatives: There is no dictionary, but as it is too big to carry in your pocket while shopping or sightseeing anyway, it’s no problem making sure that there is a dictionary nearby.

Table of contents:

  • Origins of the Thai language
  • Being polite
  • Some values of the Thai
  • The boring things
  • Basic Thai grammar and stuff
  • Questions and answers
  • Thai phrases
  • Getting to know each other
  • Numbers and counting
  • Thailand’s 76 provinces
  • Where do you come from?
  • What do you do?
  • Coming, going and staying
  • Yes, no, maybe
  • Males and females
  • Family and relatives
  • Weather and nature
  • Telephone
  • At the post office
  • Welcomt to Bua Luang Hotel
  • Clothes and laundry
  • Tuk-tuks and taxis
  • Directions and places
  • Driving a vehicle
  • Bus, train or plane
  • Time
  • Money
  • Shopping and bargaining
  • Eating and drinking
  • Sport, health and body
  • Making friends
  • Say goodbyes
  • Appendixes
  • Culture capsules
  • Special focus on Thai terms
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Thai proverbs

Instant Thai: How to express 1,000 different ideas with just 100 key words and phrases.

Instant ThaiAuthor: Stuart Robson, Prateep Changchit
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Date: July 15, 2007
Pages: 160
Size: 6 x 4 x 1/2″
Sound files: No
Dictionary: English-Thai 550+ word vocabulary
Estimated phrases: 1000+

Overview: Instant Thai deviates from your bog-standard Thai phrase book. It is possible to drag it around Thailand with you, but the emphasis is on learning phrases over grabbing phrases. With a clean layout having breathable white space and good font choices, it is a powerful little book that teaches basic Thai phrases by building from one word and phrase to another. A decent sized Thai script is included.

Possible negatives: It’s not standalone as there just aren’t enough words. An index showing where the 100 Thai words are located would increase the usefulness of this book, as would sound files to help with pronunciation. The dictionary is English-transliteration-Thai, so you cannot share this book with a Thai only speaker.

Table of contents:

  • Preface
  • About the Thai language
  • Spelling and pronunciation
  • Getting to know you
  • Asking questions and getting answers
  • Ordering a meal
  • Shopping and negotiating
  • Getting about
  • Family and friends
  • Entertainments
  • Telling and talking
  • Health and the body
  • Going to the temple
  • English-Thai wordlist
  • Telling the time
  • Thai kinship terms
  • Some Thai proverbs
  • Emergency expressions
  • Suggestions for further reading

Thai Fetch-a-Phrase

Thai Fetch-a-PhraseAuthor: Jonathan Smith
Publisher: Fetch-a-Phrase
Date: 2005
Pages: 1 folded sheet
Size: 8-1/4 x 4-1/2
Sound files: No
Dictionary: English-Transliteration 600+ word vocabulary
Estimated phrases: Difficult to tell

Overview: Over 30 sentences with a decent list of words separated into nouns, verbs, adjectives, time modifiers, etc. The idea is to mix and match with the appropriate sentence; quite clever really.

Possible negatives: The tall, folded laminated sheet is bulky. There is English and transliteration, but no Thai script.

Online resources…

WikiTravel Thai phrasebook

Not offered in Thai, but they could be…

Bottles in translation
More than 100 of the most commonly used words and phrases for a traveler’s most common queries.

Vocabulary Words Shower Curtain
Shower curtains with foreign words and phrases.

Next up: Pictures: When They Can’t Speak Thai….

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Heart Talk (Say What You Feel in Thai) by Christopher G Moore

Heart Talk

Is there a Christopher G Moore in the house?…

I created Women Learn Thai not just to take on the language, but to study the history and culture of all things Thai.

For research (especially living in a city the size of Bangkok), the Internet is a jewel. But being old-fashioned, my first choice will always be books. And when I need to source a lot of books at once, I go for secondhand over new.

For my first trip for WLT, Dasa Book Cafe was it. Just inside the door beyond the tea tables, the Thai section. A mix of facts, personal experience and fiction.

On the drive over, my Canadian buddy Lynn admitted a firm fiction focus. Christopher G Moore. Famous, proliferate, Bangkok-based, Canadian. She drooled.

So while she headed for Spirit House and the Smile series, I detoured towards Reflections on Thai Culture (William J Knausner), Thailand, a Short History (David K Wyatt), and Bangkok (William Warren).

That was then. This is now. And now (saving Dasa for afters), it was quick-like into a taxi and over to Siam Paragon for a plastic wrapped copy of Heart Talk, by none other than Lynn’s Christopher G Moore.

Thai heart Thai identity…

When I first read the title, I thought “oh, no, not another book about the steamy side of Thailand!”. Which was soon followed by, “wait a second, I LIKE sex!”…

But Heart Talk is not pillow talk. That’s right. A jai does not sexy make.

In the Thai language the heart is the centre of thinking, feeling, shaping our moods, nurturing our spirit, bonding us to friends and family. The outline of what it is to move about in the home, office, and society can’t be detached from the idea of jai.

Another feature is the reversal of order in certain expressions. Thus jai dee (good heart) refers to the nature of a good-hearted person while dee jai (glad heart) refers to the emotional state of gladness. In a number of cases, the switch can turn a negative feeling into a good personality trait. For example, òn jai (worn-out heart) means weary-minded, while jai òn (soft heart) refers to someone who goes out of their way to help others.

A cause for Heart Talk…

When I decided to feature Heart Talk, I searched the web for available resources (and found more than a few). When I mentioned my mini-project to Christopher, he advised to take care.

Checking through my growing spreadsheet, I compared my finds with Heart Talk and I had to agree. Learning heart words without realising the nuances could get you into difficulties with the language. And difficulties, I can do without.

Some jai expressions are descriptive of the nature of a person. For example, a person with an impatient nature is jai rón (hot heart) and a person with a sensitive, touchy nature is nói jai (touchy heart).

Other times a phrase is connected with an emotional state and not necessarily the nature of the person experiencing the emotion. Thus a feeling of panic translates as jai túm túm dtòm dtòm (panic heart).

A similar mistake is to use our western mindset in a Thai world. For instance, look at เย็นใจ (yen jai). เย็น (yen) = cold, while ใจ (jai) = heart (or mind). As a westerner, I jumped to the conclusion that a cold heart is a negative and a hot heart is well, sexy. Wrong. In Thailand, a hot heart is a negative and a cold heart is a positive.

Comfortable Heart สบายใจ (sà-baai jai) เย็นใจ (yen jai): You have entered a state of feeling perfectly in tune with yourself emotionally or a state of comfort and pleasantness. You feel comfortable inside yourself and with those around you; there is an inner peace and sense of calm.

Another mistake beginners (as in myself) often make is to take on Thai words or word units without learning how they fit into a sentence.

Be a little careful about picking new words out of the vocabulary and using them. If they are nouns you can’t go far wrong as in most cases any one noun can be substituted for another but adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and verbs are very often used in certain contexts only and if you use them wrongly you will not be understood.

And that’s an additional plus of Heart Talk. Each heart word is clarified as being either adverb, adjective, verb, or noun. Tricky stuff. So the heart of this advice? Be free with nouns, but check before using others.

The nouns of Heart Talk…

In Heart Talk there are 60+ nouns. With Christopher’s permission I’ve recorded around half that number. The descriptions are inspired (and at times direct) from HT the book. The voice is all น้ำใจ Niwat.


Inspiration Heart (p28)
raang ban-daan jai
Inspirational. Includes emotional support, guidance, insight and knowledge conveyed to others.


Water Heart (p67)
náam jai
Someone who is considerate.


Broad Heart (p77)
náam jai an gwâang-kwăang
A generous and unselfish person.


True Essence of the Heart (p84)
náam săi jai jing
A person who helps without expecting a return.


Egocentric Heart (p94)
chôp tam dtaam am-per jai
A self-centred or egocentric person.


Devil in One’s Heart (p121)
maan hŭa-jai
Someone who destroys the love existing between people.


Emotional State of the Heart (p131)
hŭa-òk hŭa-jai
Uncaring person (lack of compassion or sensitivity).

Heart (p132)
jai kor
In the context of a person’s personality or natural disposition. Or the emotional reaction to a person or event.


Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
jìt jai
A mental state inside your head or heart.

Life, Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
chee-wít jìt jai
This is my favourite. The idea is that people have value and are entitled to be treated with respect and regard.

Understanding Heart (p158)
jai kăo jai rao
Understand another as you understand yourself.


Thoughts inside the Heart (p165)
kwaam nai jai
Thoughts you keep to yourself.


Beloved Heart (p168)
săai jai
The bonds of love between mother and child.

Eye of the Heart (p169)
duang dtaa duang jai
The object of your love and affection (husband, wife, sometimes child).

Star of the Heart (p169)
A child is the star of the parents.

Star of the Heart (p169)
yôt duang-jai
Ditto, the child is the centre (star) of a parent’s heart.


Power of the Heart (p190)
plang jai
The feeling that comes from communal sharing.

Confederate Heart (p191)
pôo rûam jai
A strong, intimate bond between people intune to each other.


Seduction Machine of the Heart (p193)
krêuang lôr jai
Describes the drive some people have for material things.


Power of the Heart (p194)
gam-lang jai
The sense of spirit or encouragement to complete a task, to accomplish something.


Good Friend Heart (p198)
pêuan rûam jai
A close friend (soulmate).

Refuge of the Heart (p200)
têe pêung taang jai
Where you find refuge (amulets, religion, politics, people).


Centre Heart (p208)
ใจ กลาง
jai glaang
The object at the centre of something. For location, it could be a street or building. For people, parents or children could apply.

Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
jai meuang
The centre of a country is jai meuang.

Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
jai glaang meuang
The centre of a city is jai glaang meuang.


Truth in the Heart (p246)
kwaam jing jai
Someone sincere in words and actions.


The Heart of the Matter (p248)
jai kwaam
The meaning, substance or gist of the matter in question.

The Heart of the Matter (p248)
kôr yài jai kwaam
Ditto in being the substance or gist of the matter in question.

Where to buy Heart Talk…

If you live in Thailand, you can pick up Heart Talk at most bookstores with English on offer (in BKK, Asia Books and the lovely Kinokuniya Bookstore come to mind). If not, the amazon is a sure bet.

Where to find Christopher G Moore…

Christopher G Moore official website
Christopher G Moore’s blog
Christopher G Moore on WordPress
Christopher G Moore on Facebook

Heart talk heart word resources…

Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Speak Like a Thai Volume 4: Heart Words

learningthai.com (offline for now): The Heart Words, also from the book Hearts (possibly out of print).

thai2english.com: ใจ – jai – Thai / English Dictionary

thai-language.com: ใจ jai

YouTube: Bebe son kam waa rak Teaches words about love (English Sub)

Note: The Thai transliteration has been adjusted for consistency.

A special thanks goes to: Christopher for giving permission and advice, to Niwat for his voice, and to Jessi for sending over more heart words (coming in a later post).

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The Expat Women’s Guide to Bangkok

Books Thailand

What’s a woman gotta do around here to get a bite…

EDIT: This book is no longer around – I’m leaving this post live in the hope it’ll make a comeback (of sorts).

When a western woman arrives in Bangkok, she’s overwhelmed with a multitude of tasty sites and resources on offer. Mostly for men.

Bangkok, a city for the hungry male? Or is it?

First up (when googling), she’ll find Stickman’s Bangkok. A classic. And while there’s decent information on offer, from a female point of view, we be going hungry.

Bangkok Bob (no longer online) was another fav of mine. But again, heavy on the guy angle, (as it would be).

Other well-written sites have the same tang. There’s interesting chunks for sure, but I don’t really need to know what some poor sod paid over the going price, or even the ins and outs of a man’s guide to Bangkok’s steamy nightlife (but I will peek).

With a female flavour, I need to know about reasonable housing and what areas to avoid, safe travel, the nearest market to suit my tastes, where to eat, the best masseurs (and why), English book stores (should I bring my own), what shops have shoes in my size (ditto), how to make new friends (male and female), and tips on important Thai customs (a biggie for women avoiding uncomfortable snafus). And all in my particular brand; a zesty, zingy, female munch.

And that’s where Amy’s ebook, the ‘Expat Women’s Guide to Bangkok’ comes in.

Amongst it all you’ll find needed resources such as BNOW (Bangkok Network of Women) and British Women’s Group (Bangkok).

And that’s just the icing on the cake. Or (as they say out here), The Big Mango

BKK monkTake a DEEP breath while I do a quick skim down the index. You know, just to see if I can grab your fancy.

Right away you’ll get an indispensable dose of Thai etiquette (whatever you do, do not skip this section), possible ways to get around Bangkok and beyond (airport, taxi, buses, subway, skytrain, tuk tuks, boats, motorcycle taxis, maps, car and driver hire), everything to do with money (cost of living, taxes, tipping, paying bills, credit cards and transferring money), safety tips (emergency numbers and personal tips from women living in BKK), accommodation (where, what, how and how much), communications (landlines, mobiles, Internet and postal services), shopping (supermarkets, hypermarkets, malls, tech malls, markets, book stores and more), eating out and in (street hawkers, restaurants to drool over and who delivers), health (hospitals, dental, insurance, pharmacies, fitness clubs and parks), entertainment (cinema, concerts and cultural centres), organisations (women’s groups, Chambers of Commerce, cultural clubs, expat clubs and those with special interest), Thai language learning (where you’ll find Women Learn Thai )… all to delight the female palette.

PHEW! That’s a lot…

Time to talk about Amy…

Amy and FamilyAlthough western women are outnumbered here, we are not exactly scarce (even if it seems so).

Expat women in Bangkok are successful teachers, writers, designers, mothers, wives and business owners.

But not all women slide into this city as smoothly as a finely baked souffle. Like Amy did.

Amy left her comfy position back in the US. Packed what she needed. Then changed her life forever.

Within months of being taken under the wing of a knowledgeable American, Amy started helping others coming into Bangkok fresh. And that’s really when the idea for the Expat Women’s Guide to Bangkok came about. From Amy’s desire for exploration, excitement and a taste for all things new.

Amy’s adventure on buses, boats and tuk tuks eventually led to a greater adventure. Her dear Thai husband Golf. And (as often happens), they now have a sweet addition, Aidan.

Amy presently resides in California with her young family, hopping over to Bangkok for experiences new and old. I can’t wait to see what’s new on the menu, for sure.

As previously mentioned, the Expat Woman’s Guide to Living in Bangkok is no longer online. Here’s hoping it’ll come back soon or someone else picks up the project.

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The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast…

The reason I developed this quick and dirty method of learning a foreign language is that, as a Green Beret, I had to travel to many countries on short notice on vital missions with complex requirements that required me to work intimately with foreign officials in a professional capacity. Regardless of how hard I searched, I could never find one book or method that got me where I needed to be in the time I had to get there.

And the reason I chose The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast for my first book review is because it was quick and fast (I’ll pass on dirty for now).

Fast to read. Quick to get the method sussed.

So let’s get started.

First off, A. G. Hawke (Myke Hawke) sends us on a tool gathering mission. No problem, as they are the typical tools of the language learning trade: Pen and notebook, flash cards, dictionary, phrase book, grammar rules and recordings. I’m sure you have most at the ready?

Getting flash cards together is easy too, as we’ll create our own. As for a dictionary to help, the Thai—English English-Thai dictionary by Benjawan Poomsan Becker comes highly recommended, so no worries there.

But the only Thai phrase book I have at this writing is the Lonely Planet. And although it includes a decent 2000 word dictionary in the back, the Thai script is chicken scratch to my eyes. Time to go searching for more?

Grammar rules was just a google away, so printing them out was easy. And recordings, I have a few.

Getting down to the dirty…

At the back of the book Myke has three and four column charts for six days. There are top verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, numbers, word phrases, present / future and past tenses. All we have to do is fill in the Thai before beginning our marathon of Thai language learning. Or, if you are like me, you’ll yell for your teacher to ‘HELP!’

So on day one we fill out the charts. On day two Myke sends us off for six not too gruelling(?) days of study. I can do that.

Wait! Turning to page 151 I find there’s a phase two in the works: Expanding your vocabulary. It goes from day 8 to day 30, then further on for 22 days. On each day we: Review what we know, learn 5 new verbs, 15 new nouns, one grammar rule per day and 5 new phrases. At the end the day we sign off with a brief review. Oh my.

So, will I do it? Sure, I’ll give it a decent try. And you?

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