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Book Review: ๕,๐๐๐ สำนวนไทย (5000 Thai Idioms)

Book Review: 5000 Thai Idioms

Review: 5000 Thai Idioms…

Title: ๕,๐๐๐ สำนวนไทย (นับแต่อดีตจวบจนปัจุบัน)
5000 Thai idioms; from the past right on up to now! [paraphrased]
Author: เอกรัตน์ อุดมพร
ISBN: 978-974521855-0

First off I wanna say that “5000 Thai Idioms” was recommended by David Rubin who is DavidandBui from the Thai Language dot com dictionary/forum website. They have a great website! It has a KILLER online dictionary, a free Thai dictionary iPhone app, good learning Thai resources and a great supportive forum about the Thai language.

I was more than a little hesitant to buy this book; seeing as both the idioms and the meanings are all Thai. Sometimes I’ve found when using Thai/Thai only reference material, the meanings provided don’t make the word’s definition any clearer (at least not to me).

My fears were groundless and I was pleasantly surprised paging thru it. First off the font was easy to read. It wasn’t one of those squirrelly Thai fonts which for some reason are so popular. You know the kind, they’re so stylized and so microscopic that you can’t tell if it’s a ไม้โท or a ไม้หันอากาศ (or at least I can’t, even with my reading glasses on!) Also I immediately noticed that the meanings were not only pretty clear, but written at level of Thai where I could make the leap in logic on what most of them meant without having to break out the dictionary. I have found the less you can use a dictionary and the more you can make out the meanings by context, the faster your Thai comprehension improves. There’s nothing worse than trying to read Thai but every other word you have to break out the dictionary because you’re reading stuff way over your current level of comprehension. I think this book would work for a high-beginner or low-intermediate reader IF they really wanted to read it. If you have a Thai native speaker/reader handy it’d be even easier!

The book is broken down alphabetically ก-ฮ and there is some bleed over, where a particular saying is in more than once place due to different ways it can be phrased. The idioms I’m going to use in this article are just ones I pulled out at random from the ones I highlighted, so they’re in no particular order.

I’ve just spent the last four months reading this book cover to cover, idiom by idiom, highlighting ones which I knew compared to an English idiom, ones which I thought were novel, and ones which would “fit” with the version of Thai I routinely speak. So far I’ve run several hundred of what I picked out as my favorites past the Thaiz I know. Some are hits, as in they know them and start reciting them as soon as I’d start saying it. Then again some were misses, and I mean by MILES! Even when I tried to explain them in Thai to Thaiz, they didn’t know what it meant. Sitting Soi side, half-cocked one night with my เพอืนฝูง’s (flock o’ Thai friendz) I actually had to go home, get the book and come back to show them that I wasn’t making up the saying. Now granted this could be due to the fact I speak pretty darned piss-poor Thai as far as clarity which could have been compounded by being half drunk as well.

During the time I’ve been going thru this book I’ve come to realize idioms are “conditions of humanity”. These are things which humans the world over have experienced, time and again, generation after generation and come up with a saying to relate it to one another in whatever language they speak. Once you take into account geography, culture, religion and background, the idioms between English and Thai are really close to each other in meaning. A couple off-the-wall examples are; in English we have “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”, in Thai they have “you shouldn’t sell the bearskin before you kill the bear” ไม่ควรขายหนังหมีก่อนฆ่าหมีได้. Now that’s a pretty strange idiom because I didn’t even know this place had bears, that Thaiz hunted bears or wore bearskins! Thai does have the actual don’t count your chicken idiom in อย่านับไข่ก่อนที่แม่ไก่จะออกไข่ more like “don’t count the eggs until the hen lays them”. Another one we have in English is; “something is better than nothing”. Strangely Thai has; กำขี้ดีกว่ากำตด “A handful of shit is better than a handful of fart”. Now any way you slice it, that idiom carries the same meaning! They have a “pig in a poke” as well with ยอมแมวขาย “dye a cat and sell it”.

It would appear that most if not all the Thai sayings are primarily agrarian based in origin. This is not surprising, seeing as not very many generations ago most of the people in the country were farmers and a good portion are to this day. It’s no different than the sayings in American English, most which have their roots tied firmly to our pioneer/farming background. In English we have “cotton’s short but the weeds are tall”, In Thai ข้าวยากหมากแพง “rice is difficult to grow, betel nut is expensive”. Both equate to hard times. Funny enough Thai has the “kill two birds with one stone” although they say ยิงปืนนัดเดียวได้นกสองตัว “shoot the gun once get two birds”.

There are oh-so many doz-don’tz, shouldz-shouldn’tz in the book. I mean the section which starts with อย่า is just staggering; in fact it’s 20 pages worth of entries! Some of the don’ts I just plain ไม่เก็ท. Here’re a couple examples; อย่ากินขี้ อย่าสี (ร่วมเพศ) หมา now that translates as “don’t eat shit, don’t have sex with dogs”. The meaning seems to say that some things you shouldn’t do in public, but even in private that’s out there. อย่าควักเอาลูกตาออกแล้วเอาเมล็ดมะกอกยัด “don’t pluck out your eye and stuff your eye socket with an olive pit”. The meaning is if you have something good; don’t think you should replace it even if it’s old with something new. They have อย่าใช้คนบ้า and อย่าใช้พ่อแม่, the first is “don’t use crazy people” and the meaning says don’t employ crazy people; the second is don’t employ your father/mother. Anyway, you get my drift. Some are so out there that I mean who would even contemplate doing that to begin with. Did so many people do this that they had to make up idioms warning people about it?

It is also not surprising that a LOT of the sayings are class/face based (or they sure come across to me like that); given these peoples penchant for putting everyone neatly on some mythical ladder rung of success and their fixation on giving, gaining, not losing and saving face. Also there seems to be a real slant towards telling women how to act in relation to their husbands, by an overwhelming factor. However, I didn’t see a whole heck of a lot of idioms which went the other way and told husbands how to act towards their wife!

There’s also TON of Buddhist related stuff in it too. So, if those kinda philosophical, yet wordy saying float your boat, this book will be right up your alley. It’s not that I don’t like those idioms, I do, and they’re good. It’s been pointed out to me, if you nail one of those idioms with a Thai; you’ve got the upper hand for sure. It’s just a lot of them are way too wordy for me to throw into the conversation.

For me an idiom/saying has to meet several criteria; it has to be relevant to whatever I’m talking about, it has to be short enough to spit out without hemming ‘n hawing AND has to drive home the point I’m trying to make using it without the need for me to say more than that idiom.

Some really funny ones about doing something just for the sake of getting it done without regard to quality are เหมือนหมาเลียน้ำร้อน “like a dog licks hot water” and เหมือนลิงล้างก้น “like a money washing its ass”. They’ve got a TON of stupid/foolish comparatives too like สมองหมาปัญญาควาย “brain of a dog, intelligence of a buffalo”. I got quite a kick out of มาไทยไปฝรั่ง for someone who “shows up to work perpetually late, yet leaves right on time”.

While this is a great book chock full of tidbits o’ wisdom, where it’s really lacking is; there should be some notation letting you know if an idiom is ancient, just old, or fairly contemporary. There’s nothing telling you which ones are diamonds and which ones are coal, it’s almost totally hit and miss. Some of the ones I ran past the Thaiz, they’d say, “wow, I haven’t heard that since my grandfather was alive!” To me that sort of saying is a keeper. Mostly because I’m old, and I don’t want to be spouting ภาษาวัยรุ่น-isms as they aren’t age appropriate. It actually struck me as sad to hear some of the sayings aren’t said any more. The younger guys who sit with me had never ever heard quite a few of them, yet they all agreed they had value. There’re some real good sayings in the book and I’d hate to see them fall by the wayside, in today’s modern age.

What I immediately noticed was that there were a LOT of comparatives in relation to a person’s personality (or status in life) by using animals. They have เข้าฝูงกาต้องเป็นกา “enter a flock of crows become a crow” conversely they have เข้าฝูงหงส์ต้องเป็นหงส์ “enter a flock of swans become a swan”. Of course both of these are close to the “birds of a feather flock together” saying. Now they also have crows shouldn’t mix with swans and if that’s not a not so subliminal classist remark I don’t know what is. At one school I regularly visit the teachers teach that same old hack saying “when in Rome do as the romans” with the Thai phrase เข้าเมืองตาหลิ่วต้องหลิ่วตาตาม “enter a town of squinty eyed people, you must squint your eyes too”. I told one of the teachers they should use the crow idiom; เข้าฝูงกาต้องเป็นกา. She said, “oh Tod, we can’t do that because here we have only swans!” I thought it was a great comeback, especially as much of a pain in the ass I probably am for those teachers.

They also have a lot of the same comparative idioms we have in English too; “black as coal” ดำเหมือนถ่าน, “black as gunpowder” ดำเหมือนดินปืน, “black as a crow” ดำเหมือนอีกา, “white as cotton fluff” ขาวเรากับปุยฝ้าย, “white as the pith from a banana tree” ขาวเรากับหยวก, Most of their “hard as” ones are the same; “hard as nails” แข็งเหมือนตะปู, “hard as diamond” แข็งเหมือนเพชร, “hard as a stone” แข็งเหมือนหิน. They also have “dark as ducks liver” ดำตับเป็ด, “black as a banana you covered and forgot about” ดำเหมือนกล้ยวหมกลืม and “black as the bottom of a rice pot” ดำเหมือนดินหม้อ. There are a lot of beautiful as a … and ugly as a … too.. If you’re rich or a high status girl who marries a poor guy, นางฟ้ากับหมาวัด “angel with a temple dog”, conversely, it would appear if a poor girl marries a rich high status guy, she’s a หนูตกถังข้าวสาร “mouse that fell into a tank of raw rice”. For the idiom we have “you can’t fight city hall” they have กินขี้หมาดีกว่าค้าความกับราชการ, which is pretty close, even though I think it fosters the innate fear of people in authority I see Thaiz exhibit more than ours does.

One I thought was quite funny was “curse someone like a chicken pecks the eye of a rat” ด่าเหมือนไก่เจาะตาหนู, which means you just keep on and on at it. A couple good ones when you’re offered food but it isn’t all that tasty are “better than eating dirt” ดีกว่ากินดิน and “better than being hit in the mouth with a stick” ดีกว่าไม้ดีดปาก. “Strike while the iron is hot” or do what needs to be done when it’s appropriate would be กินแกงเมื่อร้อน “eat curry when it’s hot” or ตีเหล็กเมื่อแดง “forge metal when it’s red”.

Not surprisingly Thai has just as many idioms relating to sex as we do. There’s กุหลาบริมทาง “rose on the edge of the path”, ดอกไม้ใกล้ทาง means the same but uses flower, there’s ไก่หลง a “lost chicken” and for a guy there’s จับไก่หลง “catch a lost chicken” and “beat the rice pot” ตีหม้อ. For something that finishes much sooner than expected they have “the sparrow didn’t even have a chance to drink water” นกกระจอกไม่ทันกินน้ำ. They have “meet a beautiful tree when the axe is chipped” เจอไม้งาม เมื่อยามขวานบิ่น, which is to meet someone beautiful when you are otherwise engaged. For a marriage that failed early on they had ก้นหม้อไม่ทันดำ “the bottom of the rice pot didn’t have a chance to blacken”. For a woman who is err, umm, energetic, they have ไฟแรงสูง “high voltage”!

This is getting to be a long book review but I wanted to give you guys a taste of what the book can yield. Believe me there’re a LOT of valuable material in it. I’ve worked some in when taking taxis, talking to Thaiz I’d never met before and to a person they light up. They ask how I knew that and then we’re off to the races talking about this or that. It is easily the best ice-breaker I’ve ever come across.

Cat suggested I write a follow-up to this of a list of idioms and their meanings. So, if you guys think there’s value in learning “Thai idioms according to Tod”. Lemme know I’ll pound ‘em out for you.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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From the Diplomatic Bag: Parting Shots at Thailand

From the Diplomatic Bag: Parting Shots at Thailand

British Ambassadors going out with a bang…

Going around the Thai expat community this week are scans from Parting Shots, a collection of parting comments from British diplomats. Diplomatic opinions such as these were popular with expats when I lived on Borneo, and back even further, when I lived in France (only via snail mail, not email). And they were often sorely needed.

Parting Shots, by Matthew Parris
When leaving a foreign posting, Britain’s ambassadors were encouraged to write a valedictory despatch until the practice was abolished in 2006. Unlike the usual style of the diplomatic bag, these last reports from foreign posts were unbuttoned, indiscreet and often very funny.

Being able to laugh at cultural snafus, misunderstandings, and the day-to-day frustrations that come from a foreign post does help to release building tensions. And tensions are always in evidence, whether they are minimal to mediocre to grand slams.

I remember back when… oh… well… never mind… (I’ll wait until I’m far away from it all – or everyone is dead – one or the other or all three).

Some British ambassadors let it all hang out:

Ambassadors going out with a bang: There is, I fear, no question but that the average Nicaraguan is one of the most dishonest, unreliable, violent and alcoholic of the Latin Americans.

Roger Pinsent, Managua, 1967

Parting shots at Thailand…

While some of the ambassadors’ last words towards the countries they were leaving were quite scathing, one ambassador to Thailand showed his clever in other ways:

… but since it is now immaterial whether my superiors consider me better fitted for a lunatic asylum than for a diplomatic post, I shall try to describe the Thai way.

First the idiom. If I were a Thai official in the presence of my superior I would stand at deferential attention while he spoke, then when he had finished would bend low and hiss his ear the one word: “Crap!” For in Thai this basic four letter word is not only the appropriate but the mandatory expression of total submission.

And, on another plane, what can one make of a language where the word for dentist is “more fun” or where, at least to the foreign ear, the words for “near” and “far” are exactly the same?

There are indeed separate and distinct expressions for “yes” and “no”, but since it is impolite to use the latter the former is used for both…

Sir Arthur de la Mare, Thailand, November 1973

Polite particle: ครับ / kráp/
Dentist: หมอฟัน /mŏr fun/
Near: ใกล้ /glâi/
Far: ไกลๆ / glai glai/
Yes: ใช่ /châi/
Not yes: ไม่ใช่ /mâi châi/

(TiT, I won’t be posting the others – so buy the book?)

Note: The book is based on a BBC Radio 4 program of the same name. You can listen to a handful of the shows online: Parting Shots: Series 1.

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Sesame Street Turns 40

Sesame Street

Sesame Street comes of age…

This week, on November 10th, Sesame Street turned the big FOUR OH.

My, oh, my, does time fly…

So if you didn’t know Sesame Street as a child, then your brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, or even your own kids did (or are doing so).

But did you know that there is a Thai version of Sesame Street? Well, there is.

And the best way to get copies is to contact Rikker at Thai 101.

พูด เล่น! (pôot lên! :-D

Several times a year, Bangkok holds fairs where you can snag a copy or two of Sesame Street dubbed in Thai. As I don’t have little ones, a friend grabbed a few from a childrens’ fair held at Queen Sirikit Centre. And at 89 Baht each, they are not too shabby.

Nicely done, they should certainly a consideration if you are learning Thai. Or even if your little ones are learning Thai.

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Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles


Crossword Puzzles and Google Books…

When I started researching for the post Google Books: Thai Learning Resources, I came across Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles for both Level 2 and Level 4. Fabulous.

Now, I realise that some authors are scared of their work being in Google Books, but there are real benefits to being able to dig down deep into a book to see if it is for you. As this was the fourth purchase I’ve made after finding a book on Google Books, so it obviously works for me.

When I contacted Webster’s about their Thai – Webster’s Specialty Crossword Puzzles, they kindly sent me their Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles: Level 1 to review.

This being the modern age, the book was sent via email as a pdf. Nice.

Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles…

This edition is for Level 1 vocabulary, where the higher the level number, the more complicated the vocabulary. Though highly entertaining, if not addictive, this crossword puzzle book covers some 3000 translations. In this book, hints are in Thai, answers are in English… Within each level, the puzzles are organized to expose players to shorter and more common words first. Subsequent puzzles mostly build on these using longer and more complicated vocabulary.

For Level 1 there are 100 crossword puzzles, 121 pages in all. And they don’t waste your time either, as right after the preface you jump to the first puzzle, Puzzle #1: Level 1 – Most Common (shown below).


As you can see from the graphic above, you have have the guts of the crossword at the top, then the Across and Down, and below that are solutions in English. But the solutions are only hints, not answers. To get the answers you need to go to the back of the book, where they are laid out puzzle by puzzle.

There are four Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4.

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Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke

Thai Days with Myke Hawke

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast…

A little over a week after launching Women Learn Thai, I wrote my first book review: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast.

But I didn’t just review A. G. Hawke’s book, I followed his instructions (up to a point).

Getting help from my Thai teacher and Thai friends, I spent hours collecting top verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, numbers, word phrases, past, present and future tenses.

As you can imagine, it was a lot of work.

With it partly complete, I decided to share my efforts here at Women Learning Thai.

And as I needed permission from the author, I did what I always do: I googled.

Nothing solid came of my search, so I shelved the idea.

Then yesterday, getting a wildhair (as I’m known to do), I googled again and bingo, A. G. Hawke on Wikipidia.

Only, he isn’t really A. G. Hawke; he is Myke Hawke (now corrected in my review).

And he is gorgeous.

Myke Hawke makes women happy on YouTube…

And while Myke is all over YouTube with Paris Hilton and others of note, the video below is a good introduction to a part of what he does. Suggestion: If you are in a hurry, skip the condoms and go straight to the gals.

Myke Hawke: TV personality, professional soldier, linguist and author…

I found it difficult to extract brief notes on a busy man’s life, so Myke, apologies if I’ve missed a few.

TV personality: Featured on two of the final episodes of E’s THE SIMPLE LIFE with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Appeared in the BBC’s CASTAWAY EXPOSED and the Living Channel’s LIVING WITH KIMBERLEY. In the DISCOVERY CHANNEL’S acclaimed series SCIENCE OF SURVIVAL, I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE, Hawke taught survival in the Amazon jungle. Hawke also appeared as himself in the movie DIRTY SANCHEZ. Prior media projects included MTV’s ROAD RULES, Fox TV’s FOREVER EDEN, LOVE CRUISE and BOOT CAMP, ABC TV’s THE DATING EXPERIMENT, NBC’s FEAR FACTOR, The History Channel’s Tactical to Practical, and Britain’s Worst Boss. In addition to appearances, hosting and acting roles, he has worked as consultant, expert advisor, writer, and producer.

Professional soldier: Myke Hawke is an experienced survival instructor in jungle, desert, arctic, sea, and urban environments. Hawke has over 20 years of combined military, civilian, and government experience. He has served as a senior enlisted member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, and as a Commissioned Officer and Team Commander. He has been a U.S. Government Contractor and Country Project Manager abroad. Hawke has training and experience in telecommunications, intelligence operations, remote medical management, combat search and rescue, guerrilla warfare, counter terrorism, security tactics and languages. He has deployed to hotspots throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, South America, South East Asia and Africa.

Author: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast, Myke Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual and In the Dark of the Sun.

Languages: Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, Serbo-Croation, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, and others.

Yes, there really is a reason for this post…

When I finally made contact with Myke, he said ‘yes’.

‘Yes’ to my request to share the Thai compiled from his book.

Or rather, in true Myke speak: ‘info request granted!’

So stay tuned for the series: Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke.

If you aim to follow the series, be sure to purchase The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or your favourite book store.

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Google Books: Thai Learning Resources

Google Books

Thai resources on Google Books…

As what usually happens when blogging, one subject leads to another. For instance, this week I posted about Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary in Bangkok. And then, after a suggestion made in the comments (thanks Aksara Anwa Akson Thai – no longer live), I was led to create a post on Thai learning resources found at Google Books.

Google Books opens up Thai reading resources for those who prefer to dig into the contents before purchasing. And if you do a little research, it’ll open up even more.

Please take note of the dates listed, as some books, while still relevant, are grandparents already.

Learning Thai on Google Books…

An Elementary Hand-book of the Siamese Language
Author: Basil Osborn Cartwright
Date: 1906 (out of copyright)

Contents: The Low Class Consonants, The Middle Class Consonants, The Tones, Deep and Dropped Tones, Haw Num Recapitulation, Double Initial Consonants,The Simple Sentence, The Noun, Some Miscellaneous Siamese, Letter Writing, Some Points of Siamese, Miscellaneous Exercises, Easy Passages for Translation into, Newspaper Cuttings, Siamese Letters, Harder Passages Siamese.

AUA Language Center Thai Course: Book One
Author: J. Marvin Brown, A.U.A. Language Center
Date: 1991

Includes extensive grammar, dialogue, and conversations, as well as tone distinction, manipulation, and identification.

A.U.A. Language Center Thai Course: Book Two
Author: J. Marvin Brown, A.U.A. Language Center
Date: 1992

Includes extensive grammar, dialogue, and conversations, as well as tone distinction, manipulation, and identification.

A.U.A. Language Center Thai Course: Book Three
Author: J. Marvin Brown, A.U.A. Language Center
Date: 1992

Includes extensive grammar, dialogue, and conversations, as well as tone distinction, manipulation, and identification.

AUA Language Center Thai Course Reading and Writing: Mostly Reading
Author: J. Marvin Brown, A.U.A. Language Center
Date: 1979

The reading section contains appendices on the history of the language while the writing section contains many practice problems and exercises. The books are comprehensive both in form and method–a necessity for any beginning student.

AUA Language Center Thai Course Reading and Writing: Mostly Writing
Date: 1979
Author: J. Marvin Brown, A.U.A. Language Center

The reading section contains appendices on the history of the language while the writing section contains many practice problems and exercises. The books are comprehensive both in form and method–a necessity for any beginning student.

Colloquial Thai
Authors: John Moore, Saowalak Rodchue
Date: 2005

Specially developed by experienced teachers for self-study or class use, this course offers a step-by-step approach to written and spoken Thai. No prior knowledge of the language is required.

Easy Thai
Author: Gordon H. Allison
Date: 1989

Easy Thai is the perfect introduction to learning the spoken language of Thailand. This basic and simple approach uses lessons which incorporate review lists and exercises with answer keys.

Instant Thai: How to express 1,000 different ideas with just 100 key words and phrases
Authors: Stuart Robson, Prateep Changchit
Date: 2007

Instant Thai contains 100 key words and over 500 basic sentences necessary for getting around in Thailand. It also has an English-Thai wordlist, arranged alphabetically. At the end of the book are useful appendices for telling the time, kinship terms, some Thai proverbs, and emergency expressions.

Sanuk Sanuk
By: National Thai Curriculum Project (Australia), Curriculum Corporation (Australia), National Thai Curriculum Project
Date: 1995

Ideal for: Grades 7-12. Introducing authentic Thai language in interesting situations, these extensively illustrated materials convey cultural information and encourage the acquisition of practical language for beginners at the secondary school level. Sanuk Sanuk (“Have Fun”) provides teachers with a complete framework and supporting resources for organizing and implementing an accelerated Thai language program.

Thai at Your Fingertips
Authors: Allison Weir, Manat Chitakasem, David Smyth, Lexus (Firm)
Date: 1988

Key words and phrases: pom chun, baht, glai, bpai, norn, krup, choo-ay, bpen, tahng, lair-o, gahn, dtorng, kreu-ung, mahk, gorn, Thai, nung, sorm, noun, choot.

Thai Cultural Reader
Authors: Robert B. Jones, Craig J. Reynolds, Ruchira C. Mendiones
Date: 1994

This reader has been designed to provide intermediate level students with readings on a wide range of topics concerning Thai culture and history written in various styles.

The Thai Writing System
Author: Nanthanā Dānwiwat
Date: 1987

Key words and phrases: Thai language, Khmer script, Khmer alphabet, Thailand, vocalic symbol, Bangkok, Thai alphabet, Sukhothai city, Thai numerals, King Rama VI, George Coedes, triphthongs, stop consonant, glottal stop, syllabic consonant, sound symbols, diphthongs, tonal marker, loanwords, Sukhothai script.

Tai-Kadai on Google Books…

The Tai-Kadai Languages
Authors: Anthony Diller, Jerold A. Edmondson, Yongxian Luo
Date: 2008

The Tai-Kadai Languages provides the clear, grammatical descriptions needed in the area. A one-of-a-kind resource, it presents a particularly important overview of Thai that includes extensive cross-referencing to other sections of the volume, sign-posting to sources in the bibliography, and can be seen as an abridged reference grammar in itself. A parallel grammatical study of Lao is also included, as are discussions of the ‘nationality languages’, surveys of further languages in the family with smaller numbers of speakers, and sections dealing with topics of comparative interest.

Thai dictionaries on Google Books…

Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary
Compiled by: Mary R. Haas
Date: 1964

Both English-speaking students of Thai and Thai students of all disciplines will be hard put to find a more comprehensive and satisfying answer to their general vocabulary needs. Professional translators, researchers, and even specialists whose only concern is problems of transliteration, will all benefit from this remarkable publication.

Pocket Thai Dictionary
Authors: Benjawan Golding, Michael Golding, Benjawan Jai-Ua, Mike Golding
Date: 2004

Designed by academics, translators, and native speakers with today’s globetrotter in mind, the Periplus Pocket Dictionary Series is ideal for beginning students and travelers. Each volume contains 3,000 commonly used words, presented in an accessible format of both romanized and authentic script.

Robertson’s Practical English-Thai Dictionary
Authors: Richard G. Robertson, Michael Golding, Mike Golding, Benjawan Jai-Ua
Date: 2004

A new edition of this popular dictionary. The content has been thoroughly updated and expanded, and is now presented in a clear double-column layout. The rendering of each word and phrase in the familiar roman alphabet has been completely revised, and tones are clearly indicated throughout. Thai script is also shown in a font that can be read without difficulty both by learners and by Thai natives.

Thai-English Dictionary
Author: George Bradley McFarland
Date: 1944

This book contains a large number of words not found in the present Government dictionary and therefore will lead to a better knowledge and use of the Thai language.

Thai grammar on Google Books…

A Reference Grammar of Thai
Authors: Shōichi Iwasaki, Preeya Ingkaphirom, Inkapiromu Puriyā Horie
Date: 2005

Unlike any other book on Thai grammar, it draws on data from everyday spoken discourses such as informal conversation, group discussions, interviews and narratives, as well as non-technical written texts such as folk tales, short stories and newspaper articles, to discuss grammatical phenomena at both sentence and discourse level. An extensive index is provided and examples are given in both Thai orthography and IPA symbols, making this an invaluable resource for linguists as well as students and teachers of Thai.

Thai: An Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth
Date: 2002

…the ideal guide to the basic structures of the language for both students on taught courses and independent learners. Grammatical forms are explained in clear, jargon-free style and illustrated by examples, given in both Thai script and romanization. As well as grammar, it includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the beautiful Thai writing system.

Thai phrase books on Google Books…

Essential Thai phrase book
Authors: Benjawan Golding, Michael Golding, Benjawan Jai-Ua, Mike Golding
Date: 2004

Periplus Essential Phrase Books take you beyond the traditional “Hello. How are you? My name is …”

Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook
Authors: Lonely Planet Publications Staff, Bruce Evans
Date: 2004

Thailand is the Land of Smiles. A grin shows companionship. A laugh shows forgiveness. But what if you need a second-class train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai? Keep smiling – this phrasebook will show you the way.

Rough Guide Thai
Authors: Rough Guides Staff, David Smyth, Rough Guides, Somsong Smyth, Lexus Firm Staff, Lexus, Lexus (Firm)
Date: 1999

Includes clear grammar and phonetic pronunciation guidelines, etiquette and cultural tips and a menu reader. The most user-friendly phrasebooks on the market.

Msc Thai learning on Google Books…

Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles: Level 2
Author: Icon Group International, Inc.
Date: 2007

This edition is for Level 2 vocabulary, where the higher the level number, the more complicated the vocabulary. Though highly entertaining, if not addictive, this crossword puzzle book covers some 3000 translations. In this book, hints are in Thai, answers are in English. This format is especially fun (or easiest) for people learning Thai; the format is most instructive, however, for people learning English (i.e. the puzzles are a good challenge). Within each level, the puzzles are organized to expose players to shorter and more common words first.

Webster’s Thai to English Crossword Puzzles Level 4
Author: Icon Group International, Inc.
Date: 2007

Webster’s Crossword Puzzles are edited for three audiences. The first audience consists of students who are actively building their vocabularies in either Thai or English in order to take foreign service, translation certification, Advanced Placement® (AP®) or similar examinations. By enjoying crossword puzzles, the reader can enrich their vocabulary in anticipation of an examination in either Thai or English. The second includes Thai-speaking students enrolled in an English Language Program (ELP), an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program, an English as a Second Language Program (ESL), or in a TOEFL® or TOEIC® preparation program. The third audience includes English-speaking students enrolled in bilingual education programs or Thai speakers enrolled in English speaking schools.

700 Thai Words Taken From English
Author: Ken Albertsen
Date: ?

Key words and phrases: Thai alphabet, MILAREPA, Thailand, PASSAGE Novel, Thai language, glai, farang, sawm, hip slang, squash vegetable, nung, uwan, transliteration, suway, Thai spelling, orange drink, rawang, glua, masticate.

Linguistics on Google Books…

Concise Compendium of the World’s Languages
Author: George L. Campbell
Date: 1995

In this single volume, George Campbell describes over 100 languages. The emphasis is on the world’s major languages–those with over one million speakers. Throughout the book the treatment is simple and factual; technical terminology is used only where necessary, making this the ideal reference for the non-specialist.

Handbook of Scripts and Alphabets
Author: George L. Campbell
Date: 1997

This is a handy reference to the main scripts and alphabets of the world. Forty alphabets are presented and discussed, with entries ranging from the mainstream, such as Amharic, Chinese and Thai; to the more obscure, Buginese and Cree.

Linguistic Diversity and National Unity
Author: William Allen Smalley
Date: 1994

Unlike other multi-ethnic nations, such as Myanmar and India, where official language policy has sparked bloody clashes, Thailand has maintained relative stability despite its eighty languages. In this study of the relations among politics, geography, and language, William A. Smalley shows how Thailand has maintained national unity through an elaborate social and linguistic hierarchy.

Routledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics
Authors: Hadumod Bussmann, Gregory Trauth, Kerstin Kazzazi
Date: 1998

In over 2,000 entries, the Dictionary provides a comprehensive survey of the subdisciplines of linguistics and covers many of the world’s languages. It is alphabetically organized, with each entry providing clear and concise definitions of key linguistic terminology, concepts, and themes.

The Translator’s Handbook
Author: Morry Sofer
Date: 2006

Since 1997, this translator’s guide has been the worldwide leader in its field and has elicited high praise from some of the world’s best translators. It has been fully updated in the 2006 edition.

Thai culture/language on Google Books…

Culture and Customs of Thailand
Author: Arne Kislenko
Date: 2004

Evocative photos, a country map, a timeline, and a chronology complete the coverage. This reference is the best source for students and general readers to gain substantial, sweeping insight into the Thais and their “land of smiles.”

Language and National Identity in Asia
Author: Andrew Simpson
Date: 2007

Language and National Identity in Asia is a comprehensive introduction to the role of language in the construction and development of nations and national identities in Asia. Illustrated with maps and accessibly written this book will interest all those concerned to understand the dynamics of social change in some of the most important countries in the world. It will appeal to all those studying, researching, or teaching issues in Asian society, language, and politics from a comparative perspective.

Language, Culture, and History
Authors: Mary Rosamond Haas, Anwar S. Dil
Date: 1978

Key words and phrases: Hitchiti, Muskogean languages, Koasati, Algonkian, protolanguage, Hupa, Penutian, Karok, Edward Sapir, Apalachee, Lake Miwok, Choctaw, Ojibwa, Athapaskan languages, Harry Hoijer, Algonquian, Siouan language, Kroeber, Leonard Bloomfield, reduplication.

Thailand: A Global Studies Handbook
Author: Timothy D. Hoare
Date: 2004

The definitive guide to Thailand, providing a comprehensive, beyond-the-basics overview of the country, its history, economy, society, culture, and language.

Learning languages on Google Books…

How People Learn
Authors: John Bransford, Ann L. Brown, National Research Council (U.S.)
Date: 2003

Expanded to show how the theories and insights from the original hardcover edition can be translated into actions and practice, readers can now make valuable connections between classroom activities and learning behavior. This book offers exciting — and useful — information about the mind and the brain that provides some answers on how people actually learn.

How the Brain Learns
Author: David A. Sousa
Date: 2005

This updated edition of the powerful bestseller examines new research on brain functioning and translates this information into effective classroom strategies and activities.

How to Study
Authors: Allan Mundsack, James Deese, Ellin K. Deese, Clifford Thomas Morgan
Date: 2002

A perennial bestseller since its first publication in 1954, How to Study covers the nuts and bolts of successful studying, including the importance of setting priorities. This strategic guide also introduces readers to the art of studying and the indispensability of being a self-starter–and how to become one.

How Google Books works…

There are several offical views on offer when reading books via Google Books: Full view, limited preview, snippet view, no preview available.

Each book includes an ‘About this book’ page with basic bibliographic data like title, author, publication date, length and subject. For some books you may also see additional information like key terms and phrases, references to the book from scholarly publications or other books, chapter titles and a list of related books. For every book, you’ll see links directing you to bookstores where you can buy the book and libraries where you can borrow it.

Each book in limited preview is roughly 60-65% accessible, with Google keeping track of how many pages you’ve read.

Once you log in, however, to enforce limits on user page views, we do connect some information — your Google Account name — with the books and pages that you’ve viewed.

And once you’ve gone over that limit, you’ll get an alert: You have either reached a page that is unavailable for viewing or reached your viewing limit for this book.

Note: There are more than a few ways to download Google Books offered in full.

Suggestions for learning Thai with Google Books…

One thing I noticed when I was in the UK was the total absence of books for the Thai language learner. And while I’m no expert on which books have the best translation (you’ll need to ask Rikker at Thai101.net), Google Books might help in a pinch.

  1. Go to Google Books.
  2. Type Thai language edition’ in the search box, then select ‘Limited preview and full view’ from the drop down menu.
  3. Scroll through and click on the book of your liking.
  4. Open a new Google Books browser window.
  5. Cut and paste the title into the search box with ‘Limited preview and full view’ selected in the drop down.
  6. Select the English version of the Thai version you’ve chosen.
  7. With browsers side by side, start reading and scrolling.

At the moment the Thai selection is quite limited, but it should grow. And grow.

Shopping via Google Books…

I love a good book. And while pdfs and reading online are fine, there is nothing that beats reading from a real book. A book you can hold in your hands. A book that smells of… book!

Limiting myself, I’ve picked out a few books to add to my constantly growing wish list:

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Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary in Bangkok

Mary Haas

Getting serious about learning Thai…

There is a rumour going around about several must have resources for the serious Thai language learner. Not that I have gone into serious mode or anything, but I am curious about design and transliteration styles. I also have a love for books, so I set out to acquire what I could (which isn’t always easy in Thailand).

The last book on my main list was the esteemed Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary. I saw it a year back at Paragon but balked at the price and then it was gone. Yesterday I didn’t leave the next opportunity to chance.

And then there were four…

Three focus on Thai grammar (take your pic) and one is the above mentioned Thai-English dictionary.

A Reference Grammar of Thai (paperback)
Authors: Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom

…provides a clear, detailed and comprehensive guide to Thai grammar, designed for intermediate to advanced learners. Written by two leading experts on Thai, it places a special emphasis on functional accounts of its grammatical phenomena: the use of demonstratives, personal reference terms, the modality system, the aspectual system, pragmatic particles, verb serialisation, relative clauses, question formation, passive and causative constructions, topic marking and many more.

Unlike any other book on Thai grammar, it draws on data from everyday spoken discourses such as informal conversation, group discussions, interviews and narratives, as well as non-technical written texts such as folk tales, short stories and newspaper articles, to discuss grammatical phenomena at both sentence and discourse level. An extensive index is provided and examples are given in both Thai orthography and IPA symbols, making this an invaluable resource for linguists as well as students and teachers of Thai.

Thai, an Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth

…the ideal guide to the basic structures of the language for both students on taught courses and independent learners. Grammatical forms are explained in clear, jargon-free style and illustrated by examples, given in both Thai script and romanization. As well as grammar, it includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the beautiful Thai writing system.

Thai Reference Grammar, the Structure of Spoken Thai
Authors: James Higbie and Snea Thinsan

…written to meet the need of students and teachers of the Thai language for information on advanced sentence structure. The book is divided into chapters based on common grammatical-structural categories. There are over 500 separate topics, and the most important feature is the sample sentences for each topic, of which there are over 2,000. These sentences are not stuffy, old-fashioned grammar examples, but samples of typical, idiomatic spoken Thai.

The authors, an American and a Thai both with advanced degrees in linguistics and language teaching, analyzed thousands of Thai sentences to formulate clear and concise explanations for all the important sentence patterns of the Thai language. Examples are given in both Thai script and transliterated Thai, written in the English alphabet with no special phonetic symbols. Tones are marked with a special font that shows the level of the sound of each word, essential to pronunciation in tonal languages like Thai.

Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary
Compiled by: Mary R. Haas

Both English-speaking students of Thai and Thai students of all disciplines will be hard put to find a more comprehensive and satisfying answer to their general vocabulary needs. Professional translators, researchers, and even specialists whose only concern is problems of transliteration, will all benefit from this remarkable publication.

Mary died on my birthday in 1996, but as her dictionary is in Bangkok as of yesterday (and doesn’t stick around for long), I thought I’d post this now instead of Sunday.

NOTE: If you want to go for free, you can see some of the Thai-English student’s dictionary on Google Books. Beware the Google viewing limit… (A special thanks goes to Aksara Anwa Akson Thai (no longer online) for bringing it to my attention).

Except for A Reference Grammar of Thai, all books can be found at Kinokuniya, located in the Siam Paragon shopping complex.


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Picture Phrase Books: For When They Can’t Speak Thai

When They Can't Speak Thai

What to do with your guests, lah?…

When guests arrive for a few days of sightseeing in Thailand, what do you do?

Knowing that not everyone has been created equal in the foreign language department, do you…

  • Shove them out the door and hope for the best.
  • Send them off with an English speaking taxi driver.
  • Fill their backpack with Thai language phrase books.
  • Invest in a Thai-English English-Thai dictionary for a PDA.
  • Drag your butt to the same tourists spots yet again.

Or do you go for the pictures option?

Pictures to go…

ICOON – global picture dictionary

Date: 2008
Pages: 95
Size: 4-1/2 x 6-1/4 x 1/4

Overview: A lot of thought went into this book. It is a large resource, with over 2800 icons to choose from, some in colour. You can even browse 76 sample pages online.

Possible negatives: It’s a wee bit large for a medium size pocket, but would go easily in a purse or a backpack. It took awhile to work out what a few of the drawings were trying to put across.

Table of contents:

  • Clothing
  • Hygiene
  • Health
  • Money
  • Leisure
  • Accommodation
  • Authorities
  • Travel
  • Measurements
  • Emotions
  • Food
  • World

Me No Speak

Me No SpeakAuthor: Cheryn Flanagan, Benjamin Kolowich
Publisher: Me No Speak
Date: 2008
Pages: 93
Size: 4-7/8 x 3-3/8 x 1/4″

Overview: Small in size, this fabulous phrase book is set up for the English speaker to point to the needed Thai word or phrase, some with graphics. Each section has lined pages for notes, and we always need notes.

Possible negatives: The only fear I have would be it falling apart with too much use, but that pretty much goes for any phrase book.

Table of contents:

  • General
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Shopping
  • Health and safety

Point It: Traveller’s Language Kit

Point ItAuthor:
Publisher: Graf Editions
Date: 2003 Tenth Edition
Pages: 64
Size: 3-3/4 x 5-1/8 x 1/8″

Overview: Small in size, this phrase book uses photographs instead of drawings, so you aren’t struggling to guess what the artist is going for. And although some photos could mean more than one thing, most are clear.

Possible negatives: This book is not laminated, but it would just be a matter of having that done before tucking it into a purse or back pocket.

Table of contents:

NOTE: I’ve had The Universal Phrase Book and The Wordless Travel Book sent to the UK. I’ll add both to the review either while there, or on my return.

For when you want to wear your phrases…

Traveller’s Phrase Book T-shirt
T-Shirt For the traveller with phrase book built in.

Other Pictionary type resources…

Guide to Thailand Free Thai Script Phrase Cards and Phrase Wizard.

Thai picture dictionary

Thai For Kids Pictionary

The Internet Picture Dictionary

Visual Dictionary

Visual Dictionary Online

LingvoSoft Talking Picture Dictionary for Pocket PC

The Oxford Picture Dictionary: English-Thai Edition

Thai picture dictionaries…

2,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

4,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

5000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

And if you run out of resources, you can always read the Thai Phrase Book series again. Yes?

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review

Thai Language Phrase Books

The guts of a phrase book…

Before embarking on this review, I held preconceived notions of what to expect from phrase books: handy phrases, brief dictionary, small in size, an easy to skim layout and design.

After the books started arriving (thanks Danny!) a serious rethink came into play.

I now know that most Thai phrase books have mistakes, some minute, some quite shocking. And after much thought and wringing of hands, I decided that there just wasn’t the room to make them a focus. Also, while it is my aim to point out features (or the lack), is not my intention to ruffle feathers.

Phrase book considerations…

If I might be so bold… here’s a suggestion for using this post. When reading through the reviews, look out for what you need out of a phrase book.

For instance: If you are a first time tourist or expat new to Thailand, along with Thai phrases, an introduction to Thai culture will be important to you; if you are older or have poor eyesight, you’ll need a decent size copy; if you intend on getting help from Thais, Thai script comes into it; if you have a Thai partner with poor eyesight, the size of the Thai script comes into it too; if you are a Thai language learner, a section on grammar is helpful; if a certain transliteration style bugs you, you need to know before you buy. And for all you design lovers out there, my, oh my.

NOTE: To see a sample page from each phrase book, click on the graphics. To be doubly sure to find a Thai phrase book that fits what you need, skim the table of contents included at the bottom of each review.

Below are the criteria I created to review phrase books:

  • Target market: Is it for tourists, expats new to Thailand, or Thai language learners?
  • Information: Does it weigh on cultural information, phrases or dictionary entries?
  • Dictionary: How extensive is it? Does it have Thai script, transliteration or both?
  • Sound: Is sound included to assist with the mishmash of Thai transliterations?
  • Size: Will it fit into a pocket, purse or backpack, or is it more suited for the coffee table?
  • Design style: Do the colour and font choices add or subtract to the experience?
  • Thai script: Is it too small to read in low light situations?
  • Transliteration: Do they have ก as a g or k; is จ a j or ch?
  • Overall design: Is the layout easy to navigate?

And before you ask, yes, the phrase books reviewed include most of the needed basic phrases. Some more than others.

What other people are saying about the phrase books…

When I interviewed seasoned expats, the opinions on Thai phrase books were mostly negative (some even included expletives). I received complaints such as, “Why are the sentences so long and complicated?”, “Thais don’t speak like that!'”,”Why alphabetise by transliteration?”, and “Why is the Thai script so small?”

When my Thai teacher scanned the phrase books, she was pleased to see the range of phrases (as I’m sure you are too) but was surprised to discover impossibly small Thai script, and at times, no Thai script at all. Her comments? “How can a Thai help when they can’t even read the Thai?” and “How can a Thai help when there is only transliteration?”

When reading reviews on amazon.com, I noticed that some reviews were copied across different languages, which tended to null the glowing reports. I was also surprised to find raving reviews about phrase books I thought were total cacca.

But a given, with people having different wants and needs, personal opinions on phrase books will be all over the place.

The personal opinions below (cacca or otherwise), are mine.

And now for the Thai language phrase book review…

Berlitz Thai Travel Pack

Berlitz Phrase BookAuthor: Berlitz Publishing
Publisher: Berlitz Publishing
Date: 2004
Pages: 192
Size: 5-6/8 x 4-1/8 x 1/2″
Sound files: CD
Estimated phrases: 2000+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Thai-Transliteration 2000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

This review is from the 2004 edition (2007 is nowhere to be found in Thailand) so until they upgrade Berlitz in May of this year, this one stands.

Overview: Albeit a bit old-fashioned, the CD with British-Thai speakers is the prize of this package. In the phrase book, the colour coding with subject titles along the edges of the pages helps with navigation. All throughout the book you’ll find tidbits on Thailand. Being able to find where Thai words are used in a phrase book is important, and Berlitz does it well. Acting as an index, the English dictionary and list of Thai words have page numbers pointing back to their usage in the book.

Possible negatives: Some of the information is (understandably) out of date. But more serious, by using a chicken scratch light font, the size of the Thai script is unbelievably small even for Thais. While it does have a short list of Thai words at the back, the English-Thai-Transliteration dictionary is not helpful for getting assistance from Thais.

Table of contents:

  • Guide to pronunciation
  • Some basic expressions
  • Arrival
  • Hotel-accommodation
  • Eating out
  • Travelling around
  • Sightseeing
  • Relaxing
  • Making friends
  • Shopping guide
  • Your money: banks-currency
  • At the post office
  • Doctor
  • Reference section
  • Basic grammar
  • Dictionary and index
  • Thai index
  • Map of Thailand

Collins Thai Phrasebook CD Pack

Collins Thai PhrasebookAuthor: Collins UK
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Date: May 2008
Pages: 256
Size: 4-5/8 x 3-1/4 x 1/2″
Sound files: 1 CD
Estimated phrases: 1000+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Thai-Transliteration / Thai-Transliteration-English, 1500+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: Collins includes a CD with British-Thai speakers; the sound files are separated by subject. The book has an excellent layout, is easy to read, and is the smallest phrase book of the lot. The colour coding on the page edges helps with navigation. On the footer of some pages are hints directing you to similar subjects. Useful information about the Thai culture is dotted around without weighing the phrase book down with too much information. The menu reader with Thai-Transliteration-English is practical when reading from a Thai menu without English, same goes for the signs and notices section.

Possible negatives: The eating out section could use more food choices. For cross-checking words used in phrases, adding page numbers to the dictionary entries would greatly add to the usefulness of this book (any phrase book actually). After a little use, the plastic coating on the cover started rolling off so if you do buy this book, perhaps have the bookstore cover it with a book protector.

Table of contents:

  • Using your phrase book
  • Pronouncing Thai
  • Top ten tips
  • Talking to people
  • Getting around
  • Driving
  • Staying somewhere
  • Shopping
  • Leisure
  • Communications
  • Practicalities
  • Health
  • Different types of travellers
  • Reference
  • Eating out
  • Menu reader
  • Grammar
  • Public holidays
  • Dictionary

Easy Thai

Easy ThaiAuthor: Assistant Professor Boonjira Thungsuk and Professor Dr. Cholticha Bamroongraks
Publisher: Book Promotion and Service Co., Ltd
Date: 2006
Pages: 238
Size: 5-1/2 x 4 x 1/2″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 700+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 1500+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: This informative phrase book has clearly been written by authors living in Thailand, and going one further, both are Thai. The phrases are not merely generic to phrase books (a beef of mine), but relate directly to what you will need for Thailand. The tips also reflect an insider’s knowledge of Thailand. The illustrations are wonderful (hats off to illustrator Tammasak Sittipongsutti). And while decent illustrations might not matter to some, they do give a pleasant holiday feeling throughout the book. There are titles both across the top of each page as well as along the sides, making navigation a breeze. All fonts are legible (and that includes the Thai script).

Negatives: There is no Thai-English dictionary, so no sharing this Thai phrase book with your Thai buddies. Marketing to short time tourists, the authors decided to omit tone markers so you are on you own there too. Without an accompanying CD, you’ll need to take extra care when using Thai words on the danger list (if you don’t know of any danger words, just keep on eye out for telltale signs of a Thai in distress).

Table of contents:

  • Guide to pronunciation
  • Basic Thai grammar
  • Social customs and home life
  • Your arrival in Thailand
  • At your hotel
  • Travelling around
  • Eating and drinking
  • Shopping
  • Emergency terms
  • At the doctor s office
  • Post and telephone
  • English-Thai vocabulary

English-Thai Phrase Book with CD

English-ThaiAuthor: Bangkok Book House
Publisher: Bangkok Book House
Date: 2007
Pages: 144
Size: 6-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2/8″
Sound files: 2 CDs
Estimated phrases: 500+
Transliteration: ก=k, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 1000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: A shrewd move, the index is incorporated with the dictionary, enabling the reader to find where words are used in the book. The CDs, recorded with American-Thai speakers, made me smile when they came into iTunes titled Diary of a Sinner by Petey Pablo, and Obscured by Clouds by Pink Floyd. Sweet. And gals, the sound files are in female voice (yeah for us!), so if your travelling mate is using this phrase book and starts saying คะ (ká) or ค่ะ (khâ) instead of ครับ (kráp ) at the end of sentences, you’ll know why.

Possible negatives: The pages do not have subject titles on the top or along the sides. The Thai script is small; in the dictionary the script is smaller still. The tone marks are squashed into the line of copy above, at times making them difficult to read. The sound files come one to a CD, so if you want to listen by subject, you’ll need to edit them using Audacity or similar. Lacking is a Thai-English dictionary, and nowhere do they have the Thai script first. There are no tips on pronunciation, Thailand, or Thai culture.

Table of contents:

  • Thai language
  • Useful stuff
  • Welcome to Thailand
  • Numbers, days and date
  • Shopping
  • Eating out
  • Travel
  • Weather
  • Leisure and sports
  • Sightseeing
  • Bank, post office and police station
  • Doctor, hospital
  • Small talk
  • Index and dictionary

English-Thai Pocket Book

English-Thai Pocket BookAuthor: Bangkok Book House
Publisher: Bangkok Book House
Date: 2008 (5th edition)
Pages: 194
Size: 6 x 4-1/8 x 1/2″
Sound files: 2 CDs
Estimated phrases: 400+
Transliteration: ก=k, จ=j
Dictionary: No (but there is an index)

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: This book is intended to go with their English-Thai Holidays Language-Guide. And while it is not listed as a phrase book, it is a decent mini-intro to Thai phrases. The two CDs (American and Thai speakers) with files separated into subject increases the value of this book. All copy is legible, even the odd graphics used to denote tones. Subject titles are placed along the top of each page. The circles around important issues are old-fashioned, but effective.

Possible negatives: The nine full page ads are invasive. Nowhere does the Thai script come first. If you need a dictionary, the lack of one in Thai or English will be a problem.

Table of contents:

  • Thai language
  • Greetings
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Question and answer
  • Numbers and counting
  • Time and date
  • Shopping
  • Living
  • Working
  • Family
  • Doctor’s office
  • Post Office and bank
  • Telephone
  • Nature
  • Travel
  • Feelings
  • Love
  • Important phrases
  • Restaurant and bar
  • Index

Hide This Thai Phrase Book

Hide This Thai Phrase BookAuthor: APA Publications
Publisher: APA Publications
Date: Sept 2008
Pages: 129
Size: 5-7/8 x 4 x 3/8″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 1000+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: Transliteration-English, English-Transliteration

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: The marketing ploy of this phrase book is the title, “Hide This Thai Phrase Book” with a cover blurb that yells, “WARNING: Highly inflammatory language inside. Discretion is recommended when using with locals”. As a red thermometer graphic marks where the bad words are used, they are quite easy to find. All two of them. Aiming for a young audience, the writing and design is modern, with copy that is (mostly) easy to read. The Thai script is bold (at long last) and legible. The subject titles are along the page sides. On the inside of the book, the red and black grunge titles help with navigation.

Negatives: If you are of the opinion that learning cuss words in Thai is a negative, then this book is not for you. If you expected more than two cuss words, then, well, well, this book can’t win for losing. Nowhere is the Thai script first, not even in the dictionary (which has no Thai script at all). So gals and guys, if you bought this book to get close to a sweet Thai, totally forget about waggling it in their direction with the aim of asking for help (sounds drastic when I say it like that, yes?) The only bad style choice is the handwriting font, which is too small in places.

Table of contents:

  • Intro
  • Speak Thai – the easy way
  • The basics
  • Getting around
  • Money
  • Hotel
  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Havin’ fun
  • Sports
  • Makin’ friends
  • Shopping
  • Tech talk
  • Dictionary

Eyewitness Thai Phrase Book

 Eyewitness Thai Phrase BookAuthors: David Smyth, Somsong Smyth
Publisher: Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd
Date: April 2003
Pages: 128
Size: 5-5/8 x 4 x 1/4 inches
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 400+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 1000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: The overall design is better than average. Except for the section paragraphs with copy crammed together, there is plenty of white space between the blocks of text to scan for information. As with Collins Thai, the Thai script comes first in the menu guide and sign section.

Possible negatives: The Thai script is very small, and the light black ink on light green background makes it doubly difficult to read. The dictionary is limited to English-Thai so you cannot ask a Thai for assistance. The dictionary entries are not accompanied by corresponding page numbers.

Table of contents:

  • Pronunciation
  • Cross-cultural notes
  • Useful everyday phrases
  • Days, months, seasons
  • Numbers
  • Time, the calendar
  • Hotels
  • Driving
  • Rail travel
  • By bus and taxi
  • Eating out
  • Menu guide
  • Shopping
  • At the hairdresser
  • Post offices and banks
  • Communications
  • Health
  • Mini-dictionary

Practical Thai 15th Edition

Practical ThaiAuthor: Suraphong Kanchananago
Publisher: APA-C
Date: 2008 (15th edition)
Pages: 320
Size: 5-5/8 x 4-1/4 x 5/8″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 2000+
Transliteration: ก=k, จ=ch
Dictionary: English-Thai 2000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: This phrase book is chockablock full of Thai words and phrases, tips and information on visiting as well as living in the country. Thailand is a veritable smorgasbord when it comes to choice, and this book has a well-rounded food and shopping section to match. And kudos to them for finally dealing with servants. The book is printed in one colour with a legible Thai script; subject titles can be easily found across the top of each page.

Possible negatives: White space between some of the information would come in handy. The phrase book is missing Thai-English in both the dictionary and restaurant sections. The English-Thai dictionary entries could use page numbers pointing back to where the Thai words appear in the phrase book.

Table of contents:

  • Pronunciation
  • Rudiments of grammar
  • Social customs and home life
  • Words and phrases in common use
  • Your arrival in Thailand
  • Travelling around
  • At your hotel
  • Eating and drinking
  • Shopping and bargaining
  • Making friends
  • Living in Thailand
  • At a doctors office
  • Post, telegraph and telephone
  • Ministries and government departments
  • Some official titles
  • English-Thai vocabulary

Thai for Travellers (Asia Books)

Thai for TravellersAuthor: Suraphong Kanchananaga
Publisher: Asia Books
Date: 2008 (12th printing)
Pages: 309
Size: 5-5/8 x 4-1/8 x 1/2″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 1000+
Transliteration: ก=k, จ=ch
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 1000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: Thai for Travellers book has information on Thailand, Thai words and phrases, and samples of Thai grammar. The Thai script is small (borderline tiny) but under good conditions is not impossible to read. The book is printed in one colour, with subject titles easily found across the top of each page. At the back of the book are three pages for jotting down notes.

Possible negatives: It could be improved with an increase of white space in some areas (but mostly it is fine). Nowhere does the Thai script come first. There is no Thai-English dictionary and the English-Transliteration-Thai dictionary does not include page numbers for word entries.

Table of contents:

  • Introducing Thailand
  • Guide to pronunciation
  • A bit of Thai grammar
  • When you enter Thailand
  • Checking in at a hotel
  • Eating and drinking
  • Marketing
  • Products made in Thailand
  • Going about
  • A journey by railway
  • Living in Thailand
  • Travel tips
  • Reference section

Thai for Travellers with CD

Thai for TravellersAuthor: Benjawan Poomsan Becker
Publisher: Paiboon Publishing
Date: 2006
Pages: 182
Size: 5-1/2 x 4 x 3/8″
Sound files: CD
Estimated phrases: 550+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: No

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: The American-Thai speakers on the language CD cover basic Thai phrases with the sound files being separated out by subjects. This is a phrase book that doesn’t strain the eyes with tiny Thai script. The design is old-fashioned, but the copy is mostly easy to read.

Possible negatives: There are no subject titles across the top or along the sides of the pages. And although the copy is easy to read, there are no indications of where you are, so you are forever flipping around. All through the book is English-Transliteration-Thai so this is not a book to share with Thais. There is no dictionary or information for those new to Thailand.

Table of contents:

  • Guide to pronunciation
  • Greetings and introduction
  • Often used phrases
  • Language difficulties
  • At the hotel
  • Getting around
  • Shopping
  • Services
  • Phone conversations
  • Food and drinks
  • Health matters
  • Emergencies
  • Small talk
  • Love and romance

Thai in Your Pocket (Asia Books)

Thai in Your PocketAuthor: Globetrotter
Publisher: Asia Books
Date: 2009
Pages: 193
Size: 5-3/4 x 3-7/8 x 3/8″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 600+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Thai-Transliteration / Transliteration-Thai-English 3000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: There are a few tips for the first time visitor to the Kingdom. Although the Thai section of the dictionary starts off with transliteration, the Thai script comes immediately after it is possible to get help from a Thai. The Thai script is a decent size, printed in a clear font on a mostly white background. Where the Thai script is printed on a coloured background, it is printed in strong black of a readable size. To separate out sections, colour coding graces the page edges.

Possible negatives: It is a first print run, so some of the more glaring snafus have not been tracked down. But all in all, they are not that big of a deal. Not really. Well, ok, I’ve never had to ask a Thai where the ski run is, or if they have avalanches or ice-skating, but there’s always a first time. As with most of the phrase books, the dictionaries do not include page numbers for easy reference.

Table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • How to use this book
  • Pronunciation
  • Grammar
  • Basics
  • Transport
  • Accommodation
  • Eating and drinking
  • Money and shopping
  • Activities
  • Health and safety
  • Etiquette
  • Holidays and festivals
  • Dictionary

Thai: Lonely Planet Phrasebook

Author: Bruce Evans, Lonely Planet Phrasebooks
Publisher: Lonely Planet
Date: 2008 (6th edition)
Pages: 258
Size: 5-1/2 x 3-3/4 x 1/2″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 2000+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Thai-Transliteration / Thai-Transliteration-English with 2000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: This phrase book is stuffed with phrases, as well as information on Thailand and Thai culture. The book has a pleasant design, similar to The Rough Guide.

Possible negatives: The Thai script is tiny, especially in the dictionary (which is difficult to make out even in good light). The Culinary Reader is alphabetised by transliteration, not Thai-English. I guess if you are quick enough, you could look up a dish after listening to a Thai waitress run through their menu, but it won’t work for reading menus in Thai script. Although there is a brief index in English, neither dictionary includes page numbers pointing back to word entries.

Table of contents:

  • Introduction to Thai
  • Pronunciation
  • Phrasebuilder
  • Language difficulties
  • Numbers and amounts
  • Time and dates
  • Money
  • Transport
  • Border crossing
  • Directions
  • Accommodation
  • Shopping
  • Banking
  • Sightseeing
  • Business
  • Senior and disabled travellers
  • Children
  • Meeting people
  • Interests
  • Feelings and opinions
  • Going out
  • Romance
  • Beliefs and cultural differences
  • Art
  • Sport
  • Outdoors
  • Eating out
  • Self-catering
  • Vegetarian and special needs
  • Culinary reader
  • Essentials
  • Health
  • Dictionary
  • Index

Thai Phrase Book with Tones

ThaiAuthor: Aaron Handel
Publisher: Tiger Press
Date: 2007
Pages: 155
Size: 4 x 5-5/8 x 3/8″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 200+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: No

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: It has been a long time since I’ve seen a book with ruled lines instead of white space, but it does help keep the ideas together.

Possible negatives: If you are a design fan, you might be getting itchy fingers right about now. If you are an academic, perhaps not. This book covers basic phrases and grammar but does not include anything to do with Thais or Thai culture. With a language focus only, there is no information for tourists first coming into the country. It is also lacking a dictionary.

Table of contents:

  • Tones
  • Thai grammar
  • Greetings and questions
  • Numbers
  • Colours
  • Time and date
  • Shopping
  • Food
  • Accommodation
  • Travel and driving
  • Money
  • Health
  • Romance
  • Appendix

Thai Without Tears

ThaiAuthor: Denis Segaller
Publisher: Books & Magazine Distributors (Thailand) Co., Ltd
Date: 2002 (2nd edition)
Pages: 362
Size: 5-1/2 x 4 x 1″
Sound files: No
Estimated phrases: 300+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 1300+ word vocabulary, Thai-English 1000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: Warning: I enjoy reading Denis Segaller, so I might just be a wee bit biased. This book includes warm, personal insights into Thailand and Thai culture; the chapter on understanding Thainglish should be included in all Thai phrase books. The Thai script is a decent size and the transliteration explanations are broken down into American/English and British/English. Another person I know swears by this book too, happily using the phrases and vocabulary in his Palm Pilot for a portable reference.

Possible negatives: Due to the overall arrangement and design layout, it is difficult to find phrases quickly. An index/dictionary combo wouldn’t go amiss, nor would subject titles across the top of each page or along the sides. Take your pick.

Table of contents:

  • Introduction to Thai
  • Understanding Thainglish
  • The bare minimum
  • More ambitious
  • Useful phrases
  • Colours
  • Times and dates
  • Thai social norms
  • Getting around
  • Festivals and public holidays
  • Sightseeing
  • English-Thai glossary
  • Emergency list
  • Thai-English glossary
  • Emergency list

The Rough Guide to Thai Dictionary Phrasebook

Rough GuideAuthor: Lexus, David Smyth, Somsong Smyth
Publisher: Rough Guides; Blg Upd edition
Date: 2006 (2nd edition)
Pages: 288
Size: 5-5/8 x 4-1/8 x 1/2″
Estimated phrases: 1000+
Transliteration: ก=g, จ=j
Dictionary: English-Transliteration-Thai 2000+ word vocabulary, Transliteration-English 2000+ word vocabulary

NOTE: To see a sample page click on the phrase book thumbnail.

Overview: The all-in-one English-Thai dictionary with sentences and dialogue has excellent and well defined sections (eating, signs, how the language works) and legible Thai script. The menu reader is Thai-Transliteration-English, as is the section for signs. Except for the white copy on blue in the front, I prefer this design over all but Collins.

Possible negatives: The scenarios section (16 pages worth) has white copy on light blue pages, making for difficult reading. Another disappointment: it does not include a Thai-English dictionary, instead it has a Transliteration-English dictionary. This means that while you should be able to look up a word after hearing it, you can’t get help from Thais. In my opinion, with the few available phrases being buried in the dictionary, it is a mini-dictionary, not a phrase book.

Table of contents:

  • Basic phrases
  • Scenarios
  • English-Thai
  • Thai-English
  • Thai-English signs and notices
  • Menu reader
  • How the language works

If you have any comments on the individual guides, please add them below or contact me.

Next up: Thai Phrase Books with a Twist.

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Thai-English Readers with Mp3s

Thai Readers

Back, back, back to kinder…

Going back to kindergarten. Hmmm. But, if that’s what it takes to read Thai, then so be it.

Thai is a tonal language, so being able to listen while you read is especially important for those clinging to training wheels (like me). And (I hear) even for intermediate readers.

Some Thai-English books for beginners will come with sound, but most won’t. When I got into my mad buying spree (still there), I didn’t realise the significance. I now have a nice pile sitting here, waiting.

But before I get to the Thai-English readers for beginners, I’d like to share tips for listening to Thai language mp3s.

Beginning courses have slower recordings. Once out of the ‘see spot run’ range, you are rushed into normal speed. As you should be.

But for basic beginners on fast forward, well, your brain will cease to exist.

So this is what you do…

Audacity and Thai readers…

  1. Download a free copy of Audacity (don’t forget to install the LAME MP3 encoder).
  2. Import your mp3 of choice into Audacity by dragging, then dropping the mp3 icon onto the Audacity program icon.
  3. Once open (if needed) click on the magnifying glass with the + until you see a clear distinction between sound clumps (look for blobs between flat lines).
  4. To select a sentence, drag your curser over a clump of blue.
  5. While it’s selected, click on the green arrow and adjust your selection until satisfied.
  6. In Audacity’s top nav, select effect >> change speed.
  7. Move the percent change slider, then click on the preview button until happy.
  8. Click the ok button, then the undo (command Z for a Mac, ctrl Z for PC) once you get back (you don’t want to slow down a selection twice).
  9. Select everything (command/ctrl A) and go back to the top nav to effect >> repeat last effect.
  10. Again, go back up to the top nav, but this time to file >> export as >> mp3.
  11. Save the file under a different name.


Listen using iTunes, RealPlayer, QuickTime or similar. Or, do what I do. Select sentences inside Audacity and keep hitting that green button as you read. Easy.

Finally, the online readers…

Manii Readers
Manii is one of the first Thai readers. First as in first on the ground as well as a first reader. On this site you’ll find pdf and mp3 downloads for Manii Reader 1 and 2, as well as online vocabulary tests. It’s old and clunky, but it’s there if you need it.

Read Thai with Manee and Friends at LearningThai.com (no longer online – for the moment) has a modern Manee (Manii) reader. As there is no direct url, select Read with Manee from the nav on your left. Included are 22 lessons with sound, a vocabulary list, flashcards, tests, and more tests.

SEAlang Lab: Just Read
This is the motherload of online Thai-English reading. Sounds are lacking for whole paragraphs, but when you click on individual words the search takes you to a dictionary with sound and video. It’s powerful, it’s loaded down with Mary Haas, and it goes from beginner to beyond.

Thai Audio Books (spokenthai.com – offline for now)
Talking books written and recorded by students from Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan.

Hard copy readers with sound…

There are several online bookstores selling Thai-English books. One of the top Thai publishers are is Nanmeebooks. But, for basic beginners (unless you have a Thai by your side), finding an online Thai bookshop in English is needed.

For children’s books, Buy Thai Books (offline for now) is the place to be.

From the list below I ordered the four Disney Pixar books as well as the thirty Aesop Tales. The recordings are clear and professional, with Pixar being particularly cheerful.

UPDATE: When the site goes online for good I’ll relink the books.

101 Dalmatians
One book. Illustrated. Thai and English. 24 pages.

One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

Disney Pixar
Four books: Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Cars and Monster, Inc. Illustrated.

One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

Aesop Tales
Thirty Aesop Tales books written in Thai and English. Illustrated. 24 pages each.

One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

Snow White
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

The Lion King
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

Intermediate online Thai-English reading resources…

Note: this is not a complete list so expect it to be edited.

Languages on the Web
Daisy Stores: Night Watch, A Nice Little Trip, The Bookworm, Daisy Macbeth.

SEAlang Lab: Just Read
SEAlang gets a double mention for its long list of English-Thai on offer.

Thai Fiction in Translation
Translated modern Thai literature, by Marcel Barang.

Thai On-Line Library – Bitext Corpus
Thai and (mostly) English parallel translations.

Advanced online Thai reading resources…

Thai Literature audio books. Download their pdfs and mp3s files to read along.

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