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Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Ruth Curtis
Nationality: American
Age range: 62
Sex: Female
Location: Bangkok Thailand
Profession: Missionary [church planter] currently work together with my husband in personnel management for Thailand field member care of OMF Intl.

What is your Thai level?

Fluent nearly native: speaking, reading, writing, typing, teaching.

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

Both street and professional.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

I came as a missionary with OMF International, and after only 1yr (10 modules) of Thai studies was immersed in a small country town to do church planting [our co-workers were the only other foreigners around]. There was no church within 40-50 kilometers, and 5 scattered believers that we knew of to follow up. I quickly learned Thai out of necessity to cope and to bond with people around me, and be able to speak their heart language so that I could do the job of helping, teaching them and bringing them to Christ.

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis FamilyDo you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I currently live in Bangkok Thailand suburbs [a little over 1yr.] I spent 30+years before that -1980-2012 – up country in Central Thailand; this was in either small towns or smaller cities… Lamnarai 6yrs, Angthong 3yrs, Lopburi 1.5yrs, Koksamrong 3yrs and Saraburi 13yrs.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

August 1980 – till currently. I’m always learning and finding new ways of saying things. The first 4yrs had formal language studies completing the OMF 3yrs of 10 modules each year, with comprehensive exams at the end of 2nd and 3rd years.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I learned Thai right away in OMFs language learning program which was based in Bangkok, Bangrak area at the time. This language course was meant to be comprehensive covering comprehension, pronunciation in, speaking, listening, reading, writing. When we moved up-country after the 1st year, it was jump right in; I was definitely immersed!! We had no senior missionaries, we were it. I learned Thai to a deep level because had so many Thai people in and out of our home all the time.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

My 1st year of study I could keep a morning schedule of teacher hours and study hours on my own, because there was child-care. Then had the afternoons to take care of my toddler, or be out to practice speaking with people. 2nd and 3rd yrs I stuck to a schedule of trying to complete 1 module per month [just 10 per year], but the hours were hit and miss because I was giving my time to people more and more and the bonding and interacting with them made me learn more and more Thai anyway. By my 3rd year I was learning it mostly by relationship and experiences, instead of formal book learning, but I completed each module check, making sure I understood all content and vocab. of the module book before each time.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I tried LAMP, and “barefoot” short memorized dialogs to accomplish some specific task. The books I used were the OMF language school module books many of which were developed by Herb Purnell.

Did one method stand out over all others?

Out of the above named methods, the OMF language school modules probably stand out more than the others. They provided the actual language needed for daily life, and allowed for diversifying following actual interests. It’s very hard to remember words that one has not much interest in actually communicating. I believe language is a matter of the heart, not academics; the heart needs to be engaged for language to stick.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

In the 4th month.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No, it was a relief to finally be able to read words on signs around me instead of depending on phonetics. I loved it.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

The first time I used a few words I’d learned to try to buy something in the market and found that it worked! Also when I “sang” the sentences of my bare-foot dialogue to myself and found I could remember the sentences and tones that way. Learning language tones actually uses the side of our brain that sings or remembers music.

How do you learn languages?

I’m not sure how language learning “styles” are labeled, but I would say I learn the best in relationships with actual communication and not just from books or formal lessons. I also learn from reading in Thai, as I put myself into the story.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I would say my strengths are in getting to know people at the heart level, thus comprehension and pronunciation go along with this. I do read/write/type in Thai, but would be weaker in writing and typing than in reading, speaking or comprehension.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That it can be learned from a lot of time pouring over books. To be learned the best, it must be learned in relationships with people.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Maybe a little Spanish. I learned it in high-school and university, and lived in southern California for many years.

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

No, other than that we lived in an area where the locals spoke the NE Thai dialect, so we had to learn to understand that dialect as well as we studied Central Thai.

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

Find Thai friends to bond with, learning to communicate with them as well as having lesson books to guide you. Natural experiences of communicating from your own heart to someone else’s is one of the most effective things to learning a language well.

Ruth Curtis

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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Successful Thai Language Learner: Michel Boismard

Successful Thai Language Learner: Bettina Friedrich

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Michel Boismard
Nationality: French
Age range: 67
Sex: Male
Location: Thailand

What is your Thai level?

My Thai level is advanced. I learnt some rudiments on my 2nd visit in 1983 (1st in 1979) but really took off in 1987 where I was lucky to stay in a Thai artist’s busy locale in BKK and made a point to study everyday starting with the script for about 6 months, which led me to what I can call an intermediate level.

By that time, I had studied Hindi with its Devanagari script and was fascinated with the similarity due to, I discovered, the common indic origin of both. Plus, I was struck by the fact that there is a strict match for each letter of those alphabets, as indeed is the case for all indic scripts (from India to Indonesia, Burma and Cambodia), being lined up along the Sanskrit order. So it became for me an increasing thrilling game to decipher Sanskrit or Hindi words from the Thai writing, replacing Thai characters with Nagari ones, obtaining the original pronunciation and meaning, sometimes well hidden by the specificity of Thai phonetics and semantics. Who would guess that the Thai word khaorop came from gaurav, phitsanulok from vishnu loka, udomkan from utama karan, sawasdee from swasti and so forth?

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

My register varies between classical (standard, Rachasaap with some Pali and Khmer notions) and colloquial, but almost no slang… yet!

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Well, I have a tendency to want to learn at least a modicum of the tongue of countries I feel good in and expect to come back to. Plus the beauty of the script itself. But the esthetics and poetry of Thai only grew up on me gradually.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I move about from India to Indonesia, but Siam is my base. I have no fixed profession but my activities gravitate around languages and cultures of my comfort zone. But, yes, I have been teaching languages.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I started with the now out-of-print Fundamentals of the Thai Language, some local school kid’s manuals and later the AUA method volumes. Then in 1992 I studied 4 Asian languages and civilisation in a Paris University for 2 years. 

For proper sounds and tones, I used the multitude of anonymous teachers of the talaat sot around the country! Of all my Asian languages, Thai is the one I put in the most effort and time as well as grew the most fond of.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Well, memorization of letters was greatly helped by my knowledge of Devanagari. The principle and even some shapes being similar. But yes,those tone rules can really drive you mad at the beginning, being so complex and illogical. Once you get over them though, you’re not likely to meet any major difficulty with grammar. And of course you have to learn to separate words from sentences! I was astonished to find out that there are only very few possible double readings. You’d expect many more.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

No “ah ah!”I can recall,but rather a”oh oh!”. After 3 assiduous months of study, I hail a samlor and tell him I want to go to Sathon. The guy just can’t get it! No use getting mad, when that happens, you’re wrong somewhere! Likely: tone, vowel length or aspirated consonant. When at last you’re being systematically understood, expect your mind to have become incredibly sharp, a bonus for all its uses in life!

How do you learn languages?

I guess you kind of develop a system as the number of your acquired tongues grow. A musical ear definitively helps, but that can be developed. Same for memory. Then the affective factor is essential. It’s the drive without which learning is merely dull and slow memorizing. The response from locals is a major factor so positive attitude and affinity is determinant.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That it is very difficult and a block against learning the script. While getting the basics in Thai is a particularly steep climb form the onset, grammar is definitely easy, you have to fine-tune your ear to new phonetics. For that a good teacher is essential to prevent you from growing bad habits that are harder to change later. A foreigner who has been through that learning process is abler the a Thai to point to the difficulties from a westerner’s approach.

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

Yes, I probably am a language freak. At times too deep into them. (I find myself taking myself too seriously!) I am and have been busy for decades with: Hindi, Thai, Indonesian, Nepali and recently Khmer, although that one on the back burner. Then for Europe: French, English, Italian and Spanish.

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

Do start with learning the script! The pay-off is well worth the effort, which can be fun anyway. You’ll get: an added mean for proper pronunciation: your eyes! (the writing gives you vowel lengths and tones). Plus, golly! the whole country becomes your own private reference manual and dictionary! You’ll dig deeper into both language and culture everyday. Finally, after the initial effort, you will progress a lot faster and accurately in your science, until you’ll realize the incredible limitations of the non-writers.

Invent your own “memotechnics”! One of mine: nuat means either massage or mustache. Well, a massage makes one happy: high tone. A mustache usually droops: low tone. Have fun!

A good idea is to try to memorize whole sentences with the music. Do make sure the melody is accurate, then repeat audibly until they are imprinted in your brain. Picking one word out of the “song” will result in its precise tonal and phonetic rendering with easier recalling than just trying to fix it by itself in your brain. Start with everyday common use items or from your pet topics. Naturally, we tend to remember words in situation much more than just out of a manual’s list: “That person told me that one day” works wonders!

I fail to comprehend just how university language students manage to memorize dozens of new words at one sitting without the living experience. Some have even never been in the country of their language course! Hats off to them, but theirs is not the way I or, I suspect, most people naturally function. Enjoy!

Michel Boismard

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions

Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions

Thai frequency lists with English definitions…

In How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country Robert Bigler mentioned the importance of using frequency lists.

The same 3-4000 words come up all the time. Learn them. Work with them. If you don’t understand something, ask people to explain.

Students of the Thai language have been in search of a decent frequency list for years. Back in 2006, Rikker Dockum (Thai 101) posted Doug’s 1000 Thai word frequency collection on TV: List Of 3000 Most Common Thai Words.

Rikker pointed out that the best list in Doug’s materials came from the legendary Mary Haas. And for good reason. Unlike Mary’s, many lists include technical and highly formal words (not exactly words to learn at the beginning of your Thai language journey).

After collecting Thai vocabulary lists (below) another problem I ran into is that many don’t include English definitions. To rectify this, Mark Hollow (programmar extraordinaire) whipped up a program to add English from three dictionaries: Lexitron, Volubilis, and the Royal Institute (all Thai). Thanks Mark!

Not all words made it through, so if someone wants to take on that chore, please contact me.

From Mark: Each zip file contains the original files, csv or one-word-per-line plain text files and csv + excel versions with the English & Thai definitions. The LEX, VOL, LEX+VOL and RID file extensions denote the dictionaries used for the definitions in each file.

Thai frequency lists with English definitions…

Doug’s 1000 Word Thai Frequency List:
Posted on TV by Rikker, the list includes: Mary Haas, McFarland, Orchid, and Tax.

Doug’s 1000: download

Chula university top 5000 Thai words:
Chula’s list (no longer online) seems to be drawn from academic publications.

Chula 5000: download

SEAlang Lab Thai Vocabulary Lists:
A collection of vocabulary lists compiled by SEAlang sorted by origin, web rank, and subject: Vocabulary: Thai AWl, AUA Reader, BYKI and SEAlang.

SEAlang: download

Jørgen Nilsen’s Thai Frequency Lists and tests:
Formerly at thaifrequency.com, these files were created by Jørgen Nilsen using Chulalongkorn University’s frequency list.

Thai Frequency Top 4000 (pdf): download

Thai Frequency Top 4000 (excel): download

Thai Academic Word List (pdf): download

Top 4000 Vocabulary Test for Thai (pdf): download

Thai Frequency Top 4000 on Memrise (created by John Smith):
Thai Vocab Builder 11
Thai Vocab Builder 12
Thai Vocab Builder 13

Thai vocabulary lists with English definitions…

In the 1940′s George Bradley McFarland used thirty different sources to compile the top 1000+ Thai words for his Thai-English dictionary. McFarland’s list has weird quirks and omissions. And while the list is included in Doug’s contribution, this download notes both the old-fashioned words and their modern equivalent (reason why I’m sharing it here).

Thai-language.com uses McFarland’s list as a base for their Common words of the Thai Language.

McFarland: download

Fundamentals of the Thai language:
This list comes from the out-of-date but still wonderful Fundamentals of the Thai language. Being a Thai language resources junkie, the actual hardcopy (5th Edition) sits in a place of honour in my bookcase.

Updated sections can also be found at Thai-language.com: Fundamentals of the Thai Language.

Fundamentals: download

Paiboon Publishing:
I found Benjawan Becker’s vocabulary lists online (apologies, but I’ve forgotten where). When asked, Benjawan gave her permission to share them in this post. Thanks Benjawan!

Thai for Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced: download
Anki 2: download

FSI Vocabulary:
This list comes from the FSI materials found on thai-notes.com at Foreign Service Institute Thai Language Course (still in the process of being updated).

FSI Vocab: download

Karn TV:
Karn.TV is a web site for kids’ learning materials. There are three word lists for primary 1-3 grades. Included are cultural words such as basic royal and religious terms.

Karn Vocab: download

Manii Reader Vocabulary:
The Manii books are classics with Thais and students of the Thai language. Mani lessons can be found at Learn2SpeakThai, Learn to read Thai with Maanee at learningthai.com/books/manee (offline for now), and SEAsite.

Manii 1 & 2: download
Anki 2: download

Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download:
From the post of the same name, the Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary download is a work in progress.

Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary: download


The Apache Lucene project is an open source search engine program. It has a Thai language module complete with stopwords and is released under a free license.

Lucene stopwords: download

Chula university also has a stopword list. It’s ready to share but so far we’ve been unable to get permission.

Online Thai vocabulary lists…

Thailand Bangkok Mission: 1000 Thai words:
Ben Crowder from Riverglen Press has a 1000 Thai Vocabulary list used at the Thailand Bangkok Mission. Download it from his site.

Lingopolo: Words by frequency:
Hugh from Lingopolo came up with a unique way to present a frequency list. Quote: “The following shows a list of all the words on the site ordered by the number of times they appear in the sample sentences. So, for example, if a word happens to turn up in 50 of our example sentences, then it will appear higher up than a word which only appears in 10 of our example sentences”.

ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer…

If you don’t have the time to create vocabulary lists with flashcards and sound, the ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer is the top smart phone app with a graduated vocabulary list. From what I’ve seen, the others have a datadump (common and uncommon words come at you in no certain order).

For a review, read: Increase Your Thai Vocabulary: Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer.

Thai frequency lists without English definitions…

Thai wordlist from royin-dictionary
This Thai word list doesn’t have English translations but perhaps someone can make use of it.

Vocabulary posts on WLT…

Here are a few more WLT posts discussing Thai vocabulary lists (you can also do a site search for ‘frequency’):

The Top 39 Thai Words You Must Know
A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases
Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

And for a rolling litany of new vocabulary, read most anything by Hugh Leong: Thai Language Thai Culture.

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Review: A Guide to Thai Grammar Books

A Guide to Thai Grammar Books

A Guide to Thai Grammar Books…

Presented here are short introductions to Thai grammar books, both in the English language for foreign learners and Thai language books for Thai school and university students which are also useful for foreign learners with a good Thai reading ability. As these are reference books, not tutorials, they are not intended to be read from cover-to-cover, but instead used to support continued studies.

Each book overview here covers the general structure and content together with comments about any specific, notable features. However, no opinion or rating is given about their suitability for any particular learning approach which is, of course, very subjective to each learner.

The books listed here are not the only books available. I welcome comments and further suggestions on this topic which would assist us all with our continued studies.

English Language Grammar Books…

The in-print books listed here can usually be found at all large book shops in Thailand which stock foreign language books. Many online shops (both Thai and foreign) sell them too. Google Books has free previews of some and, where relevant, a link is provided.

The Fundamentals of the Thai LanguageThe Fundamentals of the Thai Language (5th edition)
Author: Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs
Format: out-of-print but available online (free)
Language: English with examples in Thai script and transliteration.
Website: Fundamentals of the Thai Language

While this is more of a language course than a grammar book, it does have a strong emphasis on basic grammar and outlines some key differences from English which is useful for beginners. Each topic is presented with basic vocabulary lists and example conversations. The first edition was printed in 1956 so some of the vocabulary is showing its age but the clear explanations and well structured content make this a useful book.

Thai: Essential GrammarThai: An Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth
Formats: paperback, hardback, eBook (Kindle, PDF, ePub, Microsoft Reader)
ISBN: 978-0415226134 (paperback)
Language: English with examples in Thai script and transliteration.

Thai Reference Grammar: The Structure of Spoken ThaiThai Reference Grammar: The Structure of Spoken Thai
Authors: James Higbie and Snea Thinsan
Format: paperback
ISBN: 978-9748304960
Language: English with examples in Thai script and transliteration.

These two books are perhaps the most commonly available grammar books for foreign learners. They’re good introductions to Thai grammar and language patterns and useful for beginners as well as advanced learners. Both are written for general learners and only use basic grammatical terminology (eg. nouns, verbs, conjunctions etc) and therefore are straight forward to read and very approachable.

Different styles of transliteration are used in each book. Smyth’s system is not too different from that developed by Mary Haas and is easy to learn for readers familiar with Haas’ works or the system used in the Thai for Beginners book. Higbie’s transliteration style is unique, using under- and over-scoring representing tones, but after the initial “what is that?” reaction, it’s quick to learn and intuitive.

Given the rising popularity of eBook readers and tablet computers, Smyth’s publisher (Routledge) deserves praise for making his work available in digital formats. However, the Kindle and ePub editions use miniature graphics files for the Thai text and some transliteration symbols so resizing the layout doesn’t work properly on all readers (the graphic files don’t resize along with the normal text). The PDF version does not have this problem. (I’ve not seen the Microsoft Reader version so can’t comment about it.)

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: Richard B. Noss
Formats: PDF (free online), paperback
ISBN: 978-1456503307 (paperback)
Language: English with transliteration (no Thai script)
Website: FSI: Thai Reference Grammar PDF download.

Obviously written at a time when people didn’t worry about the health effects of smoking, this book introduces the topic of classifiers with a demonstration of how to buy cigarettes as “the yellow pack”, “those five packs”, “the big pack” etc. – not something found in modern books! Printed in 1964, this is an updated version of the author’s PhD dissertation so academic linguistic terminology is heavily used throughout eg. nouns are defined as “any substantive which occurs as the head of an endocentric expression”, but there are plenty of examples which help if the lingo is hard to understand. It’s perhaps unfortunate that only transliteration is used – no Thai script at all – but this is a book about spoken Thai.

One feature that stands out is the focus on stress, rhythm and intonation in spoken Thai and the transliteration (also based on Mary Haas’ system) includes symbols to represent these features. Other grammar books generally give less focus on this topic so its inclusion here is welcome.

The PDF version at the above website is free and is a scan of the original print edition. It’s mostly of good quality although there are a few faint or illegible words to be found. There are “new” editions of this book being sold online, but they seem to be identical to this PDF except for the front cover.

A Reference Grammar of ThaiThai Reference Grammar A Reference Grammar of Thai
Authors: Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom
Formats: paperback, hardback
ISBN: 978-0521108676 (paperback)
Language: English with examples in Thai script, transliteration and part-of-speech analysis.
Google Preview: A Reference Grammar of Thai

This book is also for a more academic audience. The terminology used is somewhat difficult at first if the reader is not familiar with technical linguistic terms (eg. chapter titles such as “Deontic Modal Auxiliaries”, “The Periphrastic Causative” etc), although each chapter has a short, less-technical introduction but not totally jargon free. Reading the chapter summaries first will give a clearer overview of the content and the terminology is arguably easier to understand than that used in Noss’ book.

The academic approach used to compile this book is clear from the conversational data: transcriptions of real conversations between teachers & parents, parents & children, business meetings etc. Even hesitations and repetition of words are transcribed, transliterated and analysed into parts of speech as spoken. Top marks for the analysis of real-life speech as this is something that’s not evident in the other books presented here.

The part-of-speech analysis is a feature not found in the other books in this article, although it’s common in many academic papers. For example:

nát khoŋ mây maa lɛ́ɛw
(name) may NEG come ASP
“Nat may not come any more.”

Lines 1, 2 and 4 are the Thai script, transliteration and translation respectively. Line 3 is the part-of-speech analysis showing how each word fits in the sentence: (name) denotes a persons name, NEG is a “negative marker” (“not”) and ASP is an “aspect auxiliary” (for time/tense).

However, there are a few mistakes: a few transliterations and translations are incomplete, and some incorrect spellings can be found too. But don’t let these minor negatives put you off though as this is otherwise a detailed, insightful (albeit expensive) book. The Smyth and Higbie books are great quick references for learning language structures but this one is more detailed and will often better answer the question “how does that word really work?”

Thai Language Grammar Books…

These grammar books are primarily for native Thai speakers so the focus is very different from those above. The foreign language books are about second language acquisition and understanding whereas books for native speakers explain the workings of the reader’s own native language which they already use fluently in daily life.

The first two books can be found in Thai university bookshops and larger general bookshops. The บรรทัดฐานภาษาไทย books are limited in availability and details are provided separately below.

หลักภาษาไทยหลักภาษาไทย [The Fundamentals of the Thai Language]
Author: กำชัย ทองหล่อ
Formats: paperback, hardback
ISBN: 978-9742466350
Language: Thai

Previews: Two chapters with partial translations can be found on the thai-language.com website:

Parts of Speech

This book is the standard reference book of the Thai language, first printed about 60 years ago. It’s a very detailed, academic tome (540 pages) covering the evolution of the Thai script, alphabet, tones, types of words, their use (including royal vocabulary or “ratchasap”), clauses, sentences, loan words (mainly Pali and Sanskrit with limited discussion of Khmer, Chinese and English), prose and poetry.

This book has no index but the table of contents is very detailed (spanning 11 pages) and lists all chapters, sections and subsections making it quick and easy to find the right page.

This reference manual is the definitive reference book for the Thai language.

ไวยากรณ์ไทยไวยากรณ์ไทย [Thai Grammar]
Author: นววรรณ พันธุเมธา
Formats: paperback, hardback
ISBN: 974-9993276
Language: Thai

This book covers all the essentials and isn’t overly technical. It’s less detailed than หลักภาษาไทย and perhaps easier to understand while being organised in a similar manner. It starts with chapters covering word types (verbs, nouns, conjunctions etc) and then phrase and sentence construction. The book only discusses the modern Thai language as used in normal daily life so there’s limited discussion of royal vocabulary, and nothing on the language history or traditional forms of verse that are covered in หลักภาษาไทย. Plenty of examples are given throughout and there are also exercises at the end of each chapter.

Unfortunately, finding information in this book can be slow as there’s no index and the table of contents is short (one page) which lists only the chapter titles, not subsections. Also, the page headers only contain the author’s name, book title and page numbers (no chapter or section titles) so the reader must scan the pages for section headings instead.

However, this book does have a logical organisation and its non-technical approach makes it useful as both a tutorial and reference guide.

บรรทัดฐานภาษาไทย เล่ม ๑-๖บรรทัดฐานภาษาไทย เล่ม ๑-๖ [Standard Thai, Books 1-6]
Author: Thai Language Institute, Office of Academic and Educational Standards, Office of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education
Format: paperback
Language: Thai

Availability generally limited to ศึกษาภัณฑ์พาณิชย์ (Suksapan Phaanit) shops.
Branch locations can be found at suksapan.or.th and an online ordering service is available.

เล่ม ๑ ระบบเสียง อักษรไทย การอ่านคำและการเขียนสะกดคำ
Book 1 Phonology, Thai alphabet, Reading and Spelling Words

เล่ม ๒ คำ การสร้างคำและการยืมคำ
Book 2 Words, Word Construction and Loan Words

เล่ม ๓ ชนิดของคำ วลี ประโยคและสัมพันธสาร
Book 3 Types of Words, Clauses, Sentences and Discourse

เล่ม ๔ วัฒนธรรมการใช้ภาษาไทย
Book 4 Cultural use of the Thai Language

เล่ม ๕ กระบวนการคิดและการเขียนร้อยแก้ว
Book 5 The Art of Writing Prose

เล่ม ๖ ฉันทลักษณ์และขนบการเขียนร้อยกรอง
Book 6 Prosody and Patterns for Writing Verse

1. Book 1 of the current print-run has sold out (as of November 2011)
2. Books 5 and 6 have not yet been published (as of November 2011)
3. This review is based on books 2, 3 and 4

These recent books, published in 2009 and 2010, present a modern approach to understanding Thai for “teachers of Thai, students at secondary school level or higher and anyone interested in the Thai language”. They are written by “contemporary academic researchers and experts in the Thai language” which is evident from the bibliographies referencing many modern academic papers (from both Thai and foreign universities). By using a modern, broad base of linguistic research, the authors have developed a series of books that explain the Thai language clearly and concisely.

The vocabulary in these books is relatively straightforward and good use is made of charts and tables where appropriate. Some technical terminology has come from English and translated into Thai (eg. “socio-cultural information” translated to “ข้อมูลด้านสังคมและวัฒนธรรม”) but the English terms/phrases are also given on first use, which is helpful for foreign readers.

Footnotes are used to highlight where deviations have been made from older books such as หลักภาษาไทย (above) and its predecessor, the almost century-old work of พระยาอุปกิตศิลปสาร (not included here because it’s out-of-print). Such deviations are primarily where different terminology is used eg. the new books use คำนามวิสามัญ (proper noun) instead of วิสามานยนาม as used in the older books.

The up-to-date nature of these texts can be clearly seen in the second book (Words, Word Construction and Loan Words). The loan words chapters in the older books focus on Pali, Sanskrit and Khmer with a little Chinese and English but these newer books have extensive chapters for Pali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Chinese, Java-Malaya, and English. Likewise, in book 4 (Cultural use of the Thai Language) there are chapters on regional dialects in Thailand and modern language use in business, advertising, media, legal, religion, ceremonies, and word play/humour too.

In summary, these are well-thought out, up-to-date books with clear explanations, ample examples and a broad scope. They are likely to satisfy the most inquisitive students of the Thai language.

The in-print books listed here can usually be found at all large book shops in Thailand which stock foreign language books. Many online shops (both Thai and foreign) sell them too. Google Books has free previews of some and, where relevant, a link is provided.

Mark Hollow

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