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UPDATE aakanee.com: Thai and Khmer Picture Supported Learning

Introducing aakanee.com

Last October Andrej announced his new site, aakanee.com in the post Introducing aakanee.com: Thai and Khmer Picture Supported Learning.

As Andrej is halfway through with the project, I thought I’d remind everyone of the wonderful materials he’s creating.

Andrej: All in all there will be around 50 topics of which 25 have been published.

The recordings and transcripts can be used to work on listening comprehension and to expand one’s vocabulary. They can also be shadowed or partially transcribed if the learner likes these techniques. In addition to that, the illustrations can be used with tutors/native speakers to talk about the topic, support role play (by imagining dialogues for the people involved) etc.; using the pictures in tutoring sessions gives some structure and probably quite a bit of challenge as well.

Introducing aakanee.com

This is the completed list so far:

Alms Round
Breaking a Bowl
Chili Fish Dip
Coffee and Soft Drink
Cold Season
Cutting one’s Finger
Food Poisoning
Fried Rice
Getting Up
Going to Bed
Going to the ATM
Going to the Movies
Grilled Fish
Having a Cold
Loi Krathong
Motorcycle Taxi
Noodle Soup
Rainy Season
Shopping for a T-Shirt
Thai New Year
Tuk Tuk

Introducing aakanee.com

Here’s the list of upcoming topics:

Taking an Airplane
Night Train
Hot Pot
Doing the Dishes
Personal Hygiene
Post Office
Going to School
Mobile Phone
Going to the Doctor
Taking a Taxi
Going to the Dentist
Taking an Overland Bus
Making merit

It a top quality Thai resource – and did I mention FREE – so I hope everyone takes advantage however they can.

Here’s the explanation post again: Introducing aakanee.com: Thai and Khmer Picture Supported Learning

Thai: Thai Illustrations
Khmer: Khmer Illustrations
Follow Andrej on Facebook for updates: aakaneedotcom
Guest posts on WLT: Andrej

Introducing aakanee.com

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Using Praat for Pitch Analysis of the Thai Language


What is “Praat”?…

Praat is Dutch for “talk”. It’s a program used for voice analysis. It’s very powerful and has a lot of very advanced functions of which I will I will only discuss the most basic function: obtaining the pitch from an audio fragment.

What is the “Pitch”?…

First I would like to talk about “pure tones”. A “pure tone” is a sound wave that is consist of found of one single frequency. It’s the kind of sound you hear from a tuning fork. If you would display the wave as a graphs in time and in place, both graphs would be a sine wave.


Our voice is not a pure tone. If you would analyse our voice you would see it consists of several sine waves, with different frequencies (tone heights). Each frequency has a different amplitude (strength) and phase (starting point). All these waves are produced by our voice at the same time.


The “pitch” in phonetics is the frequency (or tone height) of the lowest frequency tone wave in our voice. It’s like the basic “hum” of our voice. It is the pitch what we would define as the “tone” in Thai.

The purpose of this document is to show you how you can visualize the pitch. It can help you to analyze and improve your own pronunciation or it can help you to recognize the tone in case you wouldn’t recognize it by listening.

The program we’re going to use can display the pitch of the audio (in time). The result will look like this. The blue line represents the pitch.


How do the tones in Thai look like?…

Basically they look like this:

  • The mid tone is constant (there might be a slight drop on the end).
  • The low tone start low and might even go a little bit lower.
  • The falling tone starts high and drops significantly.
  • The tone start high and goes even higher.
  • The rising to starts low and rises significantly.


Installing Praat…

You can download and install praat from Praat: doing phonetics by computer. It’s available for Linux 32/64bit, for MAC OSX, for FreeBSD and for Windows.

Using Praat…

Once you start Praat you get two windows: the Objects window and Picture window. You’ll only need the Objects window. The pictures window is a window that allows you to draw on and manipulate the pictures Praat generates.

From the Objects windows menu choose “Open – Open long sound file …” and select the audio fragment you want to analyse. This can be any file, just a recording you want to analyse or a recording of your own voice. If possible save your audio fragment always as “.wav” file and not as “.mp3” because a “.mp3” file can cause a tiny time offset between the graphs and the actual audio.

In the Objects window, select your audio fragment (1. LongSound tones in this case) and click on “View”.


Now a new window will appear.

When you click at the play buttons directly under the spectrogram/pitch part you can play the audio left or right of the cursor. When you make a selection the audio will be split into 3 parts : one part before the beginning of your selection, then your selection, and finally a part after your selection and there will be 3 play buttons.


You can use the “in”-button (zooms in), “out”-button (zooms out), “sel”-button (zoom to selection) and “all”-button (zooms to all) below the spectrogram , together with the play buttons and the scroll-bar below the spectrogram to go to any part that might interest you.

Take into account that the pitch and spectrogram will only be displayed when the audio fragment that is visible is less than 10 seconds.

By clicking on the frequency number of the right side of the spectrogram you can zoom-in and zoom-out the frequency scale.


The first part of the picture above looks like a mid-tone. After that we see a low tone, a falling tone, a high tone and a rising tone.


The yellow curve in the diagram represents the intensity.

The high tone might look a bit strange to you. That’s because the big jump at the end has a very low intensity or volume and can be ignored. To show the intensity choose “Intensity-Show Intensity” from the menu. The yellow curve represents the intensity.

How to see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds?…

The difference between aspirated sounds such as พ in พา and an unaspirated sound like the ป in ปา is the voice onset time (VOT). That is the time between the start of the syllable and the first occurrence of the voiced vowel. For aspirated sounds the VOT is much bigger. Usually the start of the blue pitch line indicates the start of the voicing, while the rising part of the yellow intensity line indicates the beginning of the syllable. Voicing is a vibration of the vocal cords. It’s much easier to recognize a pitch in those sounds than in sounds that are made with the mouth. That’s why the blue pitch line starts at the voiced vowel า. The next picture shows the voice onset time in the word ปา. It’s only about 18ms.


This picture shows the voice onset time in the word พา. พ is aspirated consonant. The voice onset time here is 78 ms, which is significantly more than that of the unaspirated consonant. You should play and listen to the selections to make they don’t include any part of the vowel.


PS. Take into account that the time scales of both pictures are not the same.

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Introducing aakanee.com: Thai and Khmer Picture Supported Learning

Introducing aakanee.com

Introducing aakanee.com…

Recently, I’ve moved Thai Recordings to a new website, aakanee.com. This was necessary in order to make room for a couple of new projects I’m working on; I wanted to have them all under one roof, so “thairecordings.com” wasn’t the appropriate domain anymore. I’ve just launched two of these new projects… and there’s more to come!

Picture supported learning…

I’ve been learning Thai for a number of years already, but recently I’ve developed a broader interest in the languages of the region. I’m also passionate about language learning and enjoy thinking about how to work with the target language as it is, ideally in its spoken form, from the very start. When I took up Khmer seriously earlier this year, I implemented an approach which relies entirely on native speaker input, supported by visuals and picture stories. Visual context can really boost comprehension and make language which might otherwise be too advanced accessible at the early stages.

Illustrations for South-East Asia…

During this work, I’ve encountered two limitations: lack of copyright, preventing me from sharing, and a lack of culturally appropriate illustrations – most suitable wordless picture books and language learning illustrations are based on Western culture. So I decided to address both of these shortcomings and develop a set of illustrations for South-East Asian languages. Eventually, there will be around 50-60 topics, each consisting of 12-20 frames. It’s work in progress, but I’ve got a nice little stash already. As with Thai Recordings, all of this is self-funded and will be provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Introducing aakanee.com

These illustrations can be used in various ways, for instance with a tutor to learn basic vocabulary [beginner] or to stimulate speaking [intermediate] and maybe even discussion [advanced]. On my website, I will provide supplementary materials for various languages, starting with Thai and Khmer. For Khmer, I myself will be my best “customer”, and I’m planning to provide both spoken and written descriptions (also read out loud). For Thai, I’m working with Khun Pari, a long-time online tutor of mine, to do relatively easy but still natural descriptions aimed at intermediate learners. These descriptions will come with a basic list of key words and phrases used in the recording.

It would be nice to be able to offer more for Thai. If you want to contribute to the Thai project, please contact me via www.aakanee.com/contact-form.php – I’m willing to host materials if volunteers step forward to produce, for instance, transcripts, written descriptions or other types of recordings. (If I were to suggest a format, then I would recommend to do super slow, super basic and quite short descriptions aimed at beginners. I have a friend in mind who needs exactly that :))

Introducing aakanee.com

Beyond Thai…

I’m planning to exploit these illustrations shamelessly to satisfy my interest in various languages of the region. For the foreseeable future, I will focus on Standard Khmer, but I’m planning to work on Northern Khmer – the Khmer spoken in Thailand – next year. I’m also determined to put up something for Northern Thai, hopefully already very soon; while not exactly endangered, Northern Thai is clearly an underserved language. Besides that, I would be very supportive of any project related to minority languages, for instance Kuy, a Mon-Khmer language spoken in Thailand, or Shan, a Tai language from Eastern Myanmar, and also more mainstream languages like Lao; such projects will either happen (much) later or need to be driven by someone else.

Introducing aakanee.com

I hope you find this project worthwhile. Feel free to use the illustrations for your own learning, and don’t hold back with any feedback you might have, either here or directly through my website.

Thai: Thai Illustrations
Khmer: Khmer Illustrations
Follow me on Facebook for updates: aakaneedotcom

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Creating Thai Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Anki Flashcard Decks

Anki Flashcard Decks: The introduction…

Anki is a Flashcard based spaced repetition program. It can help you to study Thai by training new words using flashcards. You can create your own flashcard decks.

In this document I’ll show you how you can make your own flashcard decks that include:

  • Audio (Thai and English)
  • Pictures (from schoolbooks)
  • Transliterations
  • Thai script

I’ll be using the official schoolbooks for P.1 and P.2 but you can use any other Thai course book with pictures. You’ll need an electronic or scanned version of the books. The result will look like this:

So, what do you need to make this?

1. You need pictures. Pictures can come from any source. The official Thai schoolbooks contain hundreds of little drawings so they are a great source of pictures. Below the drawings you’ll find meaning of the picture in Thai. Many schoolbooks are available for download on the net (from legal websites). Here are some links:

The OTPC project:
All current P1 schoolbooks on all subjects.
All current P2 schoolbooks on all subjects.

The SEALANG website:
All older P.1 to P.6 Thai language schoolbooks (click on LAB – Basal readers).

2. You need a program called Anki, which is a space repetition flashcard program. Anki is available for Linux, Android, iOS, OSX and Windows. Oh yes, and it’s free.

3. You need a computer or smartphone.

4. You need any Text-to-Speech (TTS) engine. In this example I use the audio of google Translate (which is quite good and not to be confused with the translations of google translate). Google translate is a free online service. If you have you have an APPLE system you could also use the tools provided by APPLE.

5. You need a plugin for Anki that will convert pictures and their file names into flashcards. This plugin is called “Media Import”.

The Preparation…

These steps have to be done only once (at time of installation).

Step 1: Install Anki:

  1. Go to ankisrs.net
  2. And download and install Anki.

Step 2: Install AwesomeTTS:

  1. Start Anki.
  2. In the Anki menu click on: Tools / Add-ons / Browse & Install.
  3. Enter the following code in the dialog box: 301952613.
  4. And click on OK.

Step 3: Install Media import:

  1. Start Anki.
  2. In the Anki menu click on : Tools / Add-ons / Browse & Install.
  3. Enter the following code in the dialog box : 1531997860.
  4. And click on OK.

Creating a flashcard deck…

This step needs to be done only once. If you start from an existing deck you can skip this step. In the Anki window click on the “Create Deck” button (at the bottom of the window).

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

In the “Create Deck” dialog box fill in ”school book” and click on the “OK” button.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

In the Anki window click on “Add”

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

In the “Add” dialog box click on “Fields…”. The “fields for Basic” dialog box will pop up.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

In the “Field for Basic” dialog box use the “add”, “delete” and “rename” buttons to create 4 fields (remove other fields):

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Field for Basic dialog box:

  • Thai
  • Phonetics Thai
  • English
  • Picture
  1. Click on the “close” button in the “fields or basic” dialog box.
  2. In the “Add” dialog box click on the “Cards…” button.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

The “card types for Basic” dialog box will pop up. First let’s create the layout for a card with English on the frontside and Thai on the backside. In the “Card types for Basic” dialog box fill in the “Front Template” and “Back Template” field as shown in the picture and click on the close button. You can copy/paste the fields from here:

Front Template:

Back Template:
<hr id=answer>
{{Phonetics Thai}}

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Now let’s create the layout for a card with Thai on the frontside and English on the backside. Click the “+” button, in the fields as shown and click on close. You can copy/paste the fields from here:

Front Template:
{{Phonetics Thai}}

Back Template:
<hr id=answer>

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Click on the “close” button in the “add” dialog box.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Adding data to the deck…

First you’ll need to collect pictures from the schoolbooks. You can do this with the help of a PDF viewer and just take screenshots of the selected area. Only select the picture (not the text). Keep the selection as small as possible.

  • On ubuntu you just press shift-printscreen.
  • On MAC you just press Command-Shift-4.
  • On windows 7 and up you can use the snipping tool to do so.

Save the file and give it the name of the Thai word (later on you’ll also need the transliteration).

You can use thai-language.com or thai2english.com for this or any other site or you can use your own system or even better don’t fill in the transliteration field.

Step 1: create new cards based on file names.

  1. Select “Tools- Media Import …” from the Anki menu.
  2. Browse to the directory where you’ve stored your pictures and select the other field as shown in the picture.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Step 2: adding other data to the cards.

Click on “Browse” in the main Anki window.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Select “school book” by clicking on it.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Click on the card you want to add data to in the list and fill in the remaining fields (English and Phonetics Thai).

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Adding audio…

  1. Go back to the browse window and make sure your deck is selected.
  2. Select “edit/select all” in the anki menu.
  3. Select “AwesomeTTS/Add audio to selected” in the anki menu.
  4. Fill in the dialog box as follows and click on generate.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Do the same thing one more time for English.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures


Replacing incorrect audio:

If AwesomeTTS would generate incorrect audio you can replace the generated audio with your own file.

  1. Click on “browse” in the main Anki window.
  2. Select your deck (school book) on the left side.
  3. Select the faulty card.
  4. Delete the “[sound:xxxx]” part from the “Thai” or “English” field (depending on if the mistake is in English or Thai) and upload your own audio by clicking on the paper-clip).

Create a filtered deck with only English-Thai cards:

The deck you’ve made contains both Thai-English and English-Thai cards. To study for instance only English-Thai you can create a filtered deck. Select “Tools/Create filtered deck…” from the main menu and choose only card1, which is the English-Thai cards like this: (change the maximum number of cards you want to have in your new deck if necessary).

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

If you want to make a deck with only Thai-English cards, replace card:1 by card:2.

Rescheduling a deck for new study:

Anki limits how many times you can review a certain card on one day. But you can manually reschedule your deck for new study.

You can reschedule your deck for new study via the browse window:

  1. Go to the main Anki window.
  2. Click on Browse (on the top of the window).
  3. Select your decks (schoolbook) on the left side.
  4. Choose edit/select all in the menu…
  5. …and then choose Edit/reschedule in the menu.

Exporting a deck: Sharing it with others:

To export a deck (to share it with others):

  1. Go to the main Anki window.
  2. Click on “Decks” (on the top of the window).
  3. Choose File/Export… from the menu.

You’ll now see the Export dialogue box:

  1. Un-ckeck “Include scheduling information”.
  2. Check “Include media”.
  3. Choose your deck “school book” in the include field.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

Creating filtered decks with cards of only 1 lesson:

You can also create filtered decks that contain only the vocabulary of 1 lesson. For that you just fill in the “Tags” field when you add or browse the cards.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

When creating all filtered deck you could select for instance all…

  • English-Thai cards
  • of lesson 1

…by filling in the following the “Tools/Create filtered deck …” dialog box.

Creating Anki Flashcard Decks with Audio and Pictures

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Speak Read Write Thai is Live!

Speak Read Write Thai

Speak Read Write Thai…

Blogging about the Thai language can be a lonely business, so when Sean Harley decided to create Speak Read Write Thai to share his extensive knowledge of Thai, I got the grins on.

Speak Read Write ThaiMore and more I’ve been paying close attention to Sean’s insightful comments on two FB Groups: FCLT and one that is secret (mum’s the word).

But as most of you know, with FB, comments get sucked into a bottomless void, never to be seen again (so much for being told that, “everything you post on the internet will always be there to haunt you”).

If you want to preserve information, websites/blogs are the way to go. Not Facebook. And now we have Sean authoring Speak Read Write Thai. Wicked.

Sean: The learning process is very much like a journey, a never-ending one but always a wild adventure filled with surprises at every turn. Along my Thai journey I have scribbled, jotted, and written down everything Thai in trusty notebooks. I invite you along for the ride as I share what I’ve learned about Thai.

Sean decided to focus his site on intermediate and above students of Thai instead of beginner. Makes sense. There’s an excess of resources for beginners, but for intermediate, decent ones are almost non-existent.

Three main subjects are what we get: Thai Language, Thai Culture, and Everything Else Thai. There’s not much online at the moment, but no worries, it’ll grow.

To take advantage of the commenting ease of Facebook, Sean also has a restricted Speak Read Thai FB group. An experienced FB Mod (mum’s the word), Sean keeps a tight control of the membership to make sure comments stay relevant.

The main purpose for having this group is for discussion of the blog posts in Speak Read Write Thai. In-line with the theme of the Speak Read Write Thai blog, this group is for non-beginners only. Absolutely no transliteration will be tolerated.

Only proven serious learners who already know how to read and write Thai and with the ability to contribute in a significant way need apply to join. Kindly note that a majority of our current members will be consulted when considering whether or not to accept a join request so do not take it personally if your application is not accepted.

Note: With everything that’s been going on (creating a new site is a timesucker) Sean has been adding members on SRWThai’s FB group slowly, so don’t be surprised if it takes awhile to get any sort of a reply.

For sharing new posts and other learning Thai resources there’s also @SRWThai on twitter as well.

Important Points for Learning Thai…

For a quick peek into where Sean is coming from read his thoughtful notes on Important Points for Learning Thai. I found them quite enlightening and hope you do as well.

Important Point Number One: Before even thinking about output, serious learners need to get a lot of quality input. One hundred words learned well will always trump one thousand words badly learned and hastily memorized.

Important Point Number Two: We need to understand the culture if we are to understand the language. For example, study what Thais of a similar status to you would say or do in any given situation.

Important Point Number Three: To help you understand why some things are the way they are in the Thai language, study the concept of Thainess. Two important points to consider are 1) being the ideal citizen (even if only superficially) and 2) face.

Important Point Number Four: To understand the face of Thai education, first learn how to crawl (formal Central Thai) before you learn how to walk (casual Thai).

Important Point Number Five: Keeping abreast with groupthink is important (not just what’s popular today, but who you can use it with) because then you’ll be clued into what’s currently a fad in the Thai language.

Important Point Number Six: Loanwords and loan phrases often sound similar, but that does not mean that they will have the exact same essence in Thai. Always be aware that groupthink determines the final outcome.

Important Point Number Seven: Understand that your English ways (accent and grammar) can interfere in the Thai learning process. To head this problem off, spend time studying the porosity of real spoken Thai.

Important Point Number Eight: Try to keep an open mind during this Thai language learning journey. Be prepared to consider surprising and sometimes opposing views.

Speak Read Write Thai…

Website: Speak Read Write Thai
Facebook: Speak Read Write Thai
Twitter: @SRWThai

SRWT’s site design: pixelers

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SolveThai.com Forum: A Thai Language Community and Resource

SolveThai.com Forum: A Thai Language Community and Resource

The SolveThai.com Forum…

Since the beginning of the year, the Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook Group has grown incredibly fast. It’s a great resource and the most active community of its kind. But, due to the nature of Facebook, the majority of the content gets buried within a week.

Flaws worth noting with a Facebook driven community:

  • Posts can’t easily be searched, browsed, categorized or easily referenced. This leads to large amounts of duplicate content, and the many excellent discussions get lost.
  • Facebook owns the group. If tomorrow they shut it down, everything is gone. There would be no way to recover the posts, and no way to regroup the community.
  • The options to develop the group are limited.

Since I started learning Thai a couple years ago, I have been thinking of ways to contribute to the Thai language learning community. And having run several larger online communities in the past, solving the issues noted above seemed the perfect way I could do just that.

Enter SolveThai. The goal of the SolveThai forum is to make the informative discussion at the Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook Group more accessible and easier to use.

Through the Facebook API I came up with a way to preserve and organize existing posts (such that the content of these posts can be used, linked, searched, and referenced). That way all posts are searchable, categorized, and kept as a valuable resource for future use.

The possibilities of further developing such a community are endless. Whereas with it being on Facebook, the possibilities are limited.

The basic vision:

  • Retain the 55,000+ posts from the Facebook group and make them more accessible.
  • Create an easy place to arrange meet-ups without clogging down the discussions on Facebook.
  • Properly organize introduction posts so they’ll become a valuable way to get to know each other.

The goal is to work with others to improve this project. It is not for profit. It is not owned by anyone. It’s a resource anyone can contribute to. Anyone can join and introduce themselves (it would be great to have more people with a similar vision).

The site has been setup with some discussion, along with the Facebook posts (sans member names) which you can checkout at SolveThai.com. However, I haven’t done much more than that as I’m looking for volunteers to help out.

Interested in helping the cause? Contact me (pjkcards[at]gmail[dot]com). Any input, good or bad, would be appreciated.

Patrick Kelly,

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Feedback Needed on New Thai Product: Read What I Want

Read What I Want

New Thai Product: Read What I Want…

Brett Whiteside (Learn Thai From A White Guy) is looking for feedback on a new project called Read What I Want.

Read What I Want is a tool for helping people learn to read faster by allowing them to access reading materials that they would normally consider way above their level.

RWIW makes use of crowdsourced learner-generated priority rankings on words and phrases so the reader knows what words/phrases in a particular passage matter to them right now and which ones are ok to skip over.

It will have all the standard functionality of definitions, audio, user lists and flashcards. The color-coded ranking which lets the user know how valuable that word is to them. For Thai and many languages, things like police rankings, people and place names, and foreign words can be really hard to figure out when you are just getting started. So for example, let’s say somebody goes through my reading course and now they can pretty much read everything, but they don’t really know any words. They can start skimming just about anything and picking out the blue colored words to learn first. They don’t need to try to figure out the whole passage if they don’t want to and they can skip the crossed out and lower ranked words that they can see don’t matter so much for them right now.

Read What I Want will eventually work with all languages. As there’s a need, Thai will be first.

Process for user interaction:

  • User submits link or copied text.
    • Manually.
    • Via bookmarklet.
  • Text gets parsed by system.
    • Words/phrases get colored (or shaded) by pre-existing (eventually) user-generated data determining the priority “weight” of each particular word/phrase.
    • Audio generation (entire passage + individual word/phrase).
      • If word has existing file → access file.
      • If no — generate via text-to-speech.
      • Passages should be recorded (users may be able to vote on recording priority).

Please take a few minutes to check out the demo site and fill out the survey. Thanks!

Demo Site: Read What I Want
SurveyMonkey: Read What I Want Survey

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Sample Sentences in Thai Dictionaries

Sample Sentences in Thai Dictionaries

Sample Sentences in Thai Dictionaries…

While reviewing Thai dictionary apps for my series, iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Apps, I came across a subject that needed clarification: sample sentences in dictionaries.

Chris Pirazzi already answered my question about the LEXiTRON dictionary database (developed by NECTEC) in a previous post, Backstage View into the Process of Creating a Thai Dictionary, I knew he was the person to ask.

So before I post my review, please take the time to read Chris’ valuable insights into sentence samples found in Thai dictionaries.

Chris Pirazzi on Sample Sentences in Thai Dictionaries…

I’m really glad you mentioned sample sentences. We may indeed add sample sentences at some point, but sample sentences are an area where there is a LOT of misunderstanding and mis-set customer expectations, and you could really help a lot of people in your review by helping to head off these mis-set expectations before the customer gets disappointed.

First of all, customers should be aware that the quality of sample sentences varies wildly between apps, so customers should be sure to look at more than just quantity. Most apps actually get their sample sentences by having a computer program crawl through huge, freely available, error-ridden bilingual datasets available on the internet with no human intervention or editing. In many cases, the sample sentences contain errors, or even more often, they do not even demonstrate the meaning of the word being defined at all. For example, an entry for “หก” with the English translation “The number 6” may contain many sample sentences for the other meaning of หก, “to spill (a liquid).” The sample sentences in these cases are at best confusing and possibly misleading. With some apps (and I never could figure out why) you will even see sample sentences for a Thai word that don’t even contain the Thai word! Typically, if an app boasts a huge number of sample sentences (like, tens of thousands or more), that is a major red flag that the sentences are crap. Doing sample sentences properly requires humans to edit the sentences of each entry for relevance, and that takes almost as much work as creating the dictionary dataset in the first place. Almost no vendor is willing to take this time for editing.

Secondly, and even more importantly, challenge your reader to ask why they want sample sentences.  There may be other ways of getting what they want that are simpler and more direct. Let me explain.

Sample sentences are a little like transcription: at first, when looking for Thai learning materials, Thai learners always ask for a transcription system that is as “English-Like” as possible, and they may even choose their app by that criterion. It isn’t until much later that they realize that due to the unavoidable reality of Thai language and how its sounds differ from English, the goal of being “English-like” is not only impossible but it may actually damage their ability to learn Thai sounds properly (e.g., transcription systems which over-simplify Thai sounds so that ส้ม and ซ่อม are written the same way, or เป็ด and เผ็ด are written the same way), or at the very least the goal of being “English-Like” may actually make the transcription system more complicated and make it more hard for them to learn Thai than they could with other systems. I talk about that at length in Slice of Thai: Pronunciation Guide Systems for Thai.

At first, customers also ask for sample sentences, but sample sentences can lead the customer to a similar dilemma. When we were beginning our multi-year dictionary production process, we asked ourselves why it is that people ask for sample sentences. The answer is that it helps give more information about a given translation, for example:

  • for a given translation from language 1 to language 2, which SENSE of the word is being translated?  For example, if there is an English entry for “glass” that shows a Thai word, then is that the Thai word for “drinking glass” or the word for “pane of glass?”
  • what prepositions and other linking words need to be used along with a given word?  For example, when I want to say “wait for him”, I can see that there is a Thai word “รอ,” but what (if any) preposition should I put in in place of “for”?
  • what level of formality (e.g. slang, formal) does the word have?
  • what are the word’s classifiers, if it is a noun?

Typically, bilingual dictionaries will try to answer these questions by providing sample sentences. 

But even if the sample sentences are carefully hand-crafted and hand-edited by humans (and so far I have never seen an iOS/Android app where they are), sample sentences are a very poor way to answer the questions above, because the reader has to read the sentence, understand its parts, and then think backwards to get the answer to the original question they really wanted answered.

We decided that it’s much better to spend our effort answering the important questions for the user directly. We are the only Thai-English English-Thai dictionary that we are aware of that was designed from the ground up to help English speakers who are learning Thai in this way.

When giving definitions, we provide glosses to clarify shades of meaning (e.g. “glass (drinking)” vs. “glass (pane)”), as shown on our website at Designed for English Speakers.

We have specifically designed our headwords to solve the preposition/extra word problem. For example, we include a transitive verb entry “wait for” that translates to “รอ,” and this is a specific, explicit cue to the user that they do not need to insert a Thai word corresponding to “for” when using the Thai verb รอ. We talk more about how this works in our application Help under “Speaking and Listening” then “Verbs, Objects, and Prepositions.”

We specifically notate the register (slang, formal, …) of each word using symbols, rather than trying to make the user guess from sample sentences. You can click on “Word Register” in our app Help to get the details.

And of course we explicitly notate classifiers too.

There are still cases where sample sentences can be handy, but we feel we’ve delivered a much, much greater bang for the buck by spending our finite development time by going right for the information that Thai learners need.  We may still add sample sentences as well. No matter what, we will continue to listen to our customers’ requests for what information they want in each entry and provide that in the most direct and useful form we can.

Chris Pirazzi,
Word in the Hand: Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary | Slice of Thai | Thailand Fever

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Happy New Year 2012! Here’s My Thai Language Wish List

My Thai Language Wishlist

Happy New Year 2012!…

Happy New Year everyone! 2012. Wow. That went fast. Are you ready for a new year? I’m not. Not really. And forget about the backlog of posts from the pre-flood days, when you scan through the holes in my longstanding Thai language wish list, you’ll agree that I’m running terribly behind.

You see, I’ve been watching the language learning market for the past several years. And every so often I’ll come across a product not available for Thai learners. And if it’s interesting enough, I’ll add it to my Thai language wish list.

All along my intentions were to create some of the products you’ll see listed below. But each year I’ve been too much of a busy bee. And each year time runs out. And now it’s coming on 2012 already.

Yes, I still have good intentions. But, as it’s been awhile, I’ve decided to share the list with you. And (hint) (hint) hopefully someone will help generate what’s needed for learning Thai. Something like that.

My Thai language wish list for 2012…

My Thai Language WishlistThai vocabulary stickers: Putting vocabulary stickers all through your house might be an old-fashioned method of learning languages. But it works. And yes! I do have a Thai vocabulary list on the way. It’s a basic affair. You download the file, print the list on sticky back paper, cut along the dotted lines, and then apply the Thai vocabulary to walls, windows, where ever.

Last month I discovered a language company with a better idea: Lingibli (no longer online). Lingibli’s printable vocabulary sheets (more on this later) are linked to an iPhone app with sound. Sweet, yes? And way over my programming capabilities.

My Thai Language WishlistThai 100/300/500/1000 top vocabulary list: The search for this darn top Thai vocabulary list has been going on since the dawn of time. I already took a stab at the top 100 Thai words one must know. And I’m not done yet (surprise). And Learn Thai Podcast generously created a top 300 course on offer for free. But there’s still a ways to go before we get the entire list compiled. So again, help is needed.

Note: Lingibli has shown an interest in creating a top 100 Thai app from my list. Now all we [cough] [cough] need to do is convince Lingibli to go whole hog with the entire Thai vocabulary list. Yeah. I wish!

My Thai Language WishlistThai place names: Even though street names in Bangkok have an English equivalent – the awful transliteration – newbies to Thailand still have a difficult time getting around. So until they get the Thai tones into their ears, a simple printable list of place names (streets, parts of town, hotels, stores and shopping centres even) in Thai script and the dreaded transliteration would come in handy for presenting to taxi drivers, locals, and knowledgeable expats. Any takers?

My Thai Language WishlistThai visual vocabulary: Language learners are not just audial but visual as well. Makes sense? And when their site isn’t down WeboWord (which is now offline) sends out roughly drawn graphics with phrases to explain words. Obviously, it’s not a new idea, but with the addition of sound it’d be brilliant for learning Thai vocabulary and phrases. I have this project in the works as well but it’s a shabby ways away. Help?

My Thai Language WishlistThai word a day via email: Last time I checked, there are word a day iPhone apps but no email lists. Also, from what I remember, none of the word a day apps have been created around beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. The words are random so you get rare words along with entry level words. Frustrating.

The closest vocabulary product for iPhone with sensible levels is the ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer (reviewed here: Increase Your Thai Vocabulary: Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer). Do you think ClickThai would be interested in offering their list via email too?

My Thai Language WishlistThai online grammar checker: Paperrater is a free, online proofreader and grammar checker for the English language. Does anyone know if a decent product is available for Thai? I have heard that there’s a Thai spell checker for MS Word – such as it is – but it’s not free.

My Thai Language WishlistThai audio books: Members of Librivox record chapters of books for audio download. For free. I’m sure you’d have to be careful about copyright laws, but even so, wouldn’t it be sweet for Thai? Ok, there is Rinospike but it’s not quite the same concept.

My Thai Language WishlistThai language ebooks: After being contacted by a reader I went in search for available ebooks in Thai. I found a few resources (to be shared in a following post) but the pickings are mighty slim. We can download, for free, thousands upon thousands of ebooks in English, French, German, etc., to read on our computers, iPhones and smart phones. So why not in Thai?

My Thai Language WishlistThai keyboard with sound: One difficulty with learning Thai is that it’s a tonal language. And one of the best ways to get the tones down is to learn how to read Thai. So I’m thinking that a Thai keyboard that sounds out the Thai alphabet would come in handy. Yes? And wouldn’t coding the ability into aTypeTrainer4Mac be fabulous? Sure.

My Thai Language WishlistThai teachers: I have a section to locate Thai language teachers, as does Glenn at Thai-language.com. But what’s really needed is site similar to Find a Teacher, but dedicated to Thai teachers.

My Thai Language WishlistThai tone test for Smartphones/iPhones: For online there’s a great Thai Tone Test. You can always access it with Safari on your iPhone but an iPhone / Smartphone version with all the bells and whistles would be totally grand.

My Thai Language WishlistOnline speed reading: Spreeder is a free product geared to improve your reading. But could you imagine one for Thai? With sound? Whooh. I’d faint with happiness. Try me.

My Thai Language WishlistWord and phrases calendar: During the Xmas holidays I came across a set of language learning calendars for German, French, and Italian. The product has a word of the day with a phrase showing how to use each word. The tear off sheets are simple, easy to use.

I bought the Italian version (more on that later too) and right away I noticed a problem. The phrases are all willy-nilly. Instead, what’s needed are phrases and vocabulary from basic to advanced – OR – create several calendars to fit the different needs of students. And in Thai.

My Thai Language WishlistVerb cheat sheet: Nowhere is a quick cheet sheet for Thai verbs. I’ve looked online. I’ve looked in course books. I’ve asked around. Nope. And yup, this is another project I’m working on. As it’s a tedious job, I just might post it totally raw to get your views. We’ll see.

There’s one more Thai language project but as I’m working on it (and don’t want to get preempted) I’ll save it for another day.

To finish, if you know of any products still needed for Thai, or if I’ve listed one already available, please let me know. I’m listening. I’m always listening.

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Thai2english Dictionary Download

AJ Thailand

What we’ve all been waiting for…

Thai2English is designed for anyone interested in translating, reading, understanding, speaking, learning or typing in Thai, from beginners to experienced learners.

And if you like using thai2english.com online (as I do), you are going to just LOVE having it available on your computer.

A taste of the Thai2english dictionary download…

  • Dictionary: Thai to English, English to Thai dictionary with over 110,000 Thai entries and 90,000 English. Sample sentences in both Thai and English.
  • Search: Search in English, Thai script, or any form of transliterated Thai. Wildcard or regular expression searches supported.
  • Transliteration: Converts Thai script to romanised transliteration (including tone marks). Choice of transliteration styles.
  • Translation: Recognises common sentence structures. Gives much more than individual word-by-word translation.
  • Typing in Thai: Converts transliterated Thai to Thai script without the need of a Thai keyboard.
  • Thai Grammar and Reference: Explanations and examples of Thai grammar.
  • Reading Thai: Step-by-step guide to reading Thai script and tone rules.

Thai-English Dictionary: Download

Thanks Mike!

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