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Onomatopoeic Words in the Thai Language

Onomatopoeic Thai words

Written Sound: Onomatopoeic words in Thai…

Learning about onomatopoeic words in the Thai language has been quite the experience. It all started when ‏@babla tweeted a link to the video Bow Wow Meow – Animal Sounds in Different Languages. After quickly responding, “in Thai a dog says hong hong”, off I went googling to find out more.

The first jewel of a resource I came across was wikipedia’s post, Cross-linguistic Onomatopoeias. Onomatopoeia. A mouthful, yes?

askdefine.com: onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia (occasionally spelled onomateopoeia or onomatopœia, from Greek ονοματοποιία) is a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing, suggesting its source object, such as “click,” “bunk”, “clang,” “buzz,” or animal noises such as “oink”, “slurp”, or “meow”.

ASAP I called up Khun Phairo and said, “have I got a day planned for you!” Heh. Before KP arrived I sourced other Thai onomatopoeic words, dropping them into a tidy spreadsheet (as organised people tend to do).

The bulk of the words are from wikipedia (Cross-linguistic Onomatopoeias), Weirdvibrations.com (The Language of Sound in Thai), learningthai.com/reading/animal-sounds (Animal Sounds – offline for now ), Thai-language.com (Onomatopoeia), and a pdf download from Chula Uni (The Symbolization of Sounds in Thai onomatopoeic Words).

After culling and editing entries, we spent hours coming up with other Thai onomatopoeic words. And to make this a truly rounded experience, I recorded KP speaking each and every one.

Thai onomatopoeic words plus audio…

The audio files are all-in-one because it’s easier to listen to an unbroken list of dtúks, klùks, hèungs, and bréun bréuns (saves you having to click click click).


approval, joy: เฮ /hay/
auto rickshaw (named after sound): ตุ๊ก ๆ /dtúk dtúk/
baby crying: อุแว้ ๆ /u-wáe u-wáe/, แง้ ๆ /ngáe ngáe/
ball rolling: ขลุก ๆ /klùk klùk/
balloon or bubble bursting: โป๊ะ /bpó/, ปั้ง /bpâng/
Banded Bullfrog singing: อึ่งอาง ๆ /èung-aang èung-aang/
bee or mosquito buzzing, a whirring sound: หึ่ง /hèung/
bird singing: จิ๊บ ๆๆ /jíp jíp jíp jíp jíp/
“boom”, explosion, cannon firing: ตูม /dtoom/
breaking plate: เพล้ง /pláyng/
burping: เอิ่ก /èrk/
camera shutter: แชะ /cháe/
car engine revving: บรื๊น ๆ /bréun bréun/
car horn honking: ปี๊น ๆ /bpéen bpéen/
car putting on brakes: เอี๊ยด /íat/
cat hissing: ฟู่ ๆ /fôo fôo/
cat meowing: เมี้ยว ๆ /míeow míeow/
chatter: จ๊อกแจ๊ก /jòk-jáek/
chewing: แจ๊บ ๆ /jáep jáep/
chicken clucking: เอ้กอี๊เอ้กเอ้ก /âyk-ée ây gà-âyk/
chicken clucking: กุ๊ก ๆ ก๊อก ๆ /gúk gúk gók gók/
Ching Chap Tour (named after sound): ฉิง่ฉับ /cheng-chàp/
clock ticking: ติ๊กต็อก ๆ /dtík-dtòk dtík-dtòk/
clunking: ต๊อกแต๊ก /dòk-dtáek/
collision: กึก /gèuk/
collision, “crash!”, “bang!”, something heavy falling: โครม /krohm/, ปัง /bpang/
Common Koel (named after sound): กาเหว่า /gaawâow gaawâow/
console, comfort someone: โอ๋ /ŏh/
coughing: แค๊ก ๆ /káek káek/
cow mooing: มอ /mor/
cracking (fire): เปรี๊ยะ /bpría/
crow cawing, crow (named after sound – อีกา): กา ๆๆ /gaa gaa gaa/
crowd expressing joy (usually preceded by สรวลเส): เฮฮา ๆ /hay-haa hay-haa/
crying: แง ๆๆ /ngae ngae ngae/, ว้าก /wáak/, โฮ /hoh/
crying, groaning, grieving: ฮือ ๆ /heu heu/
cutting a tree branch: ฉับ ๆ /chàp chàp/
cymbal (named after sound): ฉ ฉิ่ง /chor-ching/
dog barking, howling: โฮ่ง ๆ /hôhng hôhng/, บ๊อก ๆ /bòk bòk/
door bell ringing: ติ๊งต็อง /dtíng-dtong/
door or floor creaking: แอ๊ด /áet/
dove cooing: จุ๊กกรู้ ๆ /júg-króo júg-króo/
dragging something: ครืด /krêut/
dripping water: ติ๋ง ๆ /dtĭng dtĭng/
drum, 7pm – 11pm (named after the drum): ทุ่ม /tûm/
duck quacking: ก้าบ ๆ /gâap gâap/
eating spicy food: ซี้ด ๆ /séet séet/
receiving electric shock: ฟรึ้บ /fréup/
elephant trumpeting: แปร๋น ๆ /bpraen bpraen/
elephant trumpeting: แป๊น ๆ /bpáen bpáen/
exclamation: เอ๊ะ /eh/
explosion, “bang!”: บึ้ม /bêum/
farting: ปู้ด /bpôot/
fighting, wrestling, stomping, be noisy: ตึงตัง /dteung dtang/
food being eaten: ง่ำ ๆ /ngâm ngâm/, อัม ๆ /am am/
footsteps: ตึง ๆ /dteung dteung/, ตึบ ๆ /dtèup dtèup/
frog croaking: อ๊บ ๆๆ /op op op op/
frog (named after the sound): กบ /gòp/
furniture being moved: กึงกัง ๆๆ /geung gang geung gang geung gang/
gaffawing: ฮ่าฮ่าฮ่า /hâa hâa hâa hâa/
gargling: ขรุก กลั้วปาก /kà-rùk glûa-bpàak/
gibbon crying: ผัว ๆ /pŭa pŭa/
gorilla chattering: เจี๊ยกคร่อก ๆ /jaik-kròk jaik-kròk/
grinding teeth: กรอด /gròt/
growling, “grrrrr”: กรรรร /grrrr/, แฮ่ /hâe/
grumbling, muttering: พึมพำ ๆ /peum-pam peum-pam/
gunshot: ปัง ๆ /bpang bpang/
hammering: โป๊ก ๆ /bpóhk bpóhk/
hawking (to spit): ขาก /kàak/
heart beating: ตุ้บ ๆ /dtûp dtûp/, ตึ้ก ๆ /dtêuk dtêuk/
“heh”: เฮอะ ๆ /haya haya/
“hooray!”, “cheers!”, “hip hip hooray!”: ไชโย /chai-yoh/
horse trotting, dog walking: กุบกับ ๆ /gùp-gàp gùp-gàp/, ก๊อน ๆ /gón gón/
horse whinnying: ฮี้ ๆ /hée hée/
house lizard (named after the sound): จิ้งจก /jîng-jòk/
hushing: จุ๊ ๆๆ /jú jú jú/, ชู่ /chôo/
injured dog whimpering: เอ๋ง /ăyng/
jingling, rattling, bell tinkling: กรุ๊งกริ๊ง /grung-kríng/
keyboard striking: ก้อกแก้ก /gòk-gâek/
kissing: จุ๊บ /júp/, จ๊วบ /júap/
knocking: ก๊อก ๆ /gók gók/
laughing: เอิก๊ อ๊าก /ak áak/
laughing softly: คิก้ ๆๆ /kek kek kek kek kek/
laughter (555 ): ฮ่า ๆๆ /hâa hâa hâa hâa/
lion, tiger roaring: โฮก ๆ /hôhk hôhk/
liquid being drunk:เอื้อก /uaòk/
monkey chatting: เจี๊ยก ๆ /jaik jaik/
owl hooting: ฮูก /hôok/
Pakcha (named after the sound “chàa”): ผัดฉ่า /pàt-chàa/
Papaya salad (named after sound): ป๊อก ๆๆ /bpòk bpòk bpòk bpòk/
pig grunting: อู๊ด ๆๆ /óot óot óot óot óot/, ครอก ๆๆ /krôk krôk krôk/
pushy, uncouth, rash, imprudent: บุ่มบ่าม /bùm-bàam/
rain flowing: ซู่ /sôo/
rain on roof, clapping: กราว /graao/
rat squeaking: จี๊ด ๆ /jéet jéet/
ringing bell: เหง่งหง่าง ๆ /ngeng-ngaang ngeng-ngaang/
ripping clothes: ควาก /kwâak/, แควก /kae wók/
rock thrown into a pond: จุ๋ม /jŭm/, ป๋อม /bpŏm/
screaming, shrieking: โอ๊ย /ói/, อ๊าก /áak/, อ๊าย /áai/
sensations of cold, “brr!”: บรื๋อ /bà-rĕu/
sheep or goat bleating: แบะ ๆๆ /bàe bàe bàe bàe/
shrieking: วิ้ดว้าด /wít-wáat/, กรีด /grèet/
sighing: เฮ่อ /hâa/
siren wailing: ปี๊ป่อ ๆ /bpée-bpòr bpée-bpòr/, วี้หว่อ ๆ /wée-wòr wée-wòr/
slap or a whipping: ผัวะ /pùa/
slapping face: เพี้ยะ /phia/, ฉาด /chàat/
small drum (named after sound): ป๋องแป๋ง ๆ /bpŏng-bpăeng bpŏng-bpăeng/
snake hissing: ฟ่อ ๆ /fôr fôr/
sneezing: ฮัดเช่ย /hát-chôie/, ฮัดชิ่ว /hát-chîw/
snoring: ครอกฟี้ /krôk-fée/, ครอก ๆ /krôk krôk/
soft things falling: เผละ /plè/
something hitting floor: กึง /geung/
something hollow being hit: โกรง ๆ /grohng grohng/
speaking softly: กระจุ๋งกระจิ๋ง /grà-jŭng grà-jĭng/
squeaking, stairs creaking: เอียดอาด ๆๆ /ìat-àat ìat-àat ìat-àat/
stalling for time (when talking): เอ้อ /êr/, อ้า /âa/
stomach growling: โครกคราก /krôhk-krâak krôhk-krâak/
stone falling into the water, “plop”: ต๋อม /dtom/
stutter: กระอ้อม /grà-ôm/
telephone ringing: กริ๊ง ๆ /gríng gríng/
throat swallowing: อึก ๆ /èuk èuk/
“thud”: ปึ่ก /bpèuk/
thunder, explosion: เปรี้ยงปร้าง /bprîang-bprâang/
thunder, thud, collision, gun fire: เปรี้ยง ๆๆ /bprîang bprîang bprîang/, ครึ้น ๆ /kréun kréun/
toilet flushing: ชักโครก /chák-krôhk/
Tokay (named after sound): ตุ๊กแก /dtúk-gae/
train whistle, whistling: ปู๊น ๆ /bpóon bpóon/
warning (used after หนอย): แน่ะ /nâe/
waves flowing: ฟิ้ว ๆ /fíw fíw/
whistling: หวูด /wòot/
wind blowing: วิ้ว ๆ /wíw wíw/
woman screaming in surprise: กรี๊ด /gréet/
yawning: ฮ่าว /hâao/
“yuk”: แหวะ /wàe/, ยี้ /yée/

Even more onomatopoeic Thai words…

After we recoded the list, I asked on Facebook and twitter if anyone knew of even more onomatopoeic Thai words.

Did you know that ทวิตเตอร์ /tá-wíd dtêr/ (twitter) and ทวีต /tá-wít/ (tweet) could also be English onomatopoeic loan-words?

On Facebook, Adissapong Praphantanathorn mentioned an oldie, ป๋องแป๋ง /bpong-pang/. A gem, it’s the sound made when old men came to dye your clothes.

Also on FB, Alex Szécsényi asked me to check out buzz, ha-ha, honk, vroom vroom, bang, click, beep, and zip. Of the ones I don’t have (click, vroom, beep, and zip) I did manage to find zip, ซิป /síp/. Zip lead me to ซิบ /síp/ (drip, ooze, trickle) and ซิบ ๆ /síp síp/ (drizzly).

Nils Bastedo shared the very descriptive อึ /èu/ (to defecate). And I’ll have to agree with Nils that the sound is spot on!

I did ask about bling (ปิ๊ง /bpíng/) but I’m not quite sure if it’s onomatopoeic or not. Or if I even found the correct Thai word.

It wasn’t until I searched through my photos to create the banner for this post that I found another onomatopoeic word, ฟลิปฟลอป /flíp-flôp/. It’s an English onomatopoeic loan-word but it still counts.

Switching my search to loan-words, in Kaewmala’s Thinglish Slang: English Loanwords in Thai I snabbed ติงต๊อง /dting-dtóng/ (crazy, not very bright) and ปิงปอง /bping-bpong/ (ping pong).

And when I asked on twitter, Sylvie von Duuglas (@_ittu) introduced onomatopoeic English verbs ซูม /soom/ (zoom), and สแนป /sa-nap/ (snap).

Not to be left out, Thai-language.com’s list of English loan-words to Thai coughed up สเปรย์ /sà-bpray/ (spray).

Not finished yet, I found a healthy list of English onomatopoeic words at Written Sounds. It does make me wonder just how many more English onomatopoeic words [slash] loan-words there are in Thai.

Onomatopoeic extras…

Here are the recordings for the additional Onomatopoeic Thai words added to the end of the article. Adissapong, Alex and Nils, thank you!

twitter: ทวีต /tá-wêet/
when old men come to dye your clothes: ป๋องแป๋ง
zip: ซิป /síp/
sip: ซิบ /síp/ (drip, ooze, trickle)
drizzly: ซิบ ๆ /síp síp/
to defecate: อึ /èu/
flipflop: ฟลิปฟลอป /flíp-flôp/
crazy, not very bright: ติงต๊อง /dting-dtóng/
ping pong: ปิงปอง /bping-bpong/
zoom: ซูม /soom/
snap: สแนป /sa-nap/
spray: สเปรย์ /sà-bpray/


And here are the Onomatopoeic Thai words suggested in the comments. My thanks goes to Jørgen Nilsen, Gaelee, Rick Bradford, Tod Daniels and Kris Willems.

whining from children: งอแง /ngor ngae/
infant talking/making sounds: อ้อแอ้ /ôr âe/
worm moving: กระดึบกระดึบ /grà-dèup grà-dèup/
children starting to walk: เตาะแตะ /dtòr-dtàe/
to describe an explosion: บื้ม /bêum/
colloquial for urinate as in ‘ปวดฉี่’ /bpùat-chèe/ and is also the sound of frying something in oil: ฉี่ /chèe/ (goes with อึ /èu/)
“exercising” in the bed: ตับๆ /dtàp dtàp/
one that is very often used: อ้วก /ûak/
sound of a whistle: ปี๊ด /bpéet/
sound of kissing: ฟอด /fôt/
a loud whistle: หวีด /wèet/
threatening sound: เหม่ /mày/
crackling sound: กรอบแกรบ /gròp-gràep/


Did you hear the frog in the background? It must have been raining in Bangkok last night.

Two more Onomatopoeic words added from the FCLT Facebook group (Steve Stubs and Peter Krause):

bark: เห่า /ow/
vomit: อ้วก /ûak/
knock: เคาะๆ /kór kór/

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Loi Krathong Song Lyrics

Loi Krathong Song Lyrices

The Loi Krathong song in Thai…

My Thai teacher just loves to sing. And sometimes, right in the middle of a lesson, she will stand up and belt out a Thai song.

Often, she will drag me up too. Then, swinging her arms like a conductor, we prance around my sofa. In unison. Singing loud.

What a sight. Her, a tiny wee thing. And me, this blond western thing.

My teacher has a beautiful voice. And while my voice isn’t too shabby either, I’m glad my condo walls are thick!

For a long while, her song of choice was the Thai national anthem.

Fair enough, but I needed something different so we moved on to other songs (but not for very long).

Today is the Thai festival, Loi Krathong. And guess what? It has a song too.

Btw – if you are not sure what the festival is about, here is a brief explanation from my buddy Talen:

Originating as a Brahmanical festival adopted by Thai Buddhists during the reign of Rama IV in1863, Loy Kratong is a ceremony that venerates the Lord Buddha by offering floating trays laden with flowers, candles and incense. Loy translates to “float” in Thai, while Kratong pertains to a tray made from banana leaves. The light from the candle honors Lord Buddha, while the act of floating symbolizes the release of anger, resentment or any tarnishing of one’s character. It is a way for a person to make amends and start afresh.

And (surprise!) in honour of the festivities I learned the much loved Loi Krathong song.

So, are you ready to sing along?

วันเพ็ญ เดือน สิบสอง
wan-pen deuan sìp sŏng
full-moon day · month · twelve

น้ำ ก็ นอง เต็ม ตลิ่ง
náam · gôr · nong · dtem · dtà-lĭng
water · also · overflows · full · bank

เรา ทั้ง หลาย ชาย หญิง สนุก กัน จริง วัน ลอย กระทง
rao · táng · lăai · chaai · yĭng · sà-nùk · gan · jing · wan · loi · grà-tong
we · all · many · men · women · enjoy · together · really · day · float · basket

ลอย ลอย กระทง, ลอย ลอย กระทง
loi · loi · grà-tong, loi · loi · grà-tong
float · float · basket · float · float · basket

ลอย ลอย กระทง กัน แล้ว ขอ เชิญ น้อง แก้ว ออก มา รำวง
loi · loi · grà-tong · gan · láew · kŏr · chern · nóng · gáew· òk-maa · ram-wong
float · float · basket · together · and then · ask · young · beloved · come out · dance

รำวง วัน ลอย กระทง, รำวง วัน ลอย กระทง
ram-wong · wan · loi · grà-tong , ram-wong · wan · loi · grà-tong
dance · day · float · basket · dance · day · float · basket

บุญ จะ ส่ง ให้ เรา สุข ใจ, บุญ จะ ส่ง ให้ เรา สุข ใจ
bun · jà · sòng · hâi · rao · sùk · jai, bun · jà · sòng · hâi · rao · sùk · jai
making merit · will · make · us · happy · making merit · will · make · us · happy

Then begin at the beginning again…

Hunting down my darling…

My intention was to first type out the Thai script, then translate the song into English. But, when googling to find a better fit for nóng gáew (น้อง แก้ว), I found that learningthai.com had darling.

Learningthai.com (no longer online) also has a beautifully translated version of the Loi Krathong song:

The full moon (of) the twelfth month, as water fills to the banks.
We, all men and women, really have a good time (on) loy krathong day

Float, float the krathongs
Float, float the krathongs

After we’ve floated our krathongs, (I) invite (you) my darling to come out and dance.

Ramwong (on) loy krathong day
Ramwong (on) loy krathong day

(Making) merit will give us happiness
(Making) merit will give us happiness

The Loy Krathong song in English…

The English YouTube version has slightly different lyrics to the Thai Loi Krathong song.

Edit: The video has been deleted from YouTube. Pity.

November full moon shines

Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong

And the water’s high in local river and the klong

Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong
Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong

Loy gratong is here and everybody’s full of cheer

We’re together at the klong
Each one with his krathong
As we push away we pray
We can see a better day

Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong
Loi Krathong, Loi Krathong

Loy gratong is here and everybody’s full of cheer

So you you can choose to pray in English, or you can make merit in Thai. Up to you.

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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.

Audacity

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. Two of the top Thai publishers are Nation Egmont and 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.

Alladin
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

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

Pinocchio
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.

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

Pocahontas
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…

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

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Recording the Thai National Anthem with Niwat

Recording Khun Niwat

Everyone should have a Niwat…

My dear Canadian friend, Lynn, works with a wonderful guy here in Bangkok. Khun Niwat. And when a request is within his power, Khun Niwat delivers.

Can’t find a back street in Bangkok? Khun Niwat can source it right quick. Need a complicated form sussed out? Khun Niwat’s your man. Head shaking over the mysteries of living in Thailand? Khun Niwat is sure to know, or know someone who knows.

Niwat singsBeing gifted with a musical nature, Khun Niwat will often entertain Lynn with songs from his childhood, or popular tunes and short ballads. Week after week, she never knows what to expect. And when I’m along for the ride, me neither.

For instance, last week, during a drive to Ayutthaya, we were serenaded with the sweet Săao Pàk Hai สาว ผัก ไห่ (an Ayutthaya love song).

But as Lynn is making her way back home, there are not many Thai weeks left for her. That’s right, she’s going home to the cold country (she’ll be sorely missed).

I’m sure they’ll be many last requests before she’s on that plane (and maybe even after she’s gone). But here’s one I was pleased to help fulfil.

Yeah, you’ve surely guessed. Right? It’s a recording of Khun Niwat proudly singing the Thai National Anthem. The very same rousing song that gives us pause twice a day, at 8 and 6.

Thai National Anthem

Now, does that bring a smile to your face, or what?

Ok. For painfully slow readers (like me) let’s pull the reins in bit…
(…and for expats going for your Thai paper, it might not hurt to give it a go)

Thai National Anthem with script, transliteration and translation…

ประเทศ ไทย รวม เลือดเนื้อ ชาติ เชื้อ ไทย
Bprà-têt tai ruam lêuat-néua châat chéua Tai.
Thailand unites flesh and blood of Thais

เป็น ประชา รัฐ ไผท ของ ไทย ทุก ส่วน
Bpen bprà-chaa rát pà-tai kŏng Tai tóok sùan.
Nation of the people; belonging to the Thais in every respect.

อยู่ ดำรง คงไว้ไ ด้ ทั้ง มวล
Yòo dam-rong kong wái dâai táng muan…
Long maintained [has been] the independence…

ด้วย ไทย ล้วน หมาย รัก สามัคคี
…dûay Tai lúan măai rák săa-mák-kee.
…because the Thais seek, and love, unity.

ไทย นี้ รัก สงบ แต่ ถึง รบ ไม่ ขลาด
Tai née rák sà-ngòp dtàe tĕung róp mâi klàat.
Thais are peace-loving; but at war we’re no cowards.

เอกราช จะ ไม่ ให้ ใคร ข่ม ขี่
Ek-gà-râat jà mâi hâi krai kòm kèe,
Sovereignty will not be threatened,

สละ เลือด ทุก หยาด เป็น ชาติ พลี
sà-là lêuat tóok yàat bpen châat phali.
sacrificing every drop of blood for the nation.


เถลิง ประเท ศชาติ ไทย ทวี มี ชัย ชโย
Thaloeng bprà-têt châat Tai tá-wee mee chai cha-yo!
Hail the nation of Thailand, long last the victory, hurrah!


What you might not know about the Thai National Anthem…

  • The music was composed by Phra Jenduriyang (Peter Feit), the son of a German immigrant.
  • The words were written by Colonel Luang Saranuprapan.
  • It’s said to be similar to the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise (but I prefer the Thai).
  • Where the French anthem was used during the French Revolution, the Thai came along during the coup of 1932.
  • When the national flag is raised, the Thai anthem is played in public offices and radio and tv stations at 8.00 every morning and 6.00 in the evening. Be prepared to show honour by standing still.
  • Along with a Thai Royal Anthem, the Thais show respect to their King and Queen during the Thai National Anthem.
  • To qualify to even apply for Thai citizenship, the applicant must be able to sing the Thai National Anthem.

More about the Thai National Anthem…

A warm thanks goes to Khun Niwat, for sharing his voice. And another thanks goes to Wikipedia’s translation of the Thai National Anthem, as well as Thai2English.com for their transliteration assistance. And I’d better not forget Lynn. Thanks girl! Thanks for being quiet yesterday, while we fiddled with computers and mics and cats and recordings… and all without a noisy ac (I’m still dripping).

Note: If you are wondering what Khun Niwat is doing with a white ball and script for the Thai Alphabet, please stay tuned while we figure out how to get fuzz-free entertainment from a Snowball.

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The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write Thai

Books to read

I’m all for the easy way out…

Learning how to read Thai is often a stumbling block for students of the Thai language. Some students have opted to forgo the pleasure. Others have stops and starts. Then there are those who soar through all with ease (and those, we admire through clinched teeth).

I’m of the stops and starts variety. I also go for the easiest way possible, which is what you’ll get here.

Note: In this post I won’t be taking you through the Thai alphabet letter by letter. I’ll be sharing methods and available resources for beginners learning to read and write Thai. And while my way may not be your way, you’ll still find decent resources.

Reading Thai the easy way…

Before you begin reading, you’ll need to know what each letter sounds like, their class, and if they have different sounds at the beginning or end of a word.

And if you’ve started to panic at the thought of learning 44 Thai consonants (along with their initial and final sounds), 32 different vowel configurations, numbers, and all those extra symbols, then head over to 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet.

60 Minutes How it works… as you can see from the graphic, the letter is represented with an easy to remember object association. In this case, a swan.

The graphic also includes a setting (beach, town, mountains) to denote the class (low, medium and high). And as the swan is on the beach, it’s a low class consonant (class determines tone).

Consonants gifted with different sounds at the beginning and end have two word descriptions, as in Swan Tail.

Note: With 60 Minutes, you don’t learn the full Thai name for each (in this case it would be ซ = so so = chain). What you learn is the approximate English sound. And when attempting to learn a confusing language such as Thai, a close English equivalent gets you to the next step with ease.

Getting the Thai sounds down…

Your next move is to get the actual sounds and full names into your head. IMHO, the best Thai alphabet sources available on the Internet are:

You’d think that learning to read Thai with 60 Minutes would interfere with learning the individual names, but it didn’t for me.

The Thai I learned at ashoka10’s Channel and Learn Thai Podcast slid to the front. What I learned at 60 Minutes stayed in the background until I needed to remember which letter had two sounds, and what class they were. Then visual linking clicked in.

Testing your alphabet skills via flashcards (hardcopy)…

Thai FlashcardsIf you are in Thailand, you can purchase flash cards at most Thai bookstores with a children’s section (all in Thai).

To my knowledge, there are no Thai flashcards that include everything – alphabet, graphic, English explanation and examples – so if it’s important to you, you’ll need an additional resource.

Suggestion: Buy two sets of flashcards with complimenting elements (I used the colour Thai version, with the English / Thai black and white).

And you can always print your own from slice-of-thai.com, Thai consonant/vowel flashcards. Or by printing an existing set and/or creating a new one at Cram (formerly Flashcard Exchange).

Testing your alphabet skills via flashcards (SRS)…

SRS (Spaced Repetition Systems) are basically digital flash cards. Some are online, other SRS programs can be downloaded to your computer. Some, like the Cram have Thai sets created by other users. Others are a clean slate (no Thai available).

  • Anki (download)
    A program designed to help you remember words and phrases (Mac, Windows, Linux and Debian).
  • ProVoc (download)
    Easy-to-use vocabulary trainer (Mac).
  • SuperMemo (download, online, as well as without computer)
    A learning method that makes it possible to learn fast and retain memories for years (Windows).
  • The Mnemosyne Project (download)
    A flash-card program to help you memorise question/answer pairs, but with an important twist: it uses a sophisticated algorithm to schedule the best time for a card to come up for review (Mac, Linux and Windows).

You’ll also find a growing list of SRS products in Searching for a Thai Language Learning Style: SRS and More.

Writing Thai the easy way…

When I started writing Thai, I felt forced into an uncomfortable scrunch when using the course books from AUA. It was definitely not for me. You might not feel the pinch so go ahead and try them. But I did. Beware. The books are poorly reproduced so they are also difficult to read. Eye strain. Hand strain. That’s all the excuse I needed to bail.

Knowing there just had to be a better way, I started hounding the different bookstores in Bangkok.

Thai Practice BooksFor those living in Thailand, kindergarten books for practicing the Thai alphabet are not difficult to find. Again, just drop by that Thai bookstore with the childrens’ section.

And just like their counterpart in the West, they have ample space to practice your new alphabet. Over and over.

If you prefer a grown up approach, then Reading Thai is Fun by James Neal might just be the one for you.

In Reading Thai is Fun, James shows you how to feel the natural flow of writing Thai by using the cursive style of an adult. Not the formal boxy style taught to children.

Reading Thai is FunTo understand what I mean, grab a stack of scrap paper.

Then, as big as you like (I used a 1/4 page for each), fluidly write the Thai letter ม in the graphic to the left.

Each letter has a start and finish, so be sure to note the drawing direction at learningthai.com/writing_09 (site offline for now).

Keep tracing over that letter until you own it. Until you are in the alphabet zone if you like. I like.

Putting it all together…

  1. To get a general feel, flip through 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet.
  2. With paper and pen, work through each letter at Reading Thai is Fun while…
  3. …intermittently clicking on relevant sounds found at learningthai.com/writing, Practice Writing Thai Letters (site offline for now). If tech savvy, record each into a loop for hands-free ease.

Soon you’ll have the shapes, sounds, tones and class down solid. You’ll also be ready for Thai / English readers found at Thai publishers such as Nation Egmont and Nanmeebooks and thai-bookshop.com. Right?

More reading and writing tips…

  • Practice writing the Thai script for at least 15 minutes a day.
  • Listen to spoken Thai often, no matter how bored, frustrated, or confused.
  • Load down an iPod for short walks around town.
  • Grab a stack of flash cards when headed out the door.

What you might not know…

  • Spoken Thai and written Thai are not always the same.
  • You are not going blind, there really are missing letters in Thai words.
  • Yes, some Thai words are read from middle to left then top to bottom.
  • If the lack of spaces between words frustrates you, hark back to Illuminated Manuscripts.

More reading and writing resources…

Shortly after taking on the Thai alphabet, I found myself sitting in a taxi at a long light on Paholyothin in Bangkok. Looking out the window to my left, I was thrilled to be able to read a street sign in Thai.

I wish you the same joy.

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