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Tag: phrase-book-reviews

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

When They Can't Speak Thai

What to do with your guests, lah?…

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

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

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

Or do you go for the pictures option?

Pictures to go…

ICOON – global picture dictionary

ICOONAuthor: AMBERDESIGN
Publisher: AMBERPRESS
Date: 2008
Pages: 95
Size: 4-1/2 x 6-1/4 x 1/4

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Me No Speak

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Point It: Traveller’s Language Kit

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

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

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

Table of contents:
None

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

For when you want to wear your phrases…

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

Other Pictionary type resources…

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

Thai picture dictionary

Thai For Kids Pictionary

The Internet Picture Dictionary

Visual Dictionary

Visual Dictionary Online

LingvoSoft Talking Picture Dictionary for Pocket PC

The Oxford Picture Dictionary: English-Thai Edition

Thai picture dictionaries…

2,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

4,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

5000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

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

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Thai Phrase Books with a Twist

Thai Language Phrase Books with a Twist

Even more Thai phrase books…

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

Bua Luang Phrase HandBook

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai Fetch-a-Phrase

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

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

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

Online resources…

WikiTravel Thai phrasebook

Not offered in Thai, but they could be…

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

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

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

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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The Monty Python Phrase Book

Monty Python

And what phrase book is without humour?…

Deep into all things Thai phrase books, I couldn’t resist sharing a classic, The Hungarian Phrasebook sketch.

The Hungarian Phrasebook sketch was first shown in Episode 25 of the Flying Circus TV Show, in the 1970’s. Later on it was included in ‘And Now For Something Completely Different’.

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Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review

Thai Language Phrase Books

The guts of a phrase book…

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

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

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

Phrase book considerations…

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

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

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

Below are the criteria I created to review phrase books:

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

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

What other people are saying about the phrase books…

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

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

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

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

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

And now for the Thai language phrase book review…

Berlitz Thai Travel Pack

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

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Collins Thai Phrasebook CD Pack

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Easy Thai

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

English-Thai Phrase Book with CD

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

English-Thai Pocket Book

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Hide This Thai Phrase Book

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Eyewitness Thai Phrase Book

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Practical Thai 15th Edition

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai for Travellers (Asia Books)

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai for Travellers with CD

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai in Your Pocket (Asia Books)

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai: Lonely Planet Phrasebook

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai Phrase Book with Tones

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

Thai Without Tears

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

The Rough Guide to Thai Dictionary Phrasebook

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

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

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

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

Table of contents:

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

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

Next up: Thai Phrase Books with a Twist.

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Using Thai Phrase Books

Using Thai Phrase Books

Yeah! You are on your way to Thailand!…

You purchased a Thai language phrase book, shoved it into the bottom of your backpack or luggage, and off you went to Thailand.

So wrong.Waiting waitress

In Traveling with Thai Phrase Books, I learned a simple lesson, which is: you get out of phrase books what you put in.

Seriously.

Look at it this way. When you are searching for a word or phrase to converse with the pen wielding Thai waitress at the end of your table, time is limited. Sometimes theirs.

Or how about this one. When your head is pounding and stomach is heaving, and you flip hopelessly back and forth through your phrase book to find any word or phrase for the Thai pharmacist, time is so limited. Usually yours.

Before you get on that plane…

So before you pack your bags even, spend some quality time with your phrase book.

First, read your phrase book of choice from cover to cover, taking note of which phrases hold an interest for you.

Then, using coloured highlighters, yellow stickies, pen or pencil or all of the before mentioned, start making your phrase book your own.

Yes, mark up and dog-ear that baby, because the chances are you’ll lose it at some point after your arrival anyway, so you might as well use it well.

For notes and reminders, affix a blank page to the back of the book. You can either cut pages to size, or fold a page to fit. Easy.

If you are a seasoned traveler you’ll know what to look for. If not, then turn to the Key Phrases section of your phrase book and start practicing.

What? You don’t have a key phrases section? Then you bought the wrong phrase book.

To practice: Add your phrases of choice to flash cards to read in spare moments; jot them on yellow stickies to attach to your bathroom mirror for an early morning brush up; or, if sound files were included, load them into your iPod for almost anywhere.

These Thai phrases are wired for sound…

Yes, in a perfect world – especially with a tonal language like Thai – your phrase book will come with sound files.

In the beginning everything will be odd sounding, so be patient and pretty soon a phrase or two will sound natural. I promise.

But I can’t say this enough: Thai is a tonal language.

To make sure that you are getting the tones right, download the free version of BYKI for Thai and go to their Pronunciation Practice section to compare your attempts with native speakers.

Psst… if you purchase the full version (dirt cheap), you can drag your phrase book sound files into BYKI and have a proper go.

No, I don’t get a cut from the people I send to BYKI; I honestly love their product.

If your phrase book is lacking sound, head over to the Mother of all Thai resources: Learn Thai for FREE and take your pick.

Before you get off that plane…

There you are, finally, on your flight to Thailand, with an umbrella hanging off the corner of your fruity drink. You are so excited that you can’t sit still.

Hey, all that nervous energy is a good thing as your real homework has just begun!

That’s right, while still on the plane, dig out your phrase book and sound files (if you have them) and go over the very first words you’ll say once in Thailand.

Let’s see, they just might be สวัสดี ค่ะ/ครับ (sà-wàt-dee khâ/cap) followed by แท็กซี่ (táek-sêe), which is generally followed by the instructions to your hotel. And you do know those, right?

So here’s the plan. Each morning, before stepping out of your cosy world and into the Kingdom of Thailand, take note of the phrases and words you’ll need: Taking taxis, shopping, getting a massage, going sightseeing, house hunting, asking for directions, whatever.

And if you make this a habit, you’ll get the best out of your phrase book as well as the Thai experience, for sure.

Transliteration, my pet peeve…

To prepare for this series I purchased over a dozen Thai phrase books. Along with several surprises, I discovered that hardly any use the same transliteration style.

On top of the transliteration confusion (they can’t all be right, right?), your home country accent – Australian, Canadian, American, British, French, German or whatever – does matter.

And with Thai being a tonal language (there I go again), well, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this…

Transliteration is meant to be used as a crutch, not a lifeline. So if you do plan on spending a fair time in Thailand, perhaps put some time into learning the basics of the Thai alphabet.

Even if it is only enough to clarify for your ears whether ก sounds like a G or a K, you’ll thank me.

A Thai phrase book tip recap…

  • Read through your phrase book at least once.
  • Take note of the phrases you’ll use most often.
  • Practice key phrases (with an iPod if possible).
  • Before heading out, highlight the phrases you’ll need.
  • Jot down notes and reminders for later.

Other Thai phrase resources…

Conversational Thai in 7 Days
Break the language barrier the quick and easy way! (easy is not going to happen, but the phrases are handy).

In-Flight Thai
Learn before you land: Over 400 essential words, phrases, and expressions.

Next up: Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review.

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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Traveling with Thai Phrase Books

Thai Phrase Books

Do language phrase books ever talk our talk?…

To set the record straight, phrase books and I have never talked the same language. Sure, they are a window into learning a foreign language, but for me it has been a meager view.

But no matter. In the hopes of changing my opinion, I escaped to a tiny island off the coast of Thailand with six Thai language phrase books stuffed into a very full backpack.

Collins Thai Phrasebook CD Pack, Eyewitness Thai Phrase Book, Thai: Lonely Planet Phrasebook, Practical Thai 15th Edition, Thai Without Tears and The Rough Guide to Thai Dictionary Phrasebook.

The main agenda for the trip was to get some serious and needed R&R (which I did). But as it also presented an opportunity to check out Thai phrase books in real time, I went for it.

The plan? When conversing with Thais, my dear Canadian friend and I were to limit ourselves to speaking only the Thai we could locate quickly in the phrase books.

SinghIt was hilarious dragging a stack of phrase books around the island (they may be small, but when multiplied by six the awkwardness grows).

It was equally amusing digging through book after book for just the right phrase, with waitresses standing and sometimes sitting at the end of our table, clicking their pens and rolling their eyes.

The outcome? Finding the perfect first phrase was a struggle. And equally important? The phase that comes after a Thai response. The surprise? It was near on impossible to read some of the text in low light situations.

But all in all, my Thai island getaway loaded down with Thai phrase books was a hoot of an exercise, and the Singha went down grand!

Regrets, I have a few…

Regretfully, I did not include Thai Fetch-a-Phrase or Instant Thai in the mix.

Another regret? That we did not take the time to find our way around each book before venturing out. Why? Because it’s no good complaining that phrase books don’t work if an effort to understand how they are arranged is not made.

With this in mind, in the next post I’ll discuss what to do before you head out with that Thai language phrase book.

Next up: Using Thai Phrase Books.

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

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