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Tag: recording

Does Your Computer Speak Thai?

Your computer speaks Thai even if you don't

Your computer can speak Thai… even if you don’t…

Those learning Thai struggle. No doubt. There’s a ton of free audio available for Chinese, French, Italian, German, yadda yadda. But not so much for learning Thai. Many students of Thai have resorted to recording their own materials.

Recording Thai vocabulary and phrases is fairly easy for those who live in Thailand. What I do is set up my SnowBall, grab a generous Thai friend, and have fun. But when birds started screaming at all hours and then jackhammers joined in, recording Thai for posts (even with a portable soundbox) became difficult to pull off.

Then along came Bernard Le Du’s post SI, SI, VOTRE MAC PARLE THAÏ ! So YES! YES! my Mac CAN speak Thai! And by that, I mean it can read Thai out loud.

There are several ways to get your computer to speak Thai by reading from Thai script. And each have their own quirks. On the Mac, Lion and Mountain Lion have Thai capabilities. For the PC, other than using Chrome, I don’t know what’s available. If you do let us know in the comments (and if you want to write a post on the subject, please contact me).

Note: For the sample audio I’m using a phrase from Hugh’s, Thai Language Thai Culture: Pain and Suffering: ปวดไหม /bpùat măi/ (does that hurt?)

Lion and Mountain Lion…

Following Bernard’s instructions, to get my Mac to speak Thai I first had to upgrade my computer. When I eventually got around to it – my life has been insane lately – the process was almost painless.

Download Narisa >> System Prefs >> Dictation Speech >> Text to Speech >> Narisa. I say ‘almost’ painless because Apple muffed up the download (but Bernard came to my rescue – thanks Bernard :-)

To hear audio: Select Thai text >> right click >> choose ‘Speak Thai’ from contextual menu.

To record audio: Select Thai text >> right click >> choose ‘Add to iTunes as Spoken Track’ from contextual menu >> select Narisa >> Continue (mp4 format).


In his post Bernard also mentioned a sound spelling checker. That’ll come in handy as I’m cacca at spelling in any language.

Mac App: Voice…

In the Mac App store there’s a free app called Voice (the graphic is shown in the banner above). Voice also uses Narisa.

To hear audio: Open the app >> paste the text into the window >> select the text >> click ‘play’.

To record audio: Instead of clicking ‘play’, click ‘record’ to export a sound file (aiff format).


Chrome extensions…

NOTE: The Chrome extensions don’t record (that I could find) so from here on in I’ve used Audacity. The results are not as clear as the originals but fiddling didn’t give an exact sound either so I left them as is. Comparing the audio files direct from my computer, Luke’s Speak Thai and Google Translate have a sweeter sound.

Awhile back Luke Hubbard @lukeinTH (programmer at codegent.com) came out with a handy Chrome extension, Speak Thai. When I enquired he was happy to share.

Is very simple from a tech point of view. Its a little extension that sends the selected text the text to speech server used by Google translate. This then speaks it out in Thai using the html5 audio api. The source code is available to anyone who fancies having a look.

I wrote it the other day while stuck in traffic to scratch a little itch. Like many farang living here I can understand quite a bit of spoken Thai but I’ve never actually learned to read the script (call me lazy). I have Google translate plugin in my browser and that can translate the whole page but it doesn’t do a good job on conversational Thai (the sort of thing in social media feeds). Worse it seems to rewrite English into Pigeon English leaving me with broken Thai and broken English :). Up until now I’ve been copying small bits of text over to Google translate and translating them there to get some context. Really what I wanted was a way to speak out the text since I can usually understand it if I hear it.

In the past I’ve done this in OSX using the excellent Narisa voice plus some accessibility shortcut to read the selected text. While thats is one solution it does involve a rather big download (900mb if I remember correctly) and I didn’t have it installed on this computer. Since Google has a similar capability I thought I might as well make an extension to make better use of it.

Speak Thai: Select Thai text >> right click >> choose ‘Speak Thai’ from contextual menu. Reads short bits of text (perfect for twitter).


Chrome Speak: Select Thai text >> right click >> choose ‘Read the selected text’ from contextual menu. Reads long bits of text.


SpeakIt!: Select Thai text >> right click >> choose ‘SpeakIt!’ from contextual menu.


Google Translate…

Google Translate will speak Thai for you, but not Thai and English combined (it defaults to English).


Rendering text-to-speech files…

Christopher from MacWorld has an interesting Mac tutorial for automating TextExit files to audio, Rendering text-to-speech files. Problem is, I can’t get it to work (doesn’t allow ‘Show This Action When the Workflow Runs’). If you can get your head around it please let me know!

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Recording My Thai Lessons With a Blue SnowBall

Recording Thai Lessons

I’ve got recording (mostly) sussed…

I finally read all the way through the instructions to my SnowBall, so in this post you’ll get the basics for recording your own Thai too. Whether it’s for your Thai lessons, or a SLR, or a few Thai words here and there.

What I use to record…

  • Mic: SnowBall (inexpensive and gives great sound)
  • Pop filter: Nady MPF-6 Nady 6 Inch Clmap On (guards against spitting sounds)
  • Software: Audacity (free and runs on both Mac and PC)
  • Computer: I’m using a Mac (PC’s are fine too)
  • Thai: A Niwat (translates, does voice, and cleans up nice)

The basic settings to record voice…

  1. On the back of the SnowBall there’s a switch with 3 settings. Flip it left to #1.
  2. Mac (PC will be similar) >> System Preferences >> Sound >> Blue Snowball USB.
  3. Audacity >> Preferences >> Audio 1/0 >> Device Core Audio: Blue Snowball >> 1 (Mono).
  4. Leave the rest of the Audacity settings as is.
  5. Restart Audacity (important).

When I finally had everything in place, there were grins all around. Just check it out.

Recording then.

Recording now.

Both were recorded directly via Audacity without much messing around. Sure, you can tweak the noise removal (as well as a ton of other options), but noise removal makes for a metallic file (once heard, you’ll recognise it on files around the net).

Recording with Audacity…

Open Audacity >> Save Project As (give it a name) >> click the round pink button to record >> click the brown square button to stop.

Cut, paste and delete inside that file, or paste a selection into a fresh file.

To remove volume differences (you’ll be glad you did), select all (Command+A for the Mac, Ctrl+A for the PC), then go under Effect >> Compressor >> and leave the settings as is.

Read the Audacity manual for more editing details.

Personal tip: When recording for long stretches, sometimes my files corrupt. A pain. As a safeguard, save the file, then export as your file type of choice (I’m using MP3 for now).

File >> Export as >> WAV / MP3 …

Setting yourself up…

Living room set upI’m using my living room at the moment. Computer on keyboard stand, script on music stand, mic nearby.

It’s pretty good, but not perfect. What I’m lacking now is a sound booth.

You’ll agree too when you hear the noticeable whooping of a Common Koel in the background of the Thai Alphabet poem (coming next).

In the meantime we’re shutting off the AC’s and fans, holding our breath, and dripping sweat like crazy.

Oh, and hoping the darn birds sleep through each recording session (dream on, yes?) Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing the birds of Thailand (just not superimposed over my Thai lessons).

Still to come, a sound booth…

Harlan Hogan improved on an excellent idea from Douglas Spotted Eagle (no longer online). A portable sound booth. Pretty basic, all it takes is a Whitmor Collapsible Cube and acoustic wall panels (see Harlan’s site for instructions).

If you can’t be trusted with a sharp knife, go to amazon.com and purchase a Porta-Booth ready to ship.

Ingenious really. Douglas figured out that for quiet recording, isolating the mic is a must. But not the whole room.

Featured recording resources and more…

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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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