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How I Learned to Speak Thai During My First Month

Speak Thai

So, there I was: sitting in the same old café, listening to my cheerful old friend talking about all the fun she had while teaching English in Thailand, when suddenly I felt very old. I’m still what they call young, but at that moment I swear I was ancient. Something was missing from my life. And then I realized I had been listening about it for the last hour, in between sips of coffee.

I needed to go live abroad for a while! I needed to learn a new language, become friends with a new culture. The country I chose was Thailand. I had visited it before as a tourist, and fell in love with it, but this time I was going to get a teaching job there and finally learn Thai.

And that’s exactly what I did. I got a teaching job there. Now I was faced with the second part of my wish: learning the language. I had tried learning Thai, spent a lot on courses, but made no major progress. My pronunciation was terrible and my vocabulary limited. That got me worried. What if I wasn’t gifted enough to learn Thai? What if I get really disappointed? Perhaps it was just too difficult?

I’m sure many people feel like that when they’re about to embark on an adventure quite different than any before. The adventure in question here wasn’t just living in Thailand, but learning Thai too!

However, as I soon realized, there are ways of successfully learning a language no matter where you live! It is, of course, extremely valuable to communicate with native speakers on a daily basis if you wish to learn it quickly, but there are a few more things you can do. This is what I did in order to learn Thai fast:

1) I moved to Thailand…

Okay, yes, I know – easier said than done. You might not be in a position to move to Thailand, but I had already signed my contract, so for me it wasn’t an issue.

As it turned out, this proved to be the crucial step for my knowledge of Thai. It gave me the chance to figure out what I had been doing wrong and to focus on what needed to be fixed.

First thing I did, however, was this: I swore to myself that I was not going to be timid in my attempts to communicate with the locals. No way. I was going to immerse myself in the language and in the culture. I was going to surround myself with Thai and not resort to speaking English every time it got a little difficult to communicate. And it worked!

It was frustrating at times, but I powered through it. I used my free time for trips, I explored, experienced the everyday life of the locals. Thai people are very nice and interested in foreigners. The benefits of being surrounded by native speakers are numerous and extremely helpful for learning!

2) I learned the Thai alphabet before I arrived in the country…

Don’t panic – at first glance this seems extremely difficult if you’re used to the English alphabet and 26 letters. The Thai alphabet has a completely different script and consists of 44 consonants and 15 vowel symbols that comprise 32 vowels. A little overwhelming, I know.

Here’s what you can do, though, to make the learning easier: put two posters on your wall, next to your bed if you can – one with consonants and one with vowels. At this stage, everything will probably seem very strange to you, but that’s ok. Set aside a certain amount of time every single day to look at these symbols and make the sound with your mouth that they’re associated with.

Also, I found Easy Thai Alphabet very helpful and I highly recommend these learning methods. And, as a big fan of flashcards, I loved Thai FlashCards.

3) I started with the basics on my own…

In this day and age, technology allows us access to great amounts of material for learning. You can google the basics of any language and practice with various audio and video guides. That’s what I did.

First, I practiced the tones of Thai. This is a tonal language and a word in Thai can mean different things when a different tone is applied. Take ‘mai’ for example. ‘Mai’ can mean ‘no’, ‘new’ or ‘microphone’ depending on the tone applied.

When you read a Thai word, you will often see one of the four tone markers which are named ‘mai eak’, ‘mai toh’, ‘mai tree’ and ‘mai juttawa’. There is no tone marker in a syllable with a normal (mid) tone.

A good way of practicing the tones is through videos on YouTube. There are some very good ones, featuring native speakers. This lesson from Learn Thai With Mod was one of my favourites. Find the ones that suit you most and repeat the exercises as many times as you need!

Next, I learnt the most frequent groups of words. I focused on topics such as:

  • Greetings
  • Numbers
  • Places
  • Foods
  • Jobs

I made flashcards and practiced. You can do this too. Set mini-goals for yourself. Don’t try to take giant steps.

What kind of flashcards do you prefer? For me, a combination of physical cards and the Thai Flashcards app did the job.

Traditional, physical cards offer beginners the best focus possible. That rectangular space confines the word(s) and makes you really pay attention. You can add photos, drawings or colored letters to your flashcards. This will help you remember the words even better as more sensory nerves will be employed.

The digitized flashcards offer everything that your senses need: audio pronunciation, relevant images, dynamic games…

Whatever you choose, practice with your flashcards as often as you can! Repeating makes you burn the words into your long-term memory.

Finally, I moved on to basic conversations. These too can be found within some excellent channels on YouTube.

6) I used technology to the max…

We live in a world where technology can help us in many ways. There are language exchange programs that let you communicate with native speakers and numerous apps you can download easily.

I, for example, always carry the Talking Thai <> English Dictionary with me. On my phone, that is. It’s simple to use and comes in very handy. Apps like these are easy to find on Google Play or iTunes. Just choose the right dictionary or phrasebook for yourself and practice away!

If you can’t be in contact with native speakers every day, you can always use the advantages of learning via Skype lessons or through language exchange sites. I’ve heard only good things about Learn Thai with Mod.

Italki is a great example of language exchange program benefits. Teach your native language to a Thai native and learn at the same time. It’s the perfect exchange!

5) I watched Thai movies…

I know, sounds too simple, right? You shouldn’t underestimate this type of audio-visual learning! If you just relax, your brain will pick up things and you’ll be surprised!

There are a number of frequent words and phrases that get repeated throughout any movie, so these will quickly become familiar to you.

Repeat these words after the actors. Stop the movie if necessary. Listen carefully to the pronunciation. Your brain will connect the words to the context. And your vocabulary will expand with every movie.

No matter what genre you prefer, you can find a lot of Thai movies online. Try Filmdoo, for example.

Oh, a tip: Don’t watch the movies with English subtitles. Use the Thai ones instead. This way, your brain will connect the spoken words with the written ones in the subtitles and help you learn more.

6) I did not let myself give up!…

So, there I was: surrounded by the beautiful Thai people, eating fantastic Thai food, enjoying this different, fascinating culture, when suddenly I felt very tired. Learning Thai demanded a lot of effort. However, I considered myself quite lucky to have felt this sort of tiredness. It was a sign that I was doing something very important to me, something fulfilling, and that I was doing it right!

Learning Thai quickly is a challenge indeed, but a very rewarding one!

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Discount: Learn Thai Style’s Speak, Read & Write Thai Course

Thai Style

Discount: Learn Thai Style…

Before Xmas, Tom Lane from Learn Thai Style and I got into a discussion about LTS offering specials to the Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook group and readers of WLT.

The below offer is just one of several to come. Enjoy!

Get 50% off the Speak, Read & Write Thai Course at Learn Thai Style. You’ll receive lifetime access to over 700 trained teachers, structured, written, audio, video and self study learning materials and learner support.

To get the discount, use this promo code: I will learn thai 2015

Web: Learn Thai Style
YouTube: Learn Thai Style
Twitter: @LearnThaiStyle

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Asking for Directions in Thailand

Thai Language

Asking for Directions in Thailand…

After my last post, Do Thais Want Me to Speak Thai?, I received an interesting link to a posting on ThaiVisa.com, Speaking Thai in Thailand is Useless.

The poster says that he speaks “pretty good Thai including tones etc. phood chart”. I believe he means พูดชัด /pûut chát/ (speaks clearly). But even though he speaks Thai so well:

“It hasn’t (sic) really helped at all as when I am in a restaurant or venue and order in what I think is perfect Thai they just look at me with the look of a Phnom Phenn Motorcycle Taxi driver, then look at the Thai I am with for confirmation. She/he says exactly the same thing as I just said then everything is ok.”

If you have read my last post then you already probably know my take on this: Your Thai friend speaks “perfect Thai”, you, on the other hand, maybe not so “perfect”. BTW, I was once in Phnom Penn and met a taxi driver who did speak perfect Thai – but I digress.

It’s the comments on the forum post that I was interested in. They contain some of the generalizations that are so prevalent in the Farang community in Thailand. You know, they always start out with “Thais …”. In this case the generalizations have to do with asking for directions in Thailand.

Here are a few of the top generalizations:

  • Most of us know that back home if you need directions or some local knowledge you just as (sic) a local, not here.
  • Thais are reluctant to ask for directions.
  • Thais are not so good with directions.
  • It is not uncommon that Thais ask another Thai for directions to somewhere and then are confused by the answer.
  • Normally if you follow their directions they are wrong.
  • Face, some think by asking for directions it makes them lose face by appearing to be ignorant.
  • Never ask them for directions.

I never cease to be amazed at the depth at which visitors to Thailand understand the workings of the Thai culture and Thai psyche. But since it appears that so many people are having trouble asking for directions (a problem everyone, especially men I have to admit, have everywhere in the world – see below) I thought that maybe a short primer on Thai direction words and phrases might help you get where you’re going.

For our purposes let’s say we are looking for วัดดอยคำ /wát doi kam/, Wat Doi Kham, “the temple on the golden hill”.

Asking for directions…

Note: They are often used with the Thai “be” word อยู่ /yùu/

Where: ที่ไหน /tîi-nǎi/


วัดดอยคำอยู่ที่ไหน
wát doi kam yùu tîi-nǎi
Where is the Doi Kham Temple?


Which way (direction): ตรงไหน /dtrong nǎi/


วัดดอยคำอยู่ตรงไหน
wát doi kam yùu dtrong nǎi
Which way to Doi Kham Temple?


Far: ไกล /glai/


วัดดอยคำอยู่ไกลมั้ย
wát doi kam yùu glai mái
Is the Doi Kham Temple far (from here)?


Close: ใกล้ glâi


วัดดอยคำอยู่ใกล้มั้ย
wát doi kam yùu glâi mái
Is the Doi Kham Temple close (to here)?


How far: ไกลเท่าไหร่ /glai tâo-rài/


วัดดอยคำอยู่ไกลเท่าไหร่
wát doi kam yùu glai tâo-rài
How far is Doi Kham Temple (from here)?


How many: กี่ /gèe/ (kilos – กิโล /gì-loh/); (meters – เมตร méet)


วัดดอยคำอยู่กี่กิโล(จากที่นี่)
wát doi kam yùu gèe gì-loh (jàak têe-nêe)
How many kilos is Doi Kham Temple (from here)?


How long (will it take to get there from here): เท่าไร /tâo-rai/


จะใช้นานเท่าไร
jà chái naan tâo-rai
How long will it take (to get there)?


Giving directions…

ตรงไป(ข้างหน้า)
dtrong bpai (kâang nâa)
Straight (ahead).


เลี้ยวซ้าย
líeow sáai
Turn left.


เลี้ยวขวา
líeow kwăa
Turn right.


อยู่ 10 กิโลเมตรจากที่นี่
yòo 10 gì-loh méet jàak têe nêe
It’s (10 kilos) from here.


อยู่ใกล้
yòo glâi
It is close.


อยู่ไกล
yòo glai
It is far.


อยู่ข้างๆ
yòo kâang-kâang
Next to.


อยู่ข้างหลัง
yòo kâang lăng
Behind.


อยู่ด้านหน้า
yòo dâan nâa
In front of.


And when nothing else works I have often been the grateful recipient of a local person’s kind assistance.

ผมจะพาคุณไป
pǒm jà paa kun bpai
I will take you there.


This just happened…

I was out trimming my Bougainvillea hedges when a car pulled up and a woman asked me for directions (so much for Thais not willing to ask for directions). She said

บ้านสัปเหร่ออยู่ที่ไหน
bâan sàp-bpà-rèr yùu tîi-nǎi
Where is the “sup-er-er’s” house?


Now I knew I had heard the word สัปเหร่อ /sàp-bpà-rèr/ before and I remembered it had something to do with death. Since there was a crematorium just up the road I figured that was what she wanted so I smiled and being the helpful soul that I am I pointed out the crematorium and said

อยู่ที่นี่เอง
yùu tîi nîi eeng
It’s right here.


แค่ร้อยเมตร
kâe rói méet
Only about 100 meters.


อยู่ข้างขวา
yùu kâang-kwǎa
On the right.


But as it turned out I was giving her completely wrong directions.

You see the common Thai word for “crematorium”, which is what was down the road, is สุสาน /sù-sǎan/ or ป่าช้า /bpàa-cháa/ which are words that originally meant cemetery but modern usage includes a place to cremate bodies. The sign in front of the one down our road uses the word สุสาน /sù-sǎan/.

crematorium: สุสาน /sù-sǎan/ or ป่าช้า /bpàa-cháa/


But the woman had asked directions for บ้านสัปเหร่อ or the “undertaker’s house”. The word สัปเหร่อ /sàp-bpà-rèr/ means “undertaker’. Not the same thing.

undertaker’s house: บ้านสัปเหร่อ


Right after she drove on I remembered all this. I was in the ballpark, I got the “death” thing right, but no cigar. As I saw her drive into the cemetery, and not the undertaker’s house where she really wanted to go, I slowly closed my gate and slunk back home so she wouldn’t see me. I know there is usually only one reason to look for บ้านสัปเหร่อ and I felt sorry for her. I hope she eventually found what she was looking for.

Here’s the audio files for the ‘Asking for Directions in Thailand’ post: download

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Do Thais Want Me to Speak Thai?

Thai Language

Do Thais Want Me to Speak Thai?…

Since I have been submitting a bit of grammar in the series Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary, I thought it was time to comment a little more on the cultural side of living and attempting to communicate here in Thailand, especially as this series is called Thai Language Thai Culture. So today I would like to tackle a cross cultural misunderstanding that I have observed for a long time now – and luckily in describing it we can come up with a language lesson.

The Misunderstanding…

The Thais don’t want me to learn how to speak Thai! Every time I try speaking Thai to them, they tune me out, or switch to talking to me in their broken English.

First of all I have a few general comments about the above complaint. Whenever you hear someone say “Thais” do this, or “Thais” do that, be aware that there are over 65 million Thais and the person speaking probably has only met a few of them, so his knowledge of what they ALL do is limited. It is quite difficult to stereotype Thais when dozens of languages and dialects are spoken, and when many cultures and sub-cultures are represented.

Also, I wonder if the same percentage of people who feel this way (that Thais don’t want them to learn Thai), are the same people who tell us that it really isn’t necessary to learn Thai tones. I would bet the correlation is high.

I have found that if it is a language misunderstanding, then 95% of the time it is because I am either saying something incorrectly, or more likely, I have gotten my tones, vowels, or consonants completely bungled.

Thais really don’t want me to speak Thai?…

We can maybe find the answer in this short anecdote.

I was at the golf course the other day, at the 19th hole having a cold drink, when two Farang golfers went up to the desk and asked for some soft drinks. Here is how the interchange went:

Serving girl: กี่ขวดคะ /gèe kùat ká/
Golfer: ซ่อง /sông/

The girl looked at him strangely, and in fact took a step back with a confused and fearful look on her face.

So the Farang golfer, getting a little annoyed at her reluctance to understand what he was saying, shouted back at her:

Golfer: ซ่อง, ซ่อง /sông, sông/

Finally, obviously irritated, he raised two fingers. It was only then that the girl knew what he wanted, so got him the two drinks he was supposedly asking for.

I am sure this is a situation which would make someone think that the girl just didn’t want to understand a person speaking perfectly understandable Thai – and in the context of ordering drinks she should have figured out what he wanted. Right?

Except, here is the translation of what was said:

Serving girl: How many bottles would you like?
Golfer: Brothel.
Golfer: Whorehouse! WHOREHOUSE!

You see, the Thai word used by the golfer was ซ่อง /sông/ (falling tone) meaning “brothel”. Or if shouted angrily as he did, it would be more like “whorehouse”. Our golfer wanted to say the number “two”, สอง /sǒng/ (rising tone) in Thai. Instead, he sounded more like crazy Hamlet yelling at the equally crazy Ophelia, “get thee to a nunnery!” – nunnery being an Elizabethan slang for “whorehouse”.

Let’s put ourselves in the serving girl’s place. First off, when answering the question of how many bottles of the soft drink he would like, the customer replies “brothel”, confusing you a bit. And then he follows up by angrily shouting “whorehouse” at you. Is he pulling a Hamlet, telling me I should get myself to a whorehouse? Even in the context of ordering soft drinks wouldn’t you be a bit perplexed at someone yelling “whorehouse” at you?

I have found that when we are communicating with someone using their language (doesn’t matter which language), and they do not understand us, then we are probably not saying it correctly. The onus is on us.

Our listener really does want to understand us, but when gibberish comes out of our mouths then he/she sometimes go out of their way to try using their own limited skills in our language to make the communication happen.

The Silly Farang…

Here is another example. A silly Farang wants to ask the shop owner for his business card.

Silly Farang: มีนามบาทมั้ย /mee naam-bàat mái/
Businessman: Same confused look as the serving girl above.

Silly Farang: นามบาท นามบาท /naam-bàat, naam-bàat/
Businessman: No change in expression.

Silly Farang: มีชื่อ บ้านเลขที่ บอร์โทรศัพท์ /chêu bâan-lâyk-têe ber-toh-rá~sàp/
Businessman: Oh! นามบัตร naam-bàt

Here is the translation:

Silly Farang: Do you have a name baht (long “aa”, บาท = “baht”, currency)
Businessman: (To himself: “What the hell is a name baht?”)

Silly Farang: Name baht, Name baht
Businessman: (To himself: Please let this crazy man leave my shop!)

Silly Farang: It has your name, address, telephone number.
Businessman: Oh! A “business card”. (short “a”, บัตร = “card”)

And BTW, that silly Farang getting his vowels all wrong was yours truly, and it happened to me just last week. So I still know, and probably will forever, how it feels to make a fool of myself in Thai.

Advice: If you say something in Thai and everyone either looks confused or begins to burst out laughing at you, then at best you got the tone, vowel, or consonant wrong. Or worse, the mistakes you made have turned what you wanted to say into something off color or ridiculous. Or even worse, you’ve insulted the listener’s family or his manhood. When this happens, don’t blame the listener.

Don’t think they don’t want you to speak Thai. They just want you to speak intelligible Thai. There are so many variables in producing a Thai word, tones, vowels, consonants, that any one of them being just a little off will cause you to produce a completely different word than the one you wanted to. Hey, no one said this was going to be easy.

So when you make a mistake and everyone is laughing, just smile (I myself do a big belly laugh when this happens) and throw up your hands and say, “I’m just a silly Farang” and laugh along with them. And everything will be fine.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: Double อยู่ Sounds

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to learn Thai

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: Double อยู่ Sounds…

As promised, the sound files to the Double อยู่ post….

Did you notice at the top of this post where it says “by Cat & Hugh”? Well, that’s because the previous post, where it says “by Hugh & Cat”, Hugh was in the driver’s seat. Now it’s my turn.

To recap, in Hugh’s Double อยู่ post he explained: “The Double อยู่ construct is used to describe an unexpected or surprise action. Depending on how colorful you want to be, it’s interesting how this construct can be translated (or rather, interpreted) into English in so many ways”.

And as promised, it’s now my turn to share the sound files to Hugh’s post as well as the sound files to any answers in the comments. I’ve also decided to come up with a few answers too.

To give myself some breathing room, I’ll start by adding sound files to the phrases Hugh has already given as samples:

อยู่ๆ เขาก็ร้องไห้

Out of nowhere she just started crying.

อยู่ๆ ตำรวจก็เข้ามา

The policeman burst in unexpectedly.

อยู่ๆ ครูก็หยุดสอน

All of a sudden the teacher stopped teaching.

อยู่ๆ หัวหน้าก็มาหา

Without notice the boss came to see me.

อยู่ๆ เธอก็เรียก

With no warning she called (out to me).

How would you say the following in Thai?…

Keith picked up the gauntlet when Hugh asked, “how would you say the following in Thai?” And to keep him company, I joined in too (wish us luck!)

But before we start, here’s a tip from Hugh: “I find that in trying to solve most problems it is best to break them down into their constituent parts and solve the little parts first. That is how we wrote computer programs that were millions of lines long. It works that way with language too (as I learned teaching English). To show you what I mean, I’ve separated the first sentence for you.”

1) I was just hanging out when
2) he came
3) to see me

I was just hanging out when he came to see me.

Keith: อยู่ๆ เค้าก็มาหาผม

Cat: อยู่ๆ เขาก็มาหาฉัน

They came unexpectedly.

Keith: อยู่ๆ พวกเขาก็มาแล้ว

Cat: อยู่ๆ เขาก็มา

Unpredictably, the customer called (phoned).

Keith: อยู่ๆ ลูกค้าก็โทร.มา
Cat: อยู่ๆ ลูกค้าก็โทรมา

My friend moved in without giving any notice.

Keith: อยู่ๆ เพื่อนผมก็ย้ายมาอยู่

Cat: อยู่ๆ เพื่อนก็ย้ายมาอยู่(ด้วย)

The workman, without saying anything, took a break (rest).

Cat: อยู่ๆ คนงานก็หยุดไปพัก

How would you interpret the following?…

Interpreting was fun because Hugh made a point to mention, “be as colorful as you wish…”

อยู่ๆอากาศก็ร้อน

Keith: All of a sudden, the weather is hot.
Cat: I don’t know what happened! (The weather went to hell in a handbasket).

อยู่ๆนักเรียนก็กลับบ้าน

Keith: The students abruptly went home.
Cat: The students all ran away home! (Drat! I don’t know what I said to offend them).

อยู่ๆหมาก็ตาย

Keith: The dog just up and died.
Cat: The dog just up and died on me.

อยู่ๆประธานก็ยิ้ม

Keith: The chairman broke into a smile.
Cat: The president went from mean to smiling (and now I’m shaking in my boots).

What say you? Do you have a different interpretation?

Using the Double อยู่ patterns…

The Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary posts will be all about taking us out of our Thai language comfort zone. I was reluctant at first but after I got started it was quite fun. Thanks Hugh.

Using the patterns, here’s a few phrases I put together:

อยู่ๆ แฟนเขาก็โทรมาหาฉัน
I’m not sure why, her boyfriend called me.

อยู่ๆ ทุกคนก็ลุกขึ้น
Everybody stood up without a clear reason.

อยู่ๆ นายจ้างก็ ยอมให้
Man oh man was I surprised, the boss agreed!

อยู่ๆ หัวหน้าก็ไม่เห็นด้วย
I don’t understand why the leader didn’t agree (what’s going on?)

อยู่ๆ ตำรวจก็เรียก นักท่องเที่ยว ให้มาหา
Uh oh. The policeman called the tourist over (what’s up?)

And now to the comments…

When Keith brought up อยู่ดีๆ, Hugh replied, “อยู่ดีๆ is a good one. According to thai-language.com อยู่ดีๆ = everything was just going fine… (when suddenly and unexpectedly). อยู่ดีๆ can be used exactly like อยู่ๆ and means the same thing.

Then Mia chimed in with, “now I couldn’t get rid of อยู่ดีๆ or อยู่ๆ off my head. This remind me of a lot of Thai songs worth listening and practicing the use of อยู่ดีๆ or อยู่ๆ”

Example: อยู่ดีๆ

อยู่ดีๆน้องหาว่าพี่โกหก รู้มั้ยน้ำตาพี่ไหลตก เสียอกเสียใจน้องไม่ฟังพี่
Out of the blue, you are accusing me of lying.

Example: อยู่ๆ

อยู่ๆก็หายไปทนไม่ได้หรอกเธอ
Suddenly you’re gone, I couldn’t bear it my dear.

Using the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List…

The High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List is still on the second ‘official’ version, with more edits to come. For those who haven’t downloaded it yet, below is the list. Also for download are the audio files for this post:

High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: download
Double อยู่ Audio files: download

Before I sign off, a megga thanks goes to Hugh for the great อยู่ๆ post, as well as Mia and Keith everyone else who contributed in the comments!

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Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: The Double อยู่

Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to learn Thai

The Thai Language’s Double อยู่…

To help you learn Thai, for the first Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary post we wanted to start with something a little more interesting than simple subject + verb + object patterns so we chose something fun: The Double อยู่ construct.

The Double อยู่ construct is used to describe an unexpected or surprise action. Depending on how colorful you want to be, it’s interesting how this construct can be translated (or rather, interpreted) into English in so many ways.

The Double อยู่ pattern is usually:

อยู่ๆ … ก็ …

อยู่ๆ: อยู่ อยู่. It’s a doubling of the word อยู่ (one of the many Thai “to be” words). Hope you got the pun.

ๆ: Whenever you see the symbol ๆ (ไม้ยมก /mái-yá~mók/) the word preceding it is spoken twice.

ก็: then (in time), also

Examples:

อยู่ๆ เขา ก็ ร้องไห้
Out of nowhere she just started crying.

อยู่ๆ ตำรวจ ก็ เข้ามา
The policeman burst in unexpectedly.

อยู่ๆ ครู ก็ หยุด สอน
All of a sudden the teacher stopped teaching.

Below are some English enhancements to the same sentences that an interpreter would use to add color to the Double อยู่ construct.

อยู่ๆเขาก็ร้องไห้
I was just sitting around, minding my own business, when out of nowhere she just started crying.

อยู่ๆตำรวจก็เข้ามา
I was just doing my thing when out of the blue the policeman burst in unexpectedly.

อยู่ๆครูก็หยุดสอน
The students weren’t doing anything when all of a sudden the teacher stopped teaching.

High frequency Thai vocabulary used:

เขา: she, he, him, her, they
ร้องไห้: to cry, weep
ตำรวจ: police, policeman
เข้ามา: to enter
ครู: teacher
หยุด: to stop
สอน: to teach

Using the Double อยู่ patterns…

To use this pattern we will need some words from the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List.

Note on using patterns: Look at the pattern and replace the word descriptions with words from the list. Besure to check that the sentence makes logical sense. And remember, the word lists in this post are only a fraction of the 3,000 words of the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List.

After doing these exercises go to the original list and practice some more. Later, when the patterns are ingrained in your head, add words you come across in everyday situations.

Samples from the High Frequency Word List…

Pronouns:

ฉัน: I (female)
ผม: I (male speaker)
เธอ: you, she
พวกเขา: they, them
พวกนี้: these people
พวกเรา: we, they, us, them, all of us

People:

หัวหน้า: boss
เด็กผู้ชาย: boy
แฟน: boyfriend, girlfriend, husband,wife
เด็ก: child
ลูกค้า: customer
ลูกจ้าง: employee
นายจ้าง: employer
ทุกคน: everybody parts, everyone
คนต่างประเทศ: foreigner
เพื่อน: friend
เด็กผู้หญิง: girl
โจร: robber
แม่ค้า: salesperson (female)
วัยรุ่น: teenager
คนไทย: Thai person
นักท่องเที่ยว: tourist
คนงาน workman

Verbs:

พักผ่อน: to rest
พูด: to speak, talk, say
มา: to come
มาเยี่ยม: to come visit a person
มาหา: to come to see someone
ไม่เห็นด้วย: to disagree
ยอมให้: to permit, allow
ย้ายมาอยู่: to move (in)
เรียก: to call (out)
ลุกขึ้น: to rise, get up
ร้องไห้: to cry, weep
โทร: to phone, telephone

Creating complete Thai sentences using the Double อยู่ pattern…

Pattern:

อยู่ๆ + pronoun/person + ก็ + verb (phrase)

Examples:

อยู่ๆเขาก็ร้องไห้
She suddenly began to cry.

อยู่ๆหัวหน้าก็มาหา
Without notice the boss came to see me.

อยู่ๆเธอก็เรียก
With no warning she called (out to me).

How would you say the following in Thai? (Tip: the needed vocabulary can be found in the above lists).

  1. I was just hanging out when he came to see me.
  2. They came unexpectedly.
  3. Unpredictably, the customer called (phoned).
  4. My friend moved in without giving any notice.
  5. The workman, without saying anything, took a break (rest).

Now go to the frequency list to see how many other logical phrases you can create using this pattern. And if you like, share them with us in the comments.

Interpreting Double อยู่ phrases…

How would you interpret the following? Be as colorful as you wish but please keep to the gist of the sentence.

อยู่ๆอากาศก็ร้อน
อยู่ๆนักเรียนก็กลับบ้าน
อยู่ๆหมาก็ตาย
อยู่ๆประธานก็ยิ้ม

Word List:

อากาศ: weather, climate, air, or atmosphere
กลับบ้าน: to go home
ยิ้ม: smile
ร้อน: hot (temperature)
หมา: dog
หัวเข่า: knee
ตาย: to die
นักเรียน: student
ประธาน: president, chairman
เจ็บ: to hurt, be hurt

Patterns to learn Thai…

Patterns are how words in a language are put together to make meaningful utterances. Becoming familiar with patterns is one of the basics to learning to communicate in any language. It’s especially so in learning Thai. In the future we will be exploring more patterns in Thai using the High Frequency Thai Vocabulary List. If you have a Thai language pattern that you would like to work with and learn more about, send it on to us and we will try to use it in one of our future posts.

Here’s the updated High Frequency Thai Vocabulary to download. The list has gone through many revisions but there’s still more to do.

Tip: The Double อยู่ followup post will include sound files. In the meantime, go to Does Your Computer Speak Thai? for instructions on how to get your computer reading Thai outloud.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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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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UPDATED: Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

UPDATED: Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

UPDATED: A top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

In the post, Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List, I put together a Thai words list and asked for suggestions. New words came in via email, Facebook, and in the comments of the post.

While that list was percolating, I created a list from a different direction: A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases.

Today I’m going back to the original list from the first post. Taking everyone’s thoughts and suggestions into account, I then started trimming the list. But even though I tried, I couldn’t get below 117 must know Thai words! Frustrated, I went to Jo from Learn Thai Podcast for help. Jo helped me to decide which 17 to leave out. Thanks Jo!

UPDATE: LTP now has a FREE basic Thai course (the first two lessons are live, more to come): Beginners Course – Top 300 Thai Words.

A (final?) top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

Below are the Thai words that made it into the final 100 top list, Buzan-style.

Unlike the list created from useful phrases, I’m still not sure how communicating with just these 100 words works in real life, but I’m working on it. Promise.

If I can’t get someone to share their experience via interview I might just try it on for size myself. But not in Thai. I have a trip to Italy coming up and as there’s a product already available for Italian, I could take a break from Thai to learn Italian with this method, and then get back to you.

Berlitz: A revolutionary way to learn a language, “Shortcut to Italian” offers instant time-saving techniques to help you learn basic Italian words and build simple sentences. You only need to learn 100 Italian words in order to speak over 500 of the most useful phrases. In just 100 words, you can: meet people, communicate effectively, navigate your way, book restaurants and hotels, read a menu, enjoy shopping and much more!

Anyway… on to that list!

already (tense marker): แล้ว /láew/
also, likewise, then, so, in addition: ก็ /gôr/
– often used when trying to think what to say
as well, also, too: ด้วย /dûay/
ask for, ask, request for: ขอ /kŏr/
bad (not good): ไม่ดี /mâi-dee/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
be, to be something: เป็น /bpen/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
before, first, former: ก่อน /gòn/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
but, only: แต่ /dtàe/
can, be able to, get, have done, have chance to: ได้ /dâai/
come, arrive (shows direction to the speaker): มา /maa/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
excuse me, I’m sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
expensive: แพง /paeng/
far: ไกล /glai/
fast: เร็ว /reo/
friend: เพื่อน /pêuan/
from, depart, leave, go away from: จาก /jàak/
full (food): อิ่ม /ìm/
go, leave, depart (shows direction away from the speaker): ไป /bpai/
good, nice [v]: ดี /dee/
have (possessive), there is: มี /mee/
have to, must: ต้อง /dtông/
he, she, him, her, they, them: เขา /kăo/
hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, good evening: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist [v]: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
how: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
how much, how many: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
how much, how many: กี่ /gèe/
hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw kâao/
I, me, my [f]: ฉัน /chăn/
I, me, my [m]: ผม /pŏm/
in front of, front, top, next, following, upcoming: หน้า /nâa/
in, of: ใน /nai/
intensifier: ไม่….เลย = not….at all (see dictionary for more): เลย /loie/
know (someone, something, someplace): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something): ทราบ /sâap/
left: ซ้าย /sáai/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
name: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
nevermind, no problem, that’s ok: ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/
new, recent, the latest, again, once more: ใหม่ /mài/
no, that’s not right: ไม่ใช่ /mâi-châi/
no, no: ไม่ /mâi /
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
one more time: อีกที /èek-tee/
P: Polite particle [f]: ค่ะ /kâ/
P: Polite particle [m]: ครับ /kráp/
P: Question particle: ไหม /măi/
P: Question particle [f]: คะ /ká/
P: Question, confirmative: เหรอ or หรือ /rĕr or rĕu/
P: Softens request or command, a bit: หน่อย /nòi/
person, people, classifier for people: คน /kon/
play: เล่น /lên/
really: จริงๆ /jing-jing/
receive, get, accept: รับ /ráp/
right: ขวา /kwăa/
slowly, slower: ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/
small, little: เล็ก /lék/
speak: พูด /pôot/
straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
tell, say, describe: บอก /bòk/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that: นั้น /nán/
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw náam/
this, these: นี้ /née/
time, when: เวลา /way-laa/
tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
tomorrow: พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/
turn: เลี้ยว /líeow/
understand: เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want to: อยาก /yàak/
want, take, bring: เอา /ao/
watch, look, see, appear, seem: ดู /doo/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
well, fine: สบายดี /sà-baai-dee/
what: อะไร /a-rai/
when, whenever: เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
where (shortened version of ที่ไหน), whichever one: ไหน /năi/
where is, which place: ที่ไหน /têe-năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
will, shall: จะ /jà/
with, together with: กับ /gàp/
write: เขียน /kĭan/
yes: ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
yesterday: เมื่อวานนี้ /mêua-waan-née/
you, your: คุณ /kun/

Words taken out of the list…

Below are the 17 Thai words Jo from LTP advised to take out of the 117 list I mulled over so intently.

To decide on 17 words to delete, Jo targeted words not as useful for forming basic Thai sentences. You can read Jo’s explanation underneath each one.

Btw: Jo wanted me to mention that it was really difficult to choose which ones to delete. I SO agree! I fell in love with those words and more; it was painful to lose even one.

back side or adj: ข้างหลัง /kâang lăng/
Jo: Not used that often.
because, because of, beautiful (voice): เพราะ /prór/
Jo: Only for compound sentences, too complicated.
Cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
Jo: You already have “can” and “not”.
Day: วัน /wan/
Jo: You already have “today” and “day” is commonly used with numbers but you don’t have numbers.
don’t have, there isn’t: ไม่มี /mâi-mee/
Jo: You already have “have” and “not”.
Front: ข้างหน้า /kâang-nâa/
Jo: You already have “หน้า”.
get, receive: ได้รับ /dâai-ráp/
Jo: Not used that often.
give, offer, let: ให้ /hâi/
Jo: It can be used in many different ways. So, it won’t help people who don’t know how to use it properly.
happy, well, fine: สบาย /sà-baai/
Jo: You already have “สบายดี” (well, fine”).
heart, mind, spirit: ใจ /jai/
Jo: The word “jai” alone is not used so often. It is normally used as a prefix or suffix.
it, potato, greasy, the fat, to be fun (slang): มัน /man/
Jo: No used that often. The word “it” as a pronoun can be omitted.
maybe: อาจจะ /àat-jà/
Jo: It’s too complicated for a basic sentence.
of, item: ของ /kŏng/
Jo: Not used that often.
Out: ออก /òk/
Jo: Not used that often.
prefix: put before verb to show action is happening: กำลัง /gam-lang/
Jo: It is related to tenses and too complicated.
say, tell, blame, criticise: ว่า /wâa/
Jo: You already have “tell / say”.
together, jointly, one another, each other: กัน /gan/
Jo: It can be omitted in a basic sentence.

The Top 100 word posts in this impromptu series…

Here are the posts in this series so far. I fear that there will be yet another top 100 Thai words list in my future, so don’t say you haven’t been warned ;-)

Learning Languages: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List
A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases

Oh. And there will absolutely be a Loci Method post (the original reason for this insane venture into finding the top 100 Thai words one must know).

Note: The transliteration comes from T2E as is. There are mistakes in the transliteration but I don’t have the time or inclination to correct each and every one so unless you learn to read Thai you’ll have to use the transliteration as a ballpark crutch to pronunciation (reading actual Thai script is the only real answer… honest).

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A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases

Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a top 100 Thai vocabulary list from phrases…

Searching for a top 100 Thai vocabulary list to use with the Loci Method has totally gobbled my interest! Since starting this adventure I’ve found many ways to compile such a list and I’m now on version three. Or four.

In the comments of Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List, the consensus was to create a dedicated top Thai phrases post and then create a top 100 Thai vocabulary list from there. It’s a good idea (and apologies for taking this long). Not wanting to show up to the party nakid, I searched for Thai phrases, shortened the phrases to suit beginners, counted the Thai words used, and then added even more words and phrases.

During the selection I kept in mind the ability to use either iPhone/smart phone apps with pictures and/or hard-copy picture phrase books, and a calculator (either on your phone or dangling from a keychain). The phrasebooks were reviewed last year here: Picture Phrase Books: For When They Can’t Speak Thai. Not reviewed yet (but in my hot little hands) are 3 iPhone apps: ICOON on iPhone and iPod Touch, ShowMe, and Show it!

I also chose words that when combined would make new words, increasing the working word list but not in the original 100 count. And where one basic word would do, I avoided adding another. I’m still not sure I made the best decision with เอา /ao/ and รับ /ráp/!

I also attempted to do without internationally understood words like Thai (ไทย /tai/) for Thai language or Thailand, taxi (แท็กซี่ /táek-sêe/), and OK (โอเค /oh-kay/). But most are included in the phrases.

Oh. And I dropped out (some) words covered by internationally understood hand signals (mimicking a phone call is a good for instance).

Vocabulary list: Top 100 Thai words from phrases…

So here you go, a clean 100 word list from the most basic of ever Thai phrases. The difference between this list and Tony Buzan’s well-known hundred most common words is striking.

And truthfully, staring at my Top Thai Word List created under Buzan’s restraints left me wondering just how sentences are to be cobbled together for actual communication. But I’ll leave that subject for another post. Promise.

already (tense marker): แล้ว /láew/
be [v]: เป็น /bpen/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
can: ได้ /dâai/
cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
come, arrive (shows direction to the speaker): มา /maa/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
doctor: หมอ /mŏr/
don’t!: อย่า! /yàa/
excuse me, I’m sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
expensive: แพง /paeng/
far: ไกล /glai/
fast: เร็ว /reo/
full (food): อิ่ม /ìm/
get, receive, accept: รับ /ráp/
go, leave, depart (shows direction away from the speaker): ไป /bpai/
good: ดี /dee/
have: มี /mee/
he, she, him, her, they, them: เขา /kăo/
hello, goodbye, see you later: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist [v]: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
hot (spicy): เผ็ด /pèt/
hot (temperature): ร้อน /rón/
hotel: โรงแรม /rohng-raem/
how: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
how much, how many: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
how much, how many: กี่ /gèe/
hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw kâao/
I, me, my [f]: ฉัน /chăn/
I, me, my [m]: ผม /pŏm/
injured: บาดเจ็บ /bàat jèp/
know (someone, something, someplace): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something): ทราบ /sâap/ รู้ /róo/
left: ซ้าย /sáai/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
look, see, appear, seem, watch: ดู /doo/
lost: หลงทาง /lŏng taang/
market: ตลาด /dtà-làat/
name: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
no problem, that’s ok, nevermind: ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/
no, not: ไม่ /mâi/
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
stop, park: จอด /jòt/
one more time: อีกที /èek-tee/
person, people, classifier for people: คน /kon/
police: ตำรวจ /dtam-rùat/
P: Polite particle [f]: ค่ะ /kâ/
P: Polite particle [m]: ครับ /kráp/
P: Question particle: ไหม /măi/
P: Question particle [f]: คะ /ká/
P: Question, confirmative [m/f]: เหรอ or หรือ /rĕr or rĕu/
P: Question, “what about …?”: ล่ะ /lâ/
P: Softener, makes it more persuasive: นะ /ná/
P: Softens request or command, a bit: หน่อย /nòi/
P: Used in requests, congratulations or condolences ด้วย (ค่ะ/นะคะ) /dûay/ (ka/ná-ka)
really: จริงๆ /jing-jing/
restaurant: ร้านอาหาร /ráan aa-hăan/
right: ขวา /kwăa/
slowly, slower: ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/
speak: พูด /pôot/
stop!: หยุด! /yùt/
straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
sure [v]: แน่ใจ /nâe-jai/
Thai currency: บาท /bàat/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that: นั่น /nán/
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw-náam/
this, these: นี่ /nêe/
tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
toilet: ห้องน้ำ /hông-náam/
tomorrow: พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/
turn: เลี้ยว /líeow/
understand: เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/
u-turn: กลับรถ /glàp-rót/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want, take, bring: เอา /ao/ (รับ /ráp/)
want to: อยาก /yàak/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
well, fine: สบายดี /sà-baai-dee/
what: อะไร /a-rai/
when, whenever: เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
where (shortened version of ที่ไหน), whichever one: ไหน /năi/
where is: ที่ไหน /têe năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
write: เขียน /kĭan/
yes: key-word response, ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
yesterday: เมื่อวานนี้ /mêua-waan-née/
you: คุณ /kun/

100 words doesn’t handle a lot. From that list you can: ask questions, give answers, make the briefest of polite talk, give instructions to a taxi driver, and buy stuff (with mostly pointing and using a calculator).

And while this list doesn’t give you the backbone of sentence structure (as the Buzan-type lists promise) I’m thinking you won’t be left with as many holes either. But what do I know. I’m still waiting to be enlightened! And I will. Be.

The chosen top Thai phrases…

Due to the nature of the project – zero knowledge of Thai – the phrases are as brief as I could make them. Spoken Thai is mostly inferred anyway so a great deal can easily be left out. Two of the most common words to be left out are ผม/ฉัน /pŏm/chăn/ (I) so go easy on me, ok? The polite particles can be thinned out or beefed up too – up to you.

NOTE: This list is just a getting-out-of-the-phrase-gate list. In no way do I consider it final. I didn’t have time to create phrases from everything so I would seriously welcome your help filling it out.

Hello/goodbye/see you later.
สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/

How are you?
สบายดีหรือ /sà-baai dee rĕu/

(I’m) fine, thank you.
สบายดี ขอบคุณ ค่ะ/ครับ /sà-baai-dee kòp-kun/

I’m fine, and you?
สบายดี แล้วคุณล่ะ /sà-baai-dee láew kun lâ/

What about you?
แล้วคุณล่ะ /láew kun lâ/

What is your name?
คุณชื่ออะไร /kun chêu a-rai/

My name is ______.
ผม/ฉัน ชื่อ ______ /pŏm/chăn chêu/
Or just plain ‘ole…
ชื่อ _______ /chêu _______ /

Thank you.
ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/

Thank you very much.
ขอบคุณมาก /kòp-kun mâak/

You’re welcome.
ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/

What do you want?
รับอะไร คะ/ครับ /ráp a-rai/ [ká/kráp]

Do you want ___?
เอา ___ ไหม /ao ___ măi/

Yes please.
ค่ะ/ครับ ขอบคุณ ค่ะ/ครับ /kâ/kráp kòp-kun kâ/kráp/

Have: มี /mee/
มี /mee/ ____

(I) have a doctor.
มีหมอ /mee mo/

Do you have?
มี ____ ไหม / mee ____ măi/

Do you have a doctor?
มีหมอไหม /mee mŏr măi/

I don’t have a doctor.
ไม่มีหมอ /mâi mee mŏr/

yes: ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
no: ไม่ใช่ /mâi-châi/
can: ได้ /dâai/
cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/

Excuse me.
ขอโทษ นะคะ/นะครับ /kŏr tôht ná-kâ/ná-kráp/

I’m sorry.
ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/

I speak Thai only a little bit.
พูดไทยนิดหน่อย /pôot tai nít-nòi/

Please speak slowly.
พูดช้าช้าหน่อย /pôot cháa-cháa nòi/
OR
ช้าช้าหน่อย /cháa-cháa nòi/
OR
ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/

slow: ช้า /cháa/
fast: เร็ว /reo/

I don’t understand – I only speak Thai a little.
ไม่เข้าใจ พูดไทยนิดหน่อย /mâi kâo-jai pôot tai nít-nòi/

I don’t understand.
ไม่เข้าใจ /mâi kâo-jai/

I understand.
เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/

Help write (it for me) please.
ช่วยเขียนหน่อย ค่ะ/ครับ /chûay kĭan nòi kâ/kráp/

How do you say it in Thai?
ไทยพูดยังไง /tai pôot yang-ngai/

Repeat it please.
พูดอีกที ค่ะ/ครับ /pôot èek-tee kâ/kráp/

Help!
ช่วยด้วย /chûay dûay/

How: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
v + ยังไง /yang-ngai/

What: อะไร /a-rai/
What? อะไร คะ/ครับ /a-rai ká/kráp/

What happened?
อะไร คะ/ครับ /a-rai ká/kráp/

No, nothing happened.
ไม่ มี อะไร /mâi mee a-rai/
(polite for “none of your business” if asked “what happened?”)

What is this?
นี่อะไร /nêe a-rai/

What is that?
นั่นอะไร /nân a-rai/

What do you want?
รับคะ/ครับ /ráp ká/kráp/

When? เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
v + เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/

When are you coming?
มาเมื่อไหร่ /maa mêua-rài/
OR
เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/

Today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
Tomorrow พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/

Where are you going?
ไปไหน /bpai năi/
(Thai for “hello, how are you doing?”)

ไป _____ /bpai _____ /

Who? ใคร /krai/
n + ใคร /krai/
ใคร /krai/ + verb

Who is that person?
คนนั้นใคร /kon nán krai/

Who does it? Who makes it?
ใครทำ /krai tam/

Who is it?
ใคร คะ/ครับ /krai ká/kráp/

Why?: ทำไม /tam-mai/

How much, how many?: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/, กี่ /gèe/

How many baht?
กี่บาท /gèe bàat/

What’s the matter?
เป็นอะไร /bpen a-rai/

What do you think?
คุณคิดยังไง /kun kít yang-ngai/

Are you sure?
คุณแน่ใจไหม /kun nâe-jai măi/

Is it possible?
เป็นไปได้ไหม /bpen bpai dâai măi/

Is it good?
ดีไหม /dee măi/

What is this?
นี่อะไร /nêe a-rai/

Really?
จริงๆเหรอ /jing jing rĕr/

It’s fine.
ดี /dee/

O.K./All right.
โอเค /oh-kay/

That’s all right, no problem, never mind.
ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/

I don’t know (something).
ไม่ทราบ /mâi sâap/
ไม่รู้ /mâi róo/

I don’t know (someone, something, someplace).
ไม่รู้จัก /mâi róo-jàk/

Beautiful: สวย /sŭay/

Is it beautiful?
สวยไหม /sŭay măi/

It’s not beautiful.
ไม่สวย /mâi sŭay/

Delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/

Is it delicious?
อร่อยไหม /a-ròi măii/

It’s not delicious.
ไม่อร่อย /mâi a-ròi/

Wonderful, very good: ดี มาก /dee mâak/
Expensive: แพง /paeng/

Is it expensive?
แพงไหม /paeng măi/

No, not expensive.
ไม่แพง /mâi paeng/

Is it ____?
_____ ไหม /măi/

Hot (temperature): ร้อน /rón/
Hot (spicy): เผ็ด /pèt/
Hot (really spicy): เผ็ดเผ็ด /pèt-pèt/
Not spicy: ไม่ เผ็ด /mâi pèt/

I’m… hungry, thirsty, full, tired, sad…
ฉัน/ผม ___ chăn/pŏm ___
OR
___

Hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw-kâao/
Thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw-náam/
Full (of food): อิ่ม แล้ว /ìm láew/
Tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
Unwell: ไม่ สบาย /mâi sà-baai/

Here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
There: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
There (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/

I…
ฉัน/ผม ___ chăn/pŏm ___
Like: ชอบ /chôp/
Don’t like: ไม่ ชอบ /mâi chôp/

Don’t! อย่า! /yàa/
Stop! หยุด! /yùt/
Police! ตำรวจ! /dtam-rùat/

I’ll call the police.
ฉัน/ผม จะบอกตำรวจ! /chăn/pŏm jà bòk dtam-rùat/

Help!
ช่วยด้วย /chûay dûay/

I’m sick.
ฉัน/ผม ไม่สบาย /chăn/pŏm mâi sà-baai/

I’ve been injured.
ฉัน/ผม บาดเจ็บ /chăn/pŏm bàat jèp/

I’m lost.
ฉัน/ผม หลงทาง /chăn/pŏm lŏng taang/

Where is?: ที่ไหน /têe năi/

Where is ___?
n + อยู่ที่ไหน /yòo têe năi/

Where is the toilet?
ห้องน้ำอยู่ที่ไหน /hông-náam yòo têe năi/

Where is the hotel?
โรงแรมอยู่ที่ไหน /rohng-raem yòo têe năi/

Where is the restaurant?
ร้านอาหารอยู่ที่ไหน /ráan aa-hăan yòo têe năi/

Where is the market?
ตลาดอยู่ที่ไหน /dtà-làat yòo têe năi/

How do I get to _____ ?
จะไป _____ อย่างไร /jà-bpai _____ yàang-rai/

Is it far? ไกลไหม /glai măi/
Is it near? ใกล้ไหม /glâi măi/

go straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
turn left: เลี้ยวซ้าย /líeow sáai/
turn right: เลี้ยวขวา /líeow kwăa/
u-turn: กลับรถ /glàp-rót/
(or just say U turn (with a Thai accent)
traffic lights: ไฟแดง /fai-daeng/

(I’m) going to _____ (market, hotel, hospital, shopping…)
ไป _____
bpai _____

Stop here please.
จอดที่นี่ ค่ะ/ครับ / jòt têe-nêe kâ/kráp/

Kidding, joking: พูดเล่น! /pôot lên/

Posts in the Top 100 Thai Words series…

Ok, that’s it for me. I didn’t use all of the words because I’m short on time (and I’d like to do something else this Saturday afternoon). But, I did have fun creating short sentences from these 100 words of Thai.

Two more posts in the series:
Learning Languages: The art and science of remembering everything
Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

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Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

Hey all, I need your help putting together a top 100 Thai vocabulary list. The aim is to create a word list for newbies to communicate in Thai at a basic level. Only the barest Thai words are needed, but which ones?

I compiled a sample list of Thai words (below) but I took a kitchen sink approach. So what I need are opinions (yours) on words that are missing or unnecessary. Bottom line: What 100 words do/did you absolutely need to get by in Thai?

EDIT: If you gravitate towards phrases instead of individual words, please share your top sentences as well.

To explain my search for 100 Thai words…

My last post, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, hooked me on the Loci Method for learning more Thai vocabulary.

Following his instructions (sort of) I experienced the beauty of Loci. Excited about the possibilities, I dropped everything to discover ways to actually show how Loci works for learning Thai. Theory is all fine and good, but…

So I downloaded everything I could find on amazon (co and uk) to my Kindle regarding Loci and read the language related bits.

After getting as much as I could into my head, and as I have an anal nature, I decided that a top 100 Thai vocabulary list was needed.

Well, there isn’t an actual top 100 vocabulary list for the Thai language.

Ok, there is a Thai 100 word list on Glenn’s forum, Most Frequently used words in Thai. But… I wasn’t 100% happy with it so after copying it off I kept hunting.

Tony Buzan has several versions of an English top 100 vocabulary list in a book called Use Your Memory. An early version of the book was published by BBC Books (1995) with the list shared around the Internet (take a peek if you like).

Oxford Online also created a top 100 English vocabulary list: Most common words in English.

The Reading Teachers Book of Lists claims that the first 25 words make up about one-third of all printed material in English, and that the first 100 make up about one-half of all written material.

Note that the items listed may represent more than one actual word; they are lemmas. For instance the entry “be” contains within it the occurrences of “are”, “is”, “were” and “was”.

Note also that these top 100 lemmas listed below account for 50% of all the words in the Oxford English Corpus.

Ok, that’s all well and good but I’m going for spoken, not written (and in Thai to boot). But it does outline the importance of learning a select few words in your target language. So again, for good measure (and the lack of a spoken list) I copied off this one as well.

So I ended up with three lists of 100 top words each. The top Thai, Buzan’s list, and one from Oxford Online. I threw them together, added Thai to the English, and then added Thai words I felt were missing. I also peppered polite particles and classifiers around (I couldn’t resist). Figuring that they could be acquired as needed, I ignored category lists such as food, animals, colours, numbers, days of the week, months, such as that. Hmmmm…

But after compiling the list I realised that there wasn’t a focus on the bare minimum words to get by in Thai. What I have instead is a list of Thai words one should know but that’s not the same. And that’s why I need you.

Below is the list so far. In your opinion, what Thai words are missing? What are not needed at this stage? Please leave your advice in the comments or send it via my contact form. Up to you ;-)

Round 1: The top 100 Thai words one must know…

about, regarding, concerning a problem, trouble, matter, affair, thing: เรื่อง /rêuang/
– classifier: movie, story or tale
again, once more, more: อีก /èek/
already: แล้ว /láew/
– general marker indicating a specified action has happened or a state has been attained
also, likewise, then, so, therefore, well, umm, err, in addition, as a result: ก็ /gôr/
– often used when trying to think what to say
as well, also, too: ด้วย /dûay/
as, like, way, sort, variety: อย่าง /yàang/
– converts an adjective to an adverb, equivalent to English -ly suffix or saying “in a … way”
– classifier: types, kinds or sorts of objects
ask for, request for, ask: ขอ /kŏr/
back side: ข้างหลัง /kâang lăng/
bad (not good): ไม่ดี /mâi-dee/
be (+ noun), to be something: เป็น /bpen/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
because, because of, beautiful (voice): เพราะ /prór/
before, first, former: ก่อน /gòn/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
but, only: แต่ /dtàe/
can, be able to, get, have done, have chance to: ได้ /dâai/
can’t, cannot (when used after verb): ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
case, item: ราย /raai/
cause, make, to do for: ทำให้ /tam-hâi/
come, arrive: มา /maa/
– shows direction to the speaker
day: วัน /wan/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
didn’t, did not (when used before verb): ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
don’t have, there isn’t: ไม่มี /mâi-mee/
excuse me, apologize, sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr-tôht/
far: ไกล /glai/
follow, come after: ตาม /dtaam/
for, in order to: เพื่อ /pêua/
for, to, on behalf of: สำหรับ /săm-ràp/
friend: เพื่อน /pêuan/
from, depart, leave, go away from: จาก /jàak/
front: ข้างหน้า /kâang-nâa/
get, receive: ได้รับ /dâai-ráp/
give, offer, let, have someone do something, to become, for: ให้ /hâi/
go, leave, depart: ไป /bpai/
– shows direction away from the speaker
good, nice: ดี /dee/
happy, well, fine: สบาย /sà-baai/
have, there is: มี /mee/
have to, must: ต้อง /dtông/
he, she, him, her, they, them, horn, mountain: เขา /kăo/
heart, mind, spirit: ใจ /jai/
hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, good evening: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
home, house: บ้าน /bâan/
how much: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
I (to someone younger), you (to someone older), he, she, him, her (referring to someone older): พี่ /pêe/
I, me (feminine): ฉัน /chan/
I, me (masculine): ผม /pŏm/
if: ถ้า /tâa/
in front of, front, face, front, top, next, following, upcoming: หน้า /nâa/
in, of: ใน /nai/
– intensifier: 1. ‘So… !, Extremely… !, 2. therefore, as a result, 3. to go further
it, potato, greasy, the fat, to be fun (slang): มัน /man/
keep, save, store: ไว้ /wái/
know (someone, something, face, place, know at a basic level): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something, know in detail): รู้ /róo/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
little, few, not many: น้อย /nói/
love: รัก /rák/
maybe: อาจจะ /àat-jà/
name, be named: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
never mind, no problem, it’s ok: ไม่เป็นอะไร /mâi-bpen-a-rai/
new, recent, the latest, again, once more: ใหม่ /mài/
no, not: ไม่ /mâi/
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
of, item: ของ /kŏng/
ok, right? (confirmative particle masculine): นะครับ /ná-kráp/
ok, right? (confirmative particle feminine): นะคะ /ná-ka/
old (humans, animals): แก่ /gàe/
old, to be old: เก่า /gào/
one: หนึ่ง /nèung/
out: ออก /òk/
particle: softens a sentence: หน่อย /nòi/
particle: softens a sentence, makes it more persuasive: นะ /ná/
particle: used by female speakers at the end of questions to make them more polite: คะ /ka/
particle: used by female speakers at the end of sentences to make them more polite: ค่ะ /kâ/
particle: used by male speakers at the end of sentences to make them more polite: ครับ /kráp/
person, people: คน /kon/
– classifier: people
play: เล่น /lên/
prefix: กำลัง… /gam-lang/ 
– put before a verb to show action is happening (present/past continuous tense)
reach, arrive, get to, until: ถึง /tĕung/
really: จริงๆ /jing jing/
say, tell, blame, criticise, sentence connector ‘that’: ว่า /wâa/
search for, look for, to meet: หา /hăa/
self, oneself: ตัว /dtua/
– character, letter, entity
– body, physique
– prefix: for an actor or character
– prefix: meaning “someone or something that does/is…”
– classifier: animals, all pieces of clothing (except ones that come in pairs, but including trousers), chairs, tables and other pieces of furniture, letters and numbers of the alphabet, musical instruments and also functions as a general purpose classifier for things and objects.)
send, send something to someone: ส่ง /sòng/
sense, meaning, substance: ความ /kwaam/
– prefix: converts a verb or adjective into an abstract noun
small, little: เล็ก /lék/
still, yet: ยัง /yang/
suffix: อยู่ /yòo/
– put after verb show the action is happening (present/past continuous tense)
task, work, job: การ /gaan/
– prefix: converts a verb or adjective into an verbal noun
tell, say, describe: บอก /bòk/
Thai currency: บาท /bàat/
Thai, Thailand: ไทย /tai/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that, those: นั้น /nán/
– marker: used after a noun or pronoun to emphasize it as the subject of the sentence, or to show the end of a relative clause
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
this (+ noun/classifier): นี้ /née/
time, when: เวลา /way-laa/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
together, jointly, one another, each other, obstruct: กัน /gan/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want (+ noun), take, bring: เอา /ao/
want to: อยาก /yàak/
watch, look, see, appear, seem: ดู /doo/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
what about? (question particle masculine): ละครับ /la-kráp/
what about? (question particle feminine): ละคะ /la-ká/
what, something, anything: อะไร /a-rai/
where, which place: ที่ไหน /têe-năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
will, shall: จะ /jà/
with, together with, and: กับ /gàp/
work, job, task, event, ceremony, festival: งาน /ngaan/
yes (masculine): ครับ /kráp/
yes (feminine): ค่ะ /kâ/
you, he, she, him, her (used when referring to someone younger): น้อง /nóng/
you (to a friend, teacher to student…): เธอ /ter/
you, your: คุณ /kun/
you; your (to a child, someone younger), I; me (used by young children, and by women when speaking to their elders): หนู /nŏo/

Other top Thai vocabulary lists…

sealang.net: Thai Vocabulary List
thai-language.com: Most Frequently used words in Thai
thai-language.com: Common Words of the Thai Language
womenlearnthai.com: The Top 39 Thai Words You Must Know
womenlearnthai.com: FREE: Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download

And lastly, an ongoing conversation: Putting together a 100 word list for conversation in Thai.

Note: The transliteration comes from T2E as is. The English translations are also from T2E and late last night it was edited by Thai Skype Teacher Khun Narisa. The final edits were made by me so I will obviously take the responsibility for any snafus found. Coding this in was a pain and my brain fuzzed out when it came time to do a final edit so there might be some weirdness going on too…

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