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Thai Language Thai Culture: Thai Tone Twisters

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Thai Tone Twisters…

A lot of Thai learners are familiar with a number of tongue twisters that illustrate how different tones and consonants can make for different meanings of Thai words. One of the most familiar is ใครขายไข่ไก่ /krai kǎai kài gài/ which means, “Who sells the chicken eggs?”

Just the other day I was talking with the gardener to see what we could do about the grass growing out of our walkway. He recommended we use a weed killer. So I thought, “How would I say “weed killer” in Thai. I came up with ยาฆ่าหญ้า /yaa kâa yâa/ or “The chemical that kills the grass. Hey, that’s the beginning of a cool tongue twister, I thought. That led me to start playing with words.

I created the following original “Tone Twisters”. They are fun to create, and fun to say. They’ll give you practice with your tones as well as adding to your vocabulary.

After playing around a bit with these tone twisters try making some on your own. They are easier to create than you would think. If you come up with any good ones please send them on to us in a comment so we can play too.

อย่า ใส่ ยา ฆ่า หญ้า
yàa sài yaa kâa yâa
Don’t put the poison on the grass.


Don’t: อย่า /yàa/
Drug, chemical: ยา /yaa/
Grass: หญ้า /yâa/

ผู้หญิง หยิ่ง ยิง สามี
pôo-yǐng yìng ying sǎa-mee
The arrogant woman shot her husband.


Woman: หญิง /yǐng/
Arrogant: หยิ่ง /yìng/
To shoot: ยิง /ying/

คน ใบ้ ไป อ่าน ป้าย
kon bâi bpai àan bpâai
The hearing impaired person went to read the sign.


Unable to speak: ใบ้ /bâi/
To go: ไป /bpai/
Sign: ป้าย /bpâai/

ม้า กับ หมา มา ที่ นี่
máa gàp mǎa maa têe nêe
The horse and dog came here.


Horse: ม้า /máa/
Dog: หมา /mǎa/
To come: มา /maa/

ผู้ว่า ถาม ว่า ยาว กี่ วา
pôo-wâa tǎam wâa yaao gèe waa
The governor asked how many waa long it was.


Governor: ผู้ว่า /pôo-wâa/
To ask: ถามว่า /tǎam wâa/
Two meters in length: วา /waa/

เลี้ยง กระต่าย ใต้ บ้าน ก็ได้
líang grà~dtàai dtâai bâan gôr-dâai
Okay, I’ll raise the rabbits under the house.


Rabbit: กระต่าย /grà~dtàai/
Under: ใต้ /dtâai/
It’s all right!: ก็ได้ /gôr-dâai/

ดอกไม้ บาน ที่ บันได บ้าน
dòk-máai baan têe ban-dai bâan
The flowers bloom on the staircase of the house.


To bloom: บาน /baan/
Staircase: บันได /ban-dai/
House: บ้าน /bâan/

อย่า ทำ ให้ ไห หาย
yàa tam-hâi hǎi hǎai
Don’t lose the earthen jar.


To make (cause to be): ทำให้ /tam-hâi/
Earthen jar: ไห /hǎi/
To be lost or missing: หาย /hǎai/

ควาญช้าง ง่วงนอน นอน บน งวงช้าง
kwaan-cháang ngûang-non non bon nguang-cháang
The sleepy mahout slept on the elephant’s trunk.


Sleepy: ง่วงนอน /ngûang-non/
Trunk (of an elephant): งวงช้าง /nguang-cháang/

Thanks to Catherine and Ajarn Phairoh for adding the sound recording of our tone twisters, making them doubly fun to play with.

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

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Hugh Leong loves explaining things. And during his 40 plus years of trying to learn Thai and its culture, he learned to love the cross-cultural aspect of living in a foreign country and speaking its language. His series, Thai Language Thai Culture, covers various aspects of learning Thai, and how the Thai culture influences how we say things.

3 Comments

  1. Unfortunately everything in Thai is still a tone twister for me :) but I am hoping soon to rectify that.

  2. Talen, I do know what you mean. But just being able to see the words side by side in Hugh’s post makes me pay special attention to the different tones.

    Btw – I read an interesting post today: How to overcome your shyness when speaking a foreign language.

    The advice he gives would work well with Hugh’s tone twisters:

    Start with some recordings of yourself speaking. Take these recordings and get them corrected by native speakers.

    So go ahead. Start twisting away.

  3. Catherine and Hugh – I dropped this comment in a couple of nights back but it hasn’t shown.

    This is theind of post I like, a play on words. Excellent.

    I’m reminded of ‘a new wood doesn’t burn, right’ or mai mai mai mai mai.

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