Thai Alphabet Pronunciation

thai alphabetLearning the Thai alphabet is very important to learning how to speak Thai. Even if you do not know how to write the alphabet, learning the pronunciation of the Thai alphabet is essential to learning to speak the language.

The better you learn to pronounce the sounds of the letters in the Thai alphabet, the easier it will be for those who also speak Thai to understand you. If you are not familiar with the Thai alphabet, it can at first glance appear intimidating, but we will break down the pronunciation of each letter with English examples, and with a little practice, you will gain an understanding of Thai in no time!

Be sure to practice and memorize the pronunciation of the letters of the Thai alphabet in order to be able to progress and be on your way to learning Thai. 

Let’s get started!

A Little Background Info

The Thai alphabet is used to write Thai, Sanskrit, Pali, and a number of minority languages that are spoken in Thailand. Learning the Thai alphabet and its pronunciation will prove useful when traveling to Thailand or simply wishing to learn to communicate in Thai or any of these languages. If Thai culture is an interest, you may wish to explore other aspects of the Thai culture, such as the cuisine.

Learning about different aspects of a culture help to enrich your understanding of it as well as of the language.

About the Thai Alphabet

There are 44 consonant symbols in the Thai alphabet which produce 21 initial consonant sounds when used at the beginning of a syllable, and 6 final consonant sounds when used at the end of a syllable. To break it down further, there are 24 low class consonants, 9 middle class consonants, and 11 high class consonants. What do the different classes mean, you ask? The classes of the Thai alphabet are important for determining the tone with which a syllable should be spoken. Since many of the consonants of the Thai alphabet produce the same sound, each consonant has an acrophonic word that is conventionally used to uniquely identify it.

Features of the Thai Alphabet to Note

-The direction of writing is left to right in horizontal lines.

-Eight of the letters are used only for writing words of Pali and Sanskrit origin.

-For some consonants there are multiple letters. Originally they represented separate sounds, but over the years the distinction between those sounds was lost and the letters were used instead to indicate tones.

-There are no spaces between words. Instead, spaces in a Thai text indicate the end of a clause or sentence.

Thai Alphabet Letters and Pronunciation

Below is a table showing the Thai alphabet and how it is pronounced in English, and finally examples of how those letters would sound if you place them in a word.

Consonants

Thai Alphabet               English Sound        Pronunciation Example

                                          k                                  as in ko kai (chicken)

                                         kh                                as in kho khai (egg)

ฃ                                         kh                                as in kho khuat (bottle) [obsolete]

ค                                         kh                                as in kho khwai (water buffalo)

ฅ                                         kh                                as in kho khon (person) [obsolete]

ฆ                                         kh                               as in kho ra-kchang (bell)

                                         ng                                as in ngo ngu (snake)

                                        ch                                as in cho chan (plate)

ฉ                                        ch                                as in cho ching (cymbals)

                                        ch                                as in choc hang (elephant)

                                       s                                   as in so so (chain)

                                     ch                                as in choc hoe (tree)

ญ                                     y                                  as in yo ying (woman)

ฎ                                     d                                  as in do cha-da (headdress)

ฏ                                     t                                   as in to pa-tak (javelin)

                                     th                                 as in tho than (base)

ฑ                                    th                                 as in tho montho (Mandodari, character from Ramayana)

ฒ                                   th                                as in tho phu-thao (elder)

ณ                                   n                                  as in no nen (samanera)

ด                                    d                                  as in do dek (child)

                                    t                                   as in to tao (turtle)

ถ                                   th                                 as in tho thung (sack)

ท                                   th                                 as in tho thahan (soldier)

ธ                                   th                                 as in tho thong (flag)

                                   n                                  as in no nu (mouse)

                                   b                                  as in bo baimai (leaf)

                                  p                                  as in pop la (fish)

                                 ph                                as in pho phueng (bee)

                                  f                                   as in fo fa (lid)

                                 ph                                as in pho phan (tray)

                                  f                                   as in fo fan (teeth)

                                 ph                                as in pho sam-phao (sailboat)

                                 m                                 as in mo ma (horse)

                                 y                                  as in yo yak (giant)

                                  r                                   as in ro ruea (boat)

                                  l                                   as in lo ling (monkey)

ว                                  w                                 as in wo waen (ring)

                                 s                                   as in so sala (pavilion)

                                 s                                   as in so rue-si (hermit)

                                  s                                  as in so suea (tiger)

ห                                 h                                  as in ho hip (chest)

ฬ                                 l                                   as in lo chu-la (kite)

อ                                  *                                  as in o ang (basin)

ฮ                                  h                                  as in ho nok-huk (owl)          

Vowels

Following are the vowels of the Thai alphabet along with examples of pronunciation, just like above. Incorporating language learning methods may make it easier to learn a new alphabet, as well as a foreign language. Give it a try!

Thai Alphabet             English Sound             Pronunciation Example

–                                            a                                  u as in nut

– –                                        o                                  oa as in boat

รร                                       an                                un as in tun

รร–                                    a                                  u as in nut

รรม                                   am                               um as in hum

–ว–                                      ua                                ewe as in newer

วย                                     uai                               uoy as in buoy

อ                                       o                                   aw as in in saw

็อ                                    o                                  o as in in not

ะ                                        a                                  u as in nut

–                                      a                                  u as in nut

ัย                                       ai                                 i as in in hi

ัว                                       ua                               ewe as in in newer

ัวะ                                      ua                              ewe as in in sewer

า                                        a                                  a as in father

าย                                     ai                                 ye as in bye

าว                                      ao                             ow as in in now

ำ                                       am                               um as in sum

ิ                                          i                                y as in greedy

ิว                                       io                                 ew as in in new

ี                                         i                                   ee as in see

ึ                                        ue                                u as in French du (short)

ื                                        ue                                u as in French dur (long)

ุ                                       u                                  oo as in in look

ู                                       u                                  oo as in too

–                                      e                                  a as in lame

–                                  e                                  e as in neck

ะ                                    e                                 e as in neck

ย                                  oei                               u as in burn + y as in boy

อ                                   oe                                u as in burn

อะ                                oe                                e as in the

                                oe                                e as in the

ว                                 eo                                ai + ow as in rainbow

า                                 ao                                ow as in cow

าะ                                o                                o as in not

ีย                                ia                                 ea as in ear

ียะ                              ia                                 ea as in ear with glottal stop

ียว                             iao                               io as in in trio

ือ                               uea                               ure as in pure

ือะ                            uea                               ure as in pure

–                                ae                                 a as in ham

ะ                             ae                                 a as in at

–                           ae                                 a as in at

ว                            aeo                               a as in ham + ow as in low

–                                o                                  o as in go

ะ                              o                                  o as in poke

–                                ai                                 i as in in I

                                ai                                 i as in in I

ฤ                                rue                               ri as in in Krishna

ฤๅ                              Rue                              ri as in in Krishna

ฦ                                 lue                               li as in in leak

Practice, practice, practice!

Again, learning the Thai alphabet will get easier with practice. It is important to memorize the pronunciation of each letter of the Thai alphabet in order to be able to learn to read and speak the language. Learning about methods regarding language and memorization may help the process move along more smoothly and easily. Take a look and get started learning Thai today!