Chapter 1

phonetic Thai alphabet

The following are the standardised spellings used in all PLS Thai study books and materials. We have adopted a phonetic system that’s easy to read whilst still retaining good pronunciation and tone. Please familiarise yourself with the system by reading some text aloud to a Thai friend.

Consonants

initial consonants

There are 20 initial consonant sounds in Thai.

Note: ph & th are soft ‘p’ and ‘t’ sounds (‘ph’ as in pay, not phone) (‘th’ as in tin, not thin)
Note: bp and dt are hard ‘p’ and ‘t’ sounds (‘bp’ as in spat, not pat) (‘dt’ as in stop, not top)

gas in skyyas in yes
jas in jarras in burrow
das in doglas in love
dtas in stophas in have
bas in bogwas in want
bpas in spotkhas in kiss
sas in sendchas in chat
ngas in ringphas in pet
nas in namethas in tin
mas in manfas in fog

ending consonants

There are 6 ending consonant sounds in Thai.

mas in timpas in top
nas in tinkas in jock
ngas in tingdas in tod

Vowels

There are both short and long vowel sounds.

shortlong
abat, fadaacart, heart
aaibye, flyaaiwhy, sky
daopoutaaochow, powder
eh/epet, bentaeh/aepay, pale
aecataaeair
aeobaby waeh waeh
uhdirterlearn, turn
iufewaeysofa yawn
ewfellaewrailway
ibit, kideebeet
iaMama MiaiiaMama Mia
iaaomeow
oepokeoogo, low
ooigo yet
olotawlaw, taut
oylawyer
uput, tookuuboot
uatrue antuuatrue ant
uuaitrue why
euyeuch!euuboot, while smiling
euatoo a day, smilingeuuatoo a day, smiling
euaitoo why, smilingeuuaitoo why, smiling

Tone marks

Accents are placed above the first vowel in a word or syllable to indicate tone. Tones apply to syllables, not words, so a multi-syllable word may have more than one tone.

common tone

lòw tòne

fâlling tône

hígh tóne

rĭsing tŏne

Don’t get hung up on being tone perfect. As long as you are speaking in sentences you’ll be understood more through context than pronunciation. Good tone comes with practise and from listening to others.