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.
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)
|g||as in sky||y||as in yes|
|j||as in jar||r||as in burrow|
|d||as in dog||l||as in love|
|dt||as in stop||h||as in have|
|b||as in bog||w||as in want|
|bp||as in spot||kh||as in kiss|
|s||as in send||ch||as in chat|
|ng||as in ring||ph||as in pet|
|n||as in name||th||as in tin|
|m||as in man||f||as in fog|
There are 6 ending consonant sounds in Thai.
|m||as in tim||p||as in top|
|n||as in tin||k||as in jock|
|ng||as in ting||d||as in tod|
There are both short and long vowel sounds.
|a||bat, fad||aa||cart, heart|
|aai||bye, fly||aai||why, sky|
|eh/e||pet, bent||aeh/ae||pay, pale|
|–||–||aeo||baby waeh waeh|
|ia||Mama Mia||iia||Mama Mia|
|ua||true ant||uua||true ant|
|eu||yeuch!||euu||boot, while smiling|
|eua||too a day, smiling||euua||too a day, smiling|
|euai||too why, smiling||euuai||too why, smiling|
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.
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.