Thai Foundation

Getting started

the 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.


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 sky, skin, skullญ ยyas in yes, you, yellow
jas in jar, jump, jogras in burrow, train, bronze
ฎ ดdas in dog, dad, dipล ฬlas in love, like, lump
ฏ ตdtas in stop, start, stickห ฮhas in have, hope, help
bas in bog, ball, binwas in want, wit, well
bpas in spot, span, spitข ค ฆkhas in kiss, khaki, kelp
ซ ศ ษ สsas in send, sat, sunฉ ช ฌchas in chat, chip, chum
ngas in ring, tong, sangผ พ ภphas in pet, pad, pub
ณ นnas in name, nut, nabฐ ฑ ฒ ถ ท ธthas in tin, tap, tun
mas in man, mix, mobฝ ฟfas in fog, fab, fin

ending consonants

There are 6 ending consonant sounds in Thai.

mas in tim, dam, cam, dompas in cap, bop, top, lip
nas in tin, fan, men, con, tunkas in back, neck, kick, jock, luck
ngas in ring, hang, rung, songdas in add, bed, cud, did, tod


There are both short and long vowel sounds.

อะabat, fadอาaacart, heart
อิibit, kidอีeebeet
อุuput, tookอูuuboot
อึeuyeuch!อืeuuboot (while smiling)
เอะepet, bentเอaepay, pale
โอะoe/opokeโอoogo, low
เอาะolotออawlaw, taut
เออะuhdirtเออerlearn, turn
เอียะiaMama MiaเอียiiaMama Mia
เอือะeuatoo a day (smiling)เอือeuuatoo a day (smiling)
อัวะuatrue antอัวuuatrue ant
เอาaopoutอาวaaochow, powder
ไอ ใอ อัยaibye, flyอายaaiwhy, sky
แอวaaeobaby waeh waeh
อิวiwfewเอยaeysofa yawn
โอยooigo yet
อุยuioo-eeอวยuuaitrue why
เอือยeuuaitoo why (smiling)

short vowels

Notice the shape of the mouth and lips when saying the vowels.

long vowels

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’re speaking in sentences you’ll be understood more through context than pronunciation. Good tone comes with practice and from listening to others.