Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Learning Thai

My Thai lessons at TLA language school are continuing. As today I have been studying hard (little afternoon nap was also required due to going out clubbing until 3am last night), I thought I would give you an update.

We spent the first three days having the tones and vowel sounds drummed into our heads. There are five tones in Thai:
Mid - no change in pitch. Surprisingly hard. Have you ever noticed how Brits subtly go up at the end of words?
Low - the pitch drops about four notes (if you were playing it on a key board) while you speak the vowel sound.
Falling - you go up and then down to where you started during the vowel.
High - opposite of low. You rise about four notes during speaking.
Rising - you fall and then go up back to where you started.

Words with multiple vowels will have multiple tones, turning them into tongue twisters e.g. ruler is may (high) - ban (mid) - that (high).

Unsurprisingly the same word pronounced with different tones means different things e.g.
khaaw - with a falling tone is rice.
khaaw - with a rising tone is white.
I am sure there are lots of comedy examples, but I haven't got there yet.

There is no standard translation of the Thai script into the western alphabet. Ask two different people how to spell a word and you will get two different answers, which can also be confusing!

After the first three days of vowels we have started to learn some grammar and how to ask basic questions.

I am hoping to learn some useful tourist conversational vocab e.g. how much is this? I would like a room for two people? can I have a bowl of pork noodle soup? etc.... I am assured this is coming next week!

As a class we go out for lunch each day to a local restaurant. We started off ordering in English and are now in broken Thai with the waitress. Hopefully by the end of the four weeks the Thai will be a bit more fluent!

I have even bought some index cards to list all my vocab to study!

There are claps of thunder in the air. It hasn't rained since I arrived three and a half weeks ago, but I think we are about to be in for an almighty storm........


  1. you forgot 'kaaw' with a low tone. That one means 'news'. More confusion! :)

  2. white rice news! I have just re-stocked with fragrant rice!

    Chok dee!

  3. Ritchie, language and tones aside, what the hell is your email address...can you send it to me (assuming you know mine).