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How to start?

Vowel & consonant graphemes (letters), syllables, and orthography

Moderator: daฟาน

How to start?

Postby RedheadPapa1 » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:36 pm

Sa wat dee khap! (the only sentence I know). I registered here to ask you how should I start learning Thai? Should I skip writing and reading and focus on spoken Thai? My goal is to be able to talk with the Thais in Muay Thai gym which I will visit some day so writing and reading isn't as important. And then when I master talking I would start to write and read. Is that good idea? Because now it's very very hard for me to understand all three aspects of Thai language in one time. What do you think? I've got a lot of time - about 1.5 - 2 years. Could you help me because it's really hard for me (especially because I don't speak English very very well) to learn Thai. Could you tell me what should I learn firstly and what should be the next step? Greetings from Poland.
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Re: How to start?

Postby Toffeeman » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:19 am

Welcome RedheadPapa1.

First I must say that your English looks good to me. Written English often gives away your level of English. I hadn't noticed it wasn't from a native until you said so. Then I went back and checked more thoroughly and in just a couple of places it shows it is a non native but on the whole your level of written Eng is excellent. But you didn't write here to talk about your English ability.

You ask a very good question that all us learners have asked. Should I learn to read and write from the start. I think my case is typical. I didn't and learned through karoke Thai for a year before taking the plunge and learning the alphabet. As soon as I did that I realised I should have done it from the start. If you check out some of the interviews on this site: http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/cat ... nterviews/ you will notice that most people recommend learning the alphabet from the start.

Of course it comes down to how far you want to go with Thai. If you just want to learn some expressions you think you will use in the boxing community then you can do that through karoke Thai. If you want to come here and interact with Thai people in general and thus take Thai learning more seriously I would recommend going for the alphabet from the start.
Last edited by Toffeeman on Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to start?

Postby RedheadPapa1 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:47 am

Thank you very much for your reply. It would be awesome to know Thai language as well to be able to talk with them, to read something together and few others things which spoken Thai won't let me. As I wrote - I have some time - I plan to visit Thailand by 2 years so maybe it is enough time to get used to this language. So I decided to start from the very beginning - what after alphabet?
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Re: How to start?

Postby Tgeezer » Sun Apr 29, 2012 11:04 am

RedheadPapa1 wrote:Thank you very much for your reply. It would be awesome to know Thai language as well to be able to talk with them, to read something together and few others things which spoken Thai won't let me. As I wrote - I have some time - I plan to visit Thailand by 2 years so maybe it is enough time to get used to this language. So I decided to start from the very beginning - what after alphabet?

Written Thai is not so simple as English where we have an alphabet of vowels (pure sounds) and consonants, (transformed sounds) .

The vowels are formed just like English vowels and probably Polish. They all need a consonant to start them off, the one used is 'or' which is as close to a vowel as any thing so is also listed as a vowel. The vowels are listed in order of their position relative to the consonant; 1. after (as in English) 'ah' อา, 2. above 'i' อี 3. 'eu' อื,4. under 'u' อู, and before เอ แอ, then there are combinations of the sounds, 2+1= เอีย 3+1 เอือ. and 4+1 อัว. As you can see the symbols chosen seem wrong but they represent the sounds made when combining the vowels. You will find that, like both and are listed as vowel symbols as well as consonants because of this.

The consonants are formed in the mouth starting with tongue on roof of mouth; at the back G K (กอ ขอ), mid way J ch จอ ฉอ ชอ, tongue on front gums and teeth d dt (ฎอ ฏอ and ดอ ตอ) two groups, (that is a total of 25 letters) and the lips b p บอ ปอ. They are listed in that order with a nasal after each group. ng y n ง ญ ณ น If you are going to learn them you will soon see a pattern.
These can't be said without a vowel and the basic vowel used is 'or' . again.

I must apologize for all this; it is a rainy Sunday, but now I can go for a lunchtime pint so that's it. I hope that it has answered some questions and created others. :lol:
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Re: How to start?

Postby RedheadPapa1 » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:00 pm

It definitly created a lot of questions but still the most important is "how to start". As I wrote, I decided to start from the alphabet - how? Should I try to remember the shape and the meaning of the symbol? Is that the way of learning the alphabet?
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Re: How to start?

Postby Tgeezer » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:16 pm

RedheadPapa1 wrote:It definitly created a lot of questions but still the most important is "how to start". As I wrote, I decided to start from the alphabet - how? Should I try to remember the shape and the meaning of the symbol? Is that the way of learning the alphabet?

You must remember the shape and the sound. I found that the best way was to learn them by rote, I had a chart on the back of the bathroom door. :)
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Re: How to start?

Postby Richard Wordingham » Sun Apr 29, 2012 8:51 pm

RedheadPapa1 wrote:It definitly created a lot of questions but still the most important is "how to start". As I wrote, I decided to start from the alphabet - how? Should I try to remember the shape and the meaning of the symbol? Is that the way of learning the alphabet?


See my post of 5 April 2012 in the thread http://www.thai-language.com/forums/t/l ... /t7995/s10 about the order of learning consonants and vowels. Some consonants you will not need to use for a very long time - the first time I had occasion to use was in citing a car registration number. When I was courting my wife, I had to make a Thai font so I could use a computer to check the spelling of my love letters. I left the less frequent letters to be added when I needed them - and I never needed them.

Tgeezer's point about the phonetic organisation of the alphabet is very relevant. It annoys me that the Thai consonants are rarely taught using a lay-out such as in http://www.thai-language.com/ref/phonet ... consonants . You've heard of the periodic table of the elements; there is also a periodic table of the Thai consonants.
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Re: How to start?

Postby Thomas » Wed May 02, 2012 7:32 pm

RedheadPapa1 wrote:It definitly created a lot of questions but still the most important is "how to start". As I wrote, I decided to start from the alphabet - how? Should I try to remember the shape and the meaning of the symbol? Is that the way of learning the alphabet?


I, personally, although your question is a difficult one, would say that you should not miss learning the letters. And for memorizing their shape it seems to be adviceable to write the letters by hand (e.g., still today I mix up [kho khai] and [do dek])

But...

To memorize 44 consonants and 32 vowels, without knowing at the beginning for what this exercise is necessary?! ho nok huk leo ko bai non ... or so ...

From a today's point of view: I baught most recently 'Thai for Beginners von Benjawan Poomsan Becker' --- I'm slightly more advanced but looking back: That's a nice method: Conversation in a transcript, Thai letters, and, lesson 1, to write the middle consonants (plus some explanations on Thai writing system etc.).

I think, such a 'mixed' approach is better than to try to memorize first 44 consonants (which actually takes time) without knowing for what. I think you hove time until last lessons of Benjawan Poomsan Becker before you start to learn the Thai consonants in their 'alphabetic' order.

But again: Learn letters, and try to write them by hand. Just from the beginning. Learning complete sentences, know their meaning, and knowing how to write them makes enough fun to further motivate to learn more.

This drill software by dek gaeng is a quick help for training consonants:

http://www.dekgeng.com/thai/image/korkai.swf
http://www.dekgeng.com/thai/image/testkorkai.swf
There are three kinds of people: Those who can count and those who cannot.
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Re: How to start?

Postby tod-daniels » Fri May 04, 2012 4:23 am

Well, again this is my opinion (and yes, I realize opinions are like a**holes, everyone's got one :o )
BUT:
I have been unable to find a practical reason to learn all 44 Thai consonants (of which 42 are used nowadays) in the order they are listed in the Thai "consonant alphabet" chart :oops: . As a foreigner, I've found it's highly unlikely you're ever gonna be called upon to recite them in order or to stand up and sing the "catchy Thai alphabet song" either. :lol:

Learn them by consonant class, start with the 9 mid-class consonants (ก จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ), then the 11 high class consonants (ข ฃ ฉ ฐ ถ ผ ฝ ศ ษ ส ห), finally realize that anything left over is one of the 22 low class ones (ค ฅ ฆ ง ช ซ ฌ ญ ฑ ฒ ณ ท ธ น พ ฟ ภ ม ย ร ล ว ฬ ฮ).

Just a note; while some schools teach paired and single low class consonants, there is NO advantage to knowing this that I can work out (other than to break the long-ish list of 22 low class consonants down into more manageable bites) ;) ..

When you learn the class of consonants, you need to learn three things;
*the normal sound that particular consonant makes when it starts a word,
*the sound it makes when it ends a word (that is IF it makes one, because there are some Thai consonants which NEVER end words), also if it ends a word or syllable does it make a live คำเป็น or dead คำตาย ending
*and lastly what tone sound that consonant is compelled to make when it has a tone mark over it.

I suggest learning the tone mark sounds in the same order;
*tone marks over middle class consonants (the only class of consonant which can carry all 5 tone sounds and which uses all 4 tone marks),
*tone marks over high class consonants (which can make three sounds but just uses the first two tone marks and those marks make the same sounds as the mid class consonants do when marked).
*finally tone marks over low class consonants (trickier because the tone marks "shift" one position in the tone sound a tone mark compels low class consonants to be). <- FWIW; I hate that rule :oops:

After that (as if it's not enough ;) ) you need to identify the 15 consonant clusters, the 9 consonants which a silent can proceed (, , , , , , , , ) because even though the is silent in theory it is the first consonant in the word and it makes the word follow the tone rules of high class consonants, and lastly silent words (thankfully there are ONLY four or those) :lol: .

Of course vowels and their rules are another kettle of fish entirely :?

While it sounds like a LOT, (and sure seemed like a LOT too when I first started learning it :cry: ), really looking back at it, it isn't too tough to understand now, and perhaps I'm just not all that bright a human bean to begin with :shock: ..

As I tell foreigners all the time here; Hey man, there're 63+ million people living here who seem to speak Thai just fine. I'm pretty sure they're all not smarter than you. Or are they :? ? <- (BTW: that is totally a jab at the endless excuses I hear foreigners give for not learning Thai and is NO way meant to be demeaning or denigrating to Thais).
Still good luck. . . Sorry this was long-ish. ..
"Whoever said `Money can`t buy you love or joy` obviously was not making enough money." <- quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS
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Re: How to start?

Postby keith » Fri May 04, 2012 4:52 am

I agree with all that Tod has written, but to see it all like that can be rather daunting! I looked for patterns and mnemonics to help. Silly little things like mixing up and พ ฟ ฝ then read somewhere the tip that with these the high class letters have their circle pointing inwards. With the tone rules I came across a resource called something like Learn the Thai Alphabet In 60 Minutes. It used different terms for closed syllables it used the term attenuated and for open the term extended. Then there were a series of mnemonics

LEM(on) Low Extended Mid Tone
LASH Low Attenuated Short High
LALF Low Attenuated Long Falling

And so on. With the tone marks it had little visual mnemonics + looks like an aeroplane rising straight up so it gives a rising tone

They were silly but because of that they stuck. When I return home next week I will look out the link
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