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Lesson Transcript

Ryan: Welcome back to All About Thai, lesson 4. In this lesson, we’ll show you how easy it is to start speaking Thai.
Rawinporn: We will be focusing on pronunciation.
Ryan: We’ll give you tips on how to perfect your pronunciation.
Rawinporn: The Thai language uses a non-Roman script.
Ryan: Exactly! For people who are learning Thai as their second or third language, it’s easier to get a hold of the sounds if we transcribe them into the Latin alphabet first.
Rawinporn: In the Thai language, there are 44 consonants…
Ryan: And 21 vowels. That’s a lot!
Rawinporn: I know! There are many consonants with the same pronunciation as in English. However, many differences exist.
Ryan: We’ll guide you to help you pronounce Thai correctly.
Rawinporn: Let’s start with Thai consonants with the same pronunciation as in English.
Ryan: -b, -d, -f, -h, -kh
Rawinporn: -l, -m, -n, -s, -w, and -ch
Ryan: Can you give us some examples?
Rawinporn: For example, the -kh sound, Khun Ryan.
Ryan: The -ch sound. For example, Chiang Mai, the name of the province in the northern part of Thailand.
Rawinporn: Exactly! Now, let’s have a closer look at Thai sounds that have different pronunciation than in English.
Ryan: First, -bp.
Rawinporn: -bp. When we transcribe in the Latin alphabet, we normally use the letter -p.
Ryan: The -bp sound is a harder sound than -p in English. It’s more like between -p and -b sounds. So, we’ll be using -bp in the lesson notes to distinguish this letter from the English -p.
Rawinporn: For example, let’s take the sport ping-pong or “table tennis” in English. Thais would say bping-bpawng.
Rawinporn: bpuuen
Ryan: means “gun.”
Rawinporn: bpiin
Ryan: means “climb up.”
Rawinporn: bpiin khǎo
Ryan: means “climb up the mountain.” Next, we would pronounce the -ph sound in Thai as -p in English.
Rawinporn: For example, phîi chaai
Ryan: means “elder brother.”
Rawinporn: phîi-sǎao
Ryan: means “elder sister.”
Rawinporn: We transcribe the -ph sound into the Latin alphabet as P-H.
Ryan: -dt
Rawinporn: The -dt sound is a harder sound than -t in Englisgh. It is more like between the -t and -d sounds. For this letter, we write it as -dt in our notes to distinguish it. It is very similar to -t as in “sixty.”
Ryan: For example?
Rawinporn: dtôn-mái
Ryan: means “tree.” Next, the -th sound.
Rawinporn: -th. thá-hǎan means “soldier.” It sounds just the same as -t in English, but when transcribe it into the Latin alphabet, we use the letters -th.
Ryan: The -h indicates that it includes an aspiration or puff of air when it is sounded. THe previous sound was non-aspirated. You can tell the difference by holding your hand in front of your mouth as you say each one to feel the breath. Try it. Repeat after khun Rawinporn.
Rawinporn: -dt, -th
Ryan: Did you feel the difference? The next sound is the -g sound. It has a harder sound than the -g in English. It’s more like between the -g and -k sounds.
Rawinporn: For example, gài.
Ryan: means “chicken.”
Rawinporn: gin
Ryan: means “eat.” The next one is the -j sound. It has a harder sound than -j in English.
Rawinporn: For example, jèp.
Ryan: means “hurt.”
Rawinporn: dì-chǎn jèp
Ryan: It means “I’m hurt.”
Rawinporn: jai
Ryan: means “heart.” Next is the -r sound. When you pronounce this sound, you need to roll your tongue a little bit.
Rawinporn: -r. The word ruuea.
Ryan: means “boat.”
Rawinporn: dì-chǎn châawp ruuea,
Ryan: means “I like boats.”
Rawinporn: Last but not least is -ng sound. This one is maybe the most difficult for Westerners.
Ryan: -ng
Rawinporn: Yes, -ng. The word nguu
Ryan: means “snake.” phǒm mâi châawp nguu.
Rawinporn: dì-chǎn mâi châawp nguu.
Ryan: Means “I don’t like snakes.” Whoa, sounds scary to me!
Rawinporn: I know. Next, we’ll talk about intonation. Maybe this sounds scarier than -ng, but believe me, everyone can do it.
Ryan: Let’s try the intonation together.
Rawinporn: Well, there is no stress on Thai words. Instead, Thai is a tonal language. There are five tones; mid, low, falling, high, and rising tone.
Ryan: Can you give us some examples?
Rawinporn: khaa has five tones. These five different tones have five meanings.
Ryan: Just like in the previous lesson, we’re going to give you the word one time at natural native speed. Then we’ll give you the English translation. Let’s start with the mid tone.
Rawinporn: khaa
Ryan: “to be stuck to”
Rawinporn: low tone, khàa.
Ryan: "Galanga"
Rawinporn: Falling tone, khâa
Ryan: khâa means "to kill"
Rawinporn: High tone, kháa.
Ryan: "to sell"
Rawinporn: Last one, rising tone, khǎa.
Ryan: khǎa means "leg.”
Rawinporn: nùeng khǎa
Ryan: “one leg”
Rawinporn: sǎawng khǎa
Ryan: “Two legs.” khaa in Thai is just the same between singular and plural!
Rawinporn: So easy!
Ryan: That’s right. About our pronunciation lesson, please keep in mind that listening and repeating is really the key to improving your pronunciation. Listen to and copy native speakers as much as you can.
Rawinporn: sà-wàt-dii khâ.
Ryan: sà-wàt-dii khráp.