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Lesson Transcript

Hi! Welcome to Introduction to Thai.
My name is Alisha, and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Jay.
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Thai pronunciation.
English vs. Thai sounds
Do you know that like English, the Thai alphabet is divided into consonants and vowels?
In Thai, there are 21 consonant sounds and 18 basic vowel sounds. By using all of these sounds, you can form every single word in Thai.
Still seem complicated? Well how about this: of the 21 consonant sounds in Thai, you already know 18 of the original sounds.
That's right. If you're a native English speaker, then you already make these sounds every day!
You can also ignore 14 of the vowel sounds for the very same reason.
So, the only thing standing between you and perfect Thai pronunciation are 3 new consonant sounds and 4 new vowel sounds. Let's hear Jay pronounce the unique sounds of Thai!
The new consonant sounds that you have to learn are r [r] (ร), j [tɕ] (จ) and ch [tɕʰ] (ฉ, ช, ฌ).
And for vowels, ue (อึ), uue (อื), oe (เออะ), ooe (เออ).
Last consonant in Thai
One big difference between Thai and English pronunciation is that all final consonants in Thai are unreleased.
Take the previous example for "love."
รัก Rak
Do you notice how air in the final K sound is not expelled? This is true for all final consonants in Thai words.
If an English speaker were to attempt to say this, however, they would tend to say something like "ruck." It's a natural habit to release the final consonant sound.
Ok, let's listen again.
How about the word "Khid," which means "thinking" in Thai?
It will sound like this: คิด คิด
So, just keep in mind that the last consonant in a Thai word is ALWAYS unreleased.
Tonation in Thai
Thai is a tonal language. That means two seemingly similar words, or ones that sound the same for Western learners, can have two completely different meanings – simply depending on their respective intonation.
For example, ไกล (glai) and ใกล้ (glâi). ไกล (glai) means "far," and 'ใกล้' (glâi) means "near."
The meanings are totally different with a small change in the intonation.
So, just bear in mind that tone is just as important as spelling in Thai, as it can be used to distinguish the meaning of one word from another.
Thai is comprised of 5 tones in total: middle, low, falling, high, and rising tones.
You need to learn the Thai tones because a word in Thai can mean different things when a different tone is applied.
(middle) Mai ไม - "Mile,"
(low) Mai ใหม่ - "New,"
(rising) Mai ไม่/ไหม้ - "Not" or "Burning,"
(high) Mai ไม้ - "Wood"
(rising) Mai ไหม - "silk."
So, as you can see, with different intonation, the meaning changes.
To complete our introduction to the pronunciation lesson, I'll point out that the overall syllable must be spoken with the correct tone.
There are no shortcuts to learning Thai tones. The only way is to practice speaking and listening to Thai regularly. Imitating words in different tones, like the one in this example, is a very useful way to practice.
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Thai has 21 consonant sounds and 32 vowel sound. Pronunciation of the all final consonants in Thai are silent. And in Thai, tones are very important, as a similar word with different tone can have different meaning.
We've covered only the basics of Thai pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check our "Ultimate Guide to Thai Pronunciation." In that video series, we teach you how to pronounce every single sound used in Thai.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Thai grammar, where you'll learn about Thai word order and how to build basic phrases in Thai.
See you in the next lesson. Bye!