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Lesson Transcript

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 writing.
The Thai Alphabet
The Thai language has 44 consonants, 32 vowels, 4 tone marks, and various other symbols for pronunciation.
Also, in the Thai writing system, there are no spaces between words. Instead, spaces in a Thai text indicate the end of a clause or sentence.
Take the sentences, "I'm a student. I have to go to school every day." In Thai, you will write these two sentences as ฉันเป็นนักเรียน ฉันต้องไปโรงเรียนทุกวัน (chăn bpen nák-riian chăn dtâwng bpai roong-riian thúk wan).
So, you can see, we use space to indicate the end of a sentence.
Now, you may feel it's difficult, but let me assure you that Thai and English are more similar than you think.
First, Thai language is read and written horizontally from left to right.
And just like the ABCs in English, you mix consonants with vowels to make syllables and words.
The Thai Consonants
In Thai language, there are 44 consonant letters.
But since many of the consonants produce the same sound, the 44 consonants produce only 21 distinct initial consonant sounds when used at the beginning of a syllable and 6 final consonant sounds when used at the end of a syllable.
Another important thing you need to know about Thai consonants is that Thai consonants are divided into three classes - middle, high, and low.
These three classifications are very important when you mix consonants with accent marks in order to make a correct intonation.
The Thai Vowel
Vowels in Thai are called...
สระ (sà-rà)
In Thai, there are 32 vowels in total, with 16 different vowel symbols that combine into different patterns.
And out of these 32 vowels, 18 are basic vowels, which each exist in long and short pairs.
The length of the vowel sound is much more important in Thai than it is in English.
Let's say you are saying the word "love" in short and long duration; the meaning of the word does not change. However, this does not apply to Thai language. The same word with different short and long vowels create different meanings.
For example, ติ (dtì) and ตี (dtii). The first word ติ with the shorter sound means "to criticize." If you say it a bit longer, ตี, it means "to hit."
Another example is บุตร (bùt) or "offsprings," and บูด (bùut) or "to be rotten."
Now, you understand short and long vowels in Thai.
Another thing you need to know is that unlike English, not all vowel forms follow consonants. Some appear above consonants and some below. And complex form vowels can be placed around the consonants.
หิว (the vowel is above: ิ )
ดู (the vowel is below: ู)
เบา (the vowel is around the consonant: เ_า)
เรือ (complex form of vowel> it's around and above: เือ)
The fifth is just normal (mid tone) and has no mark.
Tone marks
Thai is a tonal language with 5 tones that are indicated by 4 tone marks.
_่ ... ไม้เอก ... máai-èek
_้ ... ไม้โท ... máai-too
_๊ ... ไม้ตรี ... máai-dtrii
_๋ ... ไม้จัตวา ... máai-jàt-dtà-waa
For example, ไม้เอก (่) ไม้โท(้) ไม้ตรี(๊) ไม้จัตวา (๋)
The fifth is just normal (mid tone) and has no mark.
These tone marks are important, as it helps you apply the correct tone. In writing, these tone marks are always placed above an initial consonant.
OK. Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, you learned that Thai alphabet comprises of consonants, vowels, and tone marks. Also, there are 32 vowels that produce either short or long sounds. Lastly, tone marks are important in Thai writing, as they help indicate the correct tone to the word.
We've covered only the very basics of Thai writing. If you want to learn more, check out our "Learn Thai Writing" video series.
In the next lesson, you'll be entering Thai boot camp, where you'll learn useful beginner phrases to get you speaking Thai right away!
See you in the next lesson. Bye!