Dialogue

Vocabulary

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Lesson Notes

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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What writing system does Thai use?
Nantanee: And has it changed over time?
Michael: At ThaiPod101.com, we hear these questions often. In the following situation, Arunpan Ampawa, a kindergarten student, is studying the alphabet with her mom, Arisa Ampawa. She sees an unfamiliar letter and asks,
"What letter is that?"
Arunpan Ampawa: นั่นคือตัวอักษรอะไร (nân khuue dtuua àk-sǎawn à-rai)
Dialogue
Arunpan Ampawa: นั่นคือตัวอักษรอะไร (nân khuue dtuua àk-sǎawn à-rai)
Arisa Ampawa: มันคือตัว ภ (man khuue dtuua phaaw)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Arunpan Ampawa: นั่นคือตัวอักษรอะไร (nân khuue dtuua àk-sǎawn à-rai)
Michael: "What letter is that?"
Arisa Ampawa: มันคือตัว ภ (man khuue dtuua phaaw)
Michael: "It's phaaw."

Lesson focus

Michael: In this conversation, we hear
Nantanee: อรุณพรรณ อัมพวา (à-run-phan am-pha-waa)
Michael: say,
Nantanee: นั่นคือตัวอักษรอะไร (nân khuue dtuua àk-sǎawn à-rai)
Michael: which means, "What letter is that?" In response,
Nantanee: อริสา อัมพวา (à-rí-sǎa am-pha-waa)
Michael: says
Nantanee: มันคือตัว ภ (man khuue dtuua phaaw)
Michael: which means "It's phaaw" in English.
Michael: In 1283, the Thai language was introduced by King Ram Kamhaeng of Sukhothai.
Nantanee: พ่อขุ่นรามคำแหงมหาราชแห่งกรุงสุโขทัย (phâaw-khǔn-raam-kham-hǎaeng-má-hǎa-rât hàeng grung-sù-khǒo-thai)
Michael: He also created Thai alphabets based on the Sanskrit alphabet with influences from the old Khmer script.
The Thai script is the same script that’s used not only in the standardized form of Thai, but in other branches of the Thai language including the Northern Thai language,
Nantanee: ภาษาเหนือ (phaa-saa-nǔuea),
Michael: Southern Thai language
Nantanee: ภาษาใต้ (phaa-săa-dtâi),
Michael: and the Isaan language as well,
Nantanee: ภาษาอีสาน (phaa-săa-ii-săan).
Michael: The Thai alphabet has 44 basic consonants, representing 21 distinct consonant sounds. However, there are 18 vowels, which can be combined differently to create 32 vowel sounds. Vowels in the Thai language can appear at the front, behind, above, or below the consonants to indicate the vowel sounds. In addition, they could be placed around the consonants as a mixed vowel. This can be a bit tricky for Thai language learners at first!
Let’s see the 44 basic consonants:
Nantanee: ก (gaaw) ข (khăaw) ฃ (khăaw) ค (khaaw) ฅ (khaaw) ฆ (khaaw) ง (ngaaw) จ (jaaw) ฉ (chăaw) ช (chaaw) ซ (saaw).
Michael: Then, we have…
Nantanee: ฌ (chaaw) ญ (yaaw) ฎ (daaw) ฏ (dtaaw) ฐ (thăaw) ฑ (thaaw) ฒ (thaaw) ณ (naaw) ด (daaw) ต (dtaaw) ถ (thăaw).
Michael: Next, we have…
Nantanee: ท (thaaw) ธ (thaaw) น (naaw) บ (baaw) ป (bpaaw) ผ (phăaw) ฝ (făaw) พ (phaaw) ฟ (faaw) ภ (phaaw) ม (maaw)
Michael: and finally…
Nantanee: ย (yaaw) ร (raaw) ล (laaw) ว (waaw) ศ (săaw) ษ (săaw) ส (săaw) ห (hăaw) ฬ (laaw) อ (aaw) ฮ (haaw).
Michael: When it comes to vowels, it’s important to note that the length of the vowel is much more important in Thai than it is in English. Be mindful about the length of Thai vowels; otherwise, you might be saying something completely different! Let’s see a few examples:
Nantanee: แพะ (pháe),
Michael: which means "goat."
Nantanee: แพ (phaae),
Michael: which means "raft," or
Nantanee: เพราะ (phráw),
Michael: which means "because."
Nantanee: พอ (phaaw),
Michael: which means "enough."
Okay, let’s hear the Thai vowel sounds. The first is
Nantanee: ◌ะ, ◌ั◌ /a/
Michael: It's like the sound "A" in "taco."
Nantanee: ◌า, ◌า◌ /a:/
Michael: This one is like "A" in "father"—identical to the previous one, but held twice as long; with a wide open mouth, and air pouring out.
Nantanee: ◌ิ, ◌ิ◌ /i/
Michael: Try to pronounce this like "I" in "ski." The next is…
Nantanee: ◌ี, ◌ี◌ /i:/
Michael: This one is like "EE" in the word "green"—identical to the previous one, but held twice as long.
Nantanee: ◌ึ, ◌ึ◌ /ɯ/
Michael: This is an unrounded "U" (which doesn't exist in English)—try to pronounce it like the "U" in "true," but with unrounded and spread lips. Let’s hear an example from the native speaker:
Nantanee: นึก (núek),
Michael: which means "thinking." Ok, on to the next one.
Nantanee: ◌ือ, ◌ื◌ /ɯ:/
Michael: This one is pronounced "EU" with a long sound (Which doesn’t exist in English)—Lower the front of the tongue so that it is not touching the palate, keep the teeth close together, slightly open the lips, and then pronounce. Let’s hear an example from the native speaker:
Nantanee: ยืน (yuuen),
Michael: which means "stand."
Nantanee: หรือ (rǔue),
Michael: which means "or." In addition, it also can be used for interrogative words.
Nantanee: ◌ุ, ◌ุ◌ /u/
Michael: This one is pronounced like "OO" in "look."
Nantanee: ◌ู, ◌ู, /u:/
Michael: This vowel is pronounced like "U" in "true"—identical to the previous sound but longer.
Nantanee: เ◌ะ, เ◌็◌ /e/
Michael: is pronounced like "E" in "neck."
Nantanee: เ◌, เ◌◌ /e:/
Michael: This one is like "E" in the word "neigh"—identical to the previous sound, but longer. Let’s see the next one:
Nantanee: แ◌ะ, แ◌็◌ /ɛ/
Michael: Pronounce this like an open "E"—similar to the"A" in "at."
Nantanee: แ◌, แ◌◌ /ɛ:/
Michael: As you can hear, it is identical to the previous sound but longer, like "A" in the word "man."
Nantanee: โ◌ะ, ◌◌ /o/
Michael: This is like the sound "O" in "boat."
Nantanee: โ◌, โ◌◌ /o:/
Michael: This one is similar to the "O" in "go"—identical to the previous sound, but longer.
Nantanee: เ◌าะ, ◌็อ◌ /ɔ/
Michael: The next one is like "O" in "not"—the mouth should be opened wider than the previous one. Let’s hear an example:
Nanatnee: เคาะ (kháw),
Michael: which means "knocking." Ok, we are almost done. Now, let’s continue with
Nantanee: ◌อ, ◌อ◌ /ɔ:/
Michael: Pronounce this like "O" in "ought"—open the mouth wide and let the air pour out.
Nantanee: เ◌อะ /ɤ/
Michael: This sound doesn't exist in English. It’s similar to "E" in "the." Try to pronounce "O" in "boat," but unround and spread the lips. Let’s hear an example word for better understanding
Nantanee: เยอะ (yóe),
Michael: which means "many." For the last vowel, we have
Nantanee: เ◌อ, เ◌ิ◌ /ɤ:/,
Michael: which is similar to "U" in "burn.'' It’s identical to the previous sound but longer.
Expansion/Contrast
Michael:There are consonants that foreigners may find difficult to pronounce such as
Nantanee: ป (bpaaw),
Michael: which is halfway between the sounds "b" and "p" or
Nantanee: ต (dtaaw)
Michael: which is between the sounds "d" and "t." Let’s hear some examples:
Nantanee: ปกป้อง (bpòk-bpâawng),
Michael: which means "protect."
Nantanee: ติดตั้ง (dtìt-dtâng),
Michael: which means "install."
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: When it comes to numbers in Thai, or
Nantanee: ระบบตัวเลข (rá-bòp dtuua-lêek),
Michael: Hindu-Arabic numerals are used. In addition, Thai also has its own unique numeral system, although the Hindu-Arabic numeral system,
Nantanee: ระบบตัวเลขฮินดู-อารบิก (rá-bòp dtuua-lêek hin-duu aa-rá-bìk),
Michael: is much more prevalent in westernized aspects of Thai culture, as well as when used on an international scale.
Michael: The Thai language has also evolved over time. There is a change in tonal indication and writing system over time from Old Thai
Nantanee: ไทยโบราณ (thai-boo-raan).
Michael: One example of the significant changes in the Thai language is the tonal clarification. There has been an evolution of differentiating each tonal sound of the five tones in the Thai language for which the difference in speaking was not that different before. With the change of implementing five tones, the Thai language has a better voicing distinction and the listener would have a better understanding in some ambiguous sentences.

Outro

Michael: Do you have any more questions? We’re here to answer them!
Nantanee: แล้วพบกันใหม่เร็วๆนี้ค่ะ (láaeo-phóp-gan-mài reo-reo-níi khà)
Michael: See you soon!

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