When learning to pronounce the words in any new language correctly, it’s always a good practice to first identify those sounds which differ from your native language. This rule of thumb applies as much to Thai pronunciation as it does to that of any other language. If your native language happens to be English, then you’re in luck! The sounds in Thai that differ from the sounds in English are actually very limited. Most of these sounds are consonant combinations, and we think the best approach is simply to tell you what these sounds are and how to pronounce them.
The first sound that’s different in Thai pronunciation than in that of the English language is the “pb” sound. This is a very hard sound that actually falls somewhere between those two letters. The next sound we’d like to point out is the “ph” sound. This one sounds like a simple English “p.” Then, there’s “dt.” This combo sounds a lot like the “t” in, “sixty.” “Th” is pronounced like “t.” The letter “g” is said a lot harder in Thai than it is in English, as is the letter “j.” When you pronounce the letter “r” in the Thai language, you should slightly roll your tongue. Finally, the “ng” sound is pronounced the same way in Thai as it is in English, but the difference is that in Thai, it can start words.
Another interesting fact about Thai pronunciation is that there is no emphasis placed on any particular syllables in this language. Instead, Thai is a tonal language. As a matter of fact, the same one syllable word pronounced with different tones can have different meanings in this language.
Consider the word, “khaa” as an example.
• With a mid-tone, it means, “to be stuck to.”
• With a low-tone, it means, “Galanga.”
• With a falling tone, it means either, “to kill,” or “I.”
• With a high tone, it means, “to sell.”
• With a rising tone, it means, “leg.”
As you can see, the correct pronunciation of tones is very important when you’re learning to speak Thai.
Since tone is such an important aspect of Thai pronunciation, it’s very important to make sure you’re listening to a native speaker of the language who is pronouncing their words clearly and correctly during your learning process. After all, practice makes perfect, but only perfect practice. If you learn it wrong to begin with, it might be hard to break those bad habits.