Let’s learn Thai! – part 6, in which it gets worse

Thai has three types of consonants: “middle” consonants, which are simply regular consonants; “high” consonants, which follow certain rules; and “low” consonants, which follow certain other rules. Within the low consonant class, there are “single” low consonants and “paired” low consonants. Paired low consonants match the high consonants, so we start with these. For simplicity’s sake, I am including in the below table only the primary consonant, rather than (for example) all the different ways one can make the “s” sound. “kh,” “th” and “ph” are aspirated k, t and p, respectively. /kh/ /ch/ /th/ /ph/ /f/ /s/ /h/ high…

Let’s Learn Thai! – part 5, in which we learn more about the Thai alphabet (UPDATED)

At my request, my teacher began to teach me to read and write Thai (rather than rely on a phonetic system of writing in English characters). Be careful what you wish for, may you live in interesting times, all of that. It turns out that two of the reasons that Thai has so many consonants are that, for example, in addition to the aspirated consonants ด (“D” as in “dog”) and ท (“T” as in “Thai”), there is a “DT” sound, ต, which is its own letter. Some of the other consonants get similar treatments, for instance there is a…

Let’s Learn Thai! – part 4, an introduction to the alphabet

The dog was sick all morning, throwing up on the Persian rugs (due to a bad reaction to a pain medication we gave him for his arthritis), so I stayed home from Thai class and did a little self-study. My lessons don’t include reading and writing yet, but I want to get a jump on the topic. As it happens, when I learned we were going to Thailand last October, I bought a self-study book on Amazon which I used for three days before putting it away on the shelf. It made no sense to me at the time, but…

Let’s learn Thai! – part 3: sounds like “cow”

khâaw – rice khǎaw – white khàaw – news khaaw – the bad smell that comes from rotten fish or blood (seriously) khâw – enter khǎw – mountain kháw – he or she khàw – knee There’s also, with more of a “gk” sound, kǎw – slang term for skilled kàw – old kaw – to scratch This reminds me of the Ogden Nash poem: The one-l lama, He’s a priest. The two-l llama, He’s a beast. And I will bet A silk pajama There isn’t any Three-l lllama.

Let’s learn Thai! (part 2)

I had an eye-opening (or ear-opening) language lesson today with one of the teachers whom I normally don’t have. She explained that Thai has a spoken rhythm that is pretty much unvarying across speakers (as well as the rules about tones), unlike in English where rhythm and intonation are more idiosyncratic to the speaker. English speakers aren’t used to these rhythms, so it is hard for us to pick out the important words in a sentence. We also have difficulties understanding spoken Thai because we/learn/to/say/each/Thai/word/in·di·vid·u·al·ly/and/pre·cise·ly insteaddalearningthemthuhwaytheyrackshallypronounstinnasentence.