Learning Thai Tones and the Thai Alphabet Song (Learn Thai challenge day 4)
Yesterday I set myself the challenge of asking for a price in Thai and listening to the answer. I didn’t succeed as the shop keeper was too quick for me. She told me the English cost before I could wrap my head around asking the cost in Thai. However, I did repeat back the cost in Thai and have her nod and smile. I’m happy with that.
Everything I read on Thai keeps talking about the tones. I still hadn’t come across anything telling me how to figure them out, so decided it was about time to try.
My goodness is it complicated!
The Thai alphabet song
I was going to put this section at the end, but honestly, if you’re not planning to learn Thai it’s a lot more interesting than my grammar notes!
As you may have seen if you watched the featured video (sorry about that, by the way 😉 ), there is a Thai alphabet song.
Here’s another version of the Thai alphabet song with no English, but quite a beat!
And here’s the thai-language.com transcription of the alphabet song. It has tonal values and sound recordings for each word. I found it massively helpful in getting my tongue around the tones.
If you’re interested here’s what I’ve been learning about Thai grammar:
Every word in Thai has one of 5 tones: low, mid, high, falling rising
Mid – normal voice
Low/high – as you’d expect. You speak either low or high.
Falling – start high and modulate your voice to lower as you’re speaking
Rising – start low and modulate your voice to raise as you’re speaking
This YouTube video on Thai tones from MTLS is useful
Consonants have 3 values: low, mid, high
These do not translate directly to the tones. You have to learn rules around how letters are put together to determine the tone of the whole syllable.
Personally I don’t think of them as low, mid and high. It’s not remotely useful. They’re actually grouped according to sound.
‘High’ – aspirated (let out air as you say it)
’Mid’ – not aspirated
‘Low’ – either aspirated or sonorant (hummable)
When you come to figuring out the tones it’s all about how words will sound. So I think it’s much more useful to think about consonants in terms of their sound from the beginning, rather than labelling them with an arbitrary low/mid/high.
Words can have tone markers: low, falling, high, rising
Even these do not translate directly to the tones. If the ‘falling’ tone marker is coupled with a ‘low’ class initial consonant, then the resulting word will be in the ‘high’ tone. No wonder foreigners find Thai hard!
Here’s a useful table from thai-language.com that shows how it all works:
Learn Thai in 2 weeks – progress
The most common letters in the Thai alphabet (Learn Thai challenge day 1)
The confused sheep fish (Thai challenge day 2)
Thai numbers (Learn Thai challenge Day 3)
One thought on “Learning Thai Tones and the Thai Alphabet Song (Learn Thai challenge day 4)”
This helped me so much, thank you so much!!!!!