Getting Started – The Alphabet – Middle Class Consonants ก จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ
First off, you gotta learn the alphabet. There isn’t going to be any getting around it. Not here anyways. The alphabet has a bunch of sounds that we don’t have in English. So the sooner your brain can process those letters as Thai sounds and not English sounds, the sooner you will start speaking correctly.
Now I’m gonna try and scare you off. Thai is tonal, has lots of letters and a bunch of rules you need to get used to in order to figure out which tone a word should be. Its a bit heavy at first, but if you take it in gradually it is by no means unattainable.
First the letter, then in [brackets] how its referred to. Formula is as follows:
letter – [letter + อ + name of letter]
ก – [กอ ไก่] This letter happens to be the first in the alphabet. Not a bad place to start. More importantly it is a middle class consonant and thats what we should be learning first. The rules are easier to grasp and there aren’t that many letters in the group. Only 9 in fact. Can’t get any easier than that..right?
I’m going to avoid using any linguistic terms because we don’t need them. If you need to learn words like bilabial and alveolar (who does?) then find a site that teaches English.
Back on track. This letter ก [กอ ไก่] is pretty simple. It kinda looks like a bird to me so use that as mnemonic if you’d like. It fits as the name of the letter is actually ไก่ which means chicken. Too easy.
The sound of ก might take a bit of getting used to, but its not really that hard. Phrasebooks tend to peg it as a k, but I’d say its much closer to the ‘g’ in guide. Then again, its not a g or a k, its a ก.
You may be wondering about that symbol after the ก. Thats the vowel. Thai vowels are like a group of rowdy kids. They are all over the place and never where you expect them. Under, over, before and maybe after the consonant if your lucky. There are some invisible vowels too, but we’ll get to that fun stuff later.
For now let’s make sure you are heading in the direction of grasping this vowel ไ [สระ ไอ]. While it is written before the consonant..the actual sound of the vowel still follows the consonant. The sound of the vowel is mighty similar to the vowel sound in words like – my, try, lie, spy, and of course, Thai [ไทย].
อ – [ออ อ่าง] While this is most certainly a middle class consonant, it also acts as a vowel or a placeholder and you will learn it quickly because you will see it all the time. Any time we spell a word in Thai [ไทย], we say a sound which combines the consonant + อ. In those cases it functions as a vowel sound. The sound is a lot like the word ‘awe.’ Any time we want to write a vowel, it must have a placeholder and that placeholder is อ. In those cases, it just takes the form of the vowel it is spelling. Like this – ไอ [to cough; vapor]. We just say the sound of the vowel – see above.
Lets go over those again now –
ไก่ is a chicken
ไอ means ‘to cough’
I’ll explain อ – [ออ อ่าง] as well as give some more easy word examples in the next post.