Phonetic Guide

Thai Phonetic Guide

The Thai language can be intimidating to those learning it as a foreign language. Forty-four letters, thirty-plus vowel sounds and five tones are quite a challenge. However, going about it systematically, you’ll find that it is not so difficult as it may first appear. In Sex Talk, all Thai words are given a Thai spelling as well as a phonetic pronunciation. The phonetic guide here is nearly identical to the one in Christopher G. Moore’s Heart Talk, with only a few minor corrections and additions.* For those learning to speak Thai, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the phonetic guide first. The guide explains in the following order, the systems of vowels, consonants, and tones.

There are over thirty Thai vowel sounds. Fortunately, many of them are the short and long pairs of the same sounds. Short vowels are pronounced in short duration, and the long vowels in longer duration. Two words with the same vowel sound but with different duration usually have different meanings. There are nine pairs of basic Thai vowel sounds and over twenty other vowels and vowel combinations (of two or three basic vowels). As shown in the table below, the single or the first dash (-) indicates the position of the initial consonant after which each vowel is pronounced, for example อะ, อิ, อุ, เอะ, โอะ. The second dash represents the final consonant, for example อัด, อีก, อูด, เอก, โอด.

Vowel Phonetics

There are 44 letters in the Thai alphabet, producing 21 initial consonant sounds (in the initial position of a syllable) and six final consonant sounds (at the end of a syllable).


Notes: Letters ฉ ซ ผ ฝ ห ฮ never appear at the end of a syllable. The letter ฑ is pronounced as either /d/ or /th/ depending on the words.

Thai is a tonal language. Understanding its five tones is an essential part of usage, as using the wrong tone may cause confusion because different tones of words with the same sound usually convey different meanings. In Sex Talk, the tones are indicated by unique symbols in the Thai transliteration of each word, as shown in the chart below.

Tone Phonetics

Source: Courtesy of Heaven Lake Press

3 responses to “Phonetic Guide

  1. Pingback: Thai Proverbs And Culture « engagingthailandtips Blog·

  2. Great Thai language Tips Kaewmala.
    Kaewmala’s blog is a great way to start the process of learning Thai and her book ”sex talk” In search of love and romance is even better.

  3. Pingback: Thai Proverbs And Culture | The Life Design Detective·

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