Learning the Thai Language: The Consonants

When first learning to read and write Thai I found it easier to take on the 44 consonants in manageable chunks broken down into tone groups rather than tackle the entire Thai alphabet in order. Breaking it down this way and concentrating on each tone group not only helped me to remember the consonants but also the tones used for each consonant. Broken down each class would look like this: Click the images below to enlarge.

Thai Consonant Groups

Thai Consonants-Low Tones Thai Consonants-Mid Tones Thai Consonants-High Tones

The 44 Thai consonants represent 21 initial consonant sounds when used at the beginning of a syllable and 6 final consonant sounds when used at the end of a syllable.

The tone groups break down as follows: 24 low class consonants, 9 middle class consonants and 11 high class consonants.

Some of the Thai consonants are rarely used and 2 consonants; kho khuat and kho khon ( pictured below ) are no longer used in written Thai. It’s believed that the invention of the typewriter is the cause for their demise as there were not enough keys to accommodate the Thai consonants. So, since these consonants were similar in sound to other consonants they became redundant.

Thai Consonants no longer used

kho khon kho khuat

With the Thai consonants broken down into tone groups I can then work with smaller groups of consonants from within each tone group. Usually I work with 5 consonants at a time in order to get the best understanding of each consonant.

I then break down the Thai vowels into smaller groups of 5  and then start putting words together with the smaller groups of Thai consonants and vowels.

Thai Vowels

Thai Vowels

While there are a few thousand different ways you could learn to start reading and writing Thai, I’ve found that breaking it all down into manageable chunks like this makes learning the Thai language much easier on me and it has provided many ah-hah moments when I realize I understand how to spell certain words and when I have been walking around town and can pick out certain words easily off of shop signs.

This has just been a brief overview of how I’m tackling reading and writing Thai. In future installments I’ll get more in depth into the consonants and vowels, including the all important rules that I am sure has led to more than one person tearing their hair out.


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11 Responses to Learning the Thai Language: The Consonants
  1. Snap
    November 4, 2010 | 8:43 pm

    Talen I’ll be honest, I got about a third of the way through the consonants and vowels, and barely touched the special rules, before shutting my books due to work overload. Now that I have to open the books up again, it’s a little overwhelming. You are right though, biting off a little bit at a time is the best way to go. I’m glad you are a few steps (or more) in front of me, it’ll help me along my way.

    • Talen
      November 4, 2010 | 9:00 pm

      Snap, breaking it down has definitely helped me a lot…just making small words and easy sentences has really opened my eyes. It still gets overwhelming at points though and I need to back off and regroup.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Catherine Wentworth, Talen. Talen said: Learning the Thai Language: The ##Consonants http://goo.gl/fb/92FF3 #thailanguage #consonantsandvowels [...]

  3. Steve
    November 4, 2010 | 8:49 pm

    Talen I’ve been following your progress learning Thai and I have to say I am really impressed with the amount you’ve learned in such a short time. In addition to breaking things into small chunks you must be study voraciously. You’ve definitely given me some hope for myself though once I am back in the classroom in the LOS.
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    • Talen
      November 4, 2010 | 8:58 pm

      Steve, I haven’t studied voraciously but between class and what I do study ( try to study an hour or two a day ) I have really picked up a lot. Pro Language has a really good Thai program and I highly recommend it.

      Breaking things down just helps me from being overwhelmed because if you tackle the etire alphabet at once it can be harrowing…not to mention all the vowels, silent consonants and rules.

  4. [...] seems like there is some type of Thai learning disease being passed around with Talen teaching the Thai consonants Megan explaining her mastery of the word ‘why’ in Thai, and Snap dissecting the [...]

  5. Catherine
    November 5, 2010 | 1:25 pm

    Chunking. That’s a great way to learn consonants and vowels Talen. Slow and sure makes the ‘ah hahs’ easier to realise.

    I remember back when I discovered that Thai vowels were not only in front, behind, top, and bottom, but there were invisible vowels as well! AWK!!

    I say AWK!! AWK!! a lot when studying Thai.

    I’m one of those learners who has to read as well as hear to get things into my head, so I found the e-Learning resource at Sriwittayapoknam a help.

    Here’s lesson one: dekgeng.com/thai/lesson1.html
    Catherine recently posted..October- Look Who’s Talking About Learning ThaiMy Profile

    • Talen
      November 5, 2010 | 3:48 pm

      Cat, I say “oi” a lot…The silent vowels and the sound changing consonants can be a bitch to remember but today I had the mother of all “oi’s” in class. We were working with rarely used consonants and how you have to spell certain words like phonlamay ( fruit ) To say the least I was scratching my head a bunch but at least there are only a few words where this particular rule comes into play.

      • Catherine
        November 5, 2010 | 3:53 pm

        Talen, it really does sounds like Pro Language has an excellent curriculum. And by the time you are out of there you’ll be skipping through the Thai language. With your hard work, obviously :-)
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        • Talen
          November 5, 2010 | 4:55 pm

          Cat, I don’t know about skipping but I hope I can hold up a conversation and I think their teaching style will definitely have me reading, writing and speaking well by the end of the first year.

  6. [...] is doing fabulously with his Thai studies. Early November he came out with The Consonants. Impressive, and I can’t wait to see what he writes about [...]