12 Feb Free Learn Thai Language Lessons – Learn Colloquial Thai Conversation
Thai/English Pronunciation Guide
The following is the pronunciation guide for the free Learn Thai material on The Living Hour website, as well as our Thai language books. While we encourage serious students of the Thai language to learn how to read Thai, this Learn Thai online pronunciation guide will help those who don’t have the time to learn written Thai and need to get talking right away.
Learn Thai Consonants
bp = like the hard “p” in “nap”
ph = like the soft “p” in “pin”
dt = like the soft “d” in “ladder”
th = like the soft “t” in “time”
kh = like the soft “k” in “king”
g = like the g in “goat” but softer
j = like the “j” in “joke” but a little harder
ng = like the “ng” in “song”
The rest of the consonants (b, ch, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, s, t, w) have the same pronunciation as their equivalents in English, except that “r” is sometimes pronounced as an “l” sound.
Learn Thai Main Vowels
a = like the “a” in “what”
ah = like the “a” in “father”
ay = either like the “ay” in “pay” or the “ai” in “said”.
ae = like the “a” in “bat”
ai = like the “ie” in “pie”
aw = like the “aw” in “saw”
ee = like the “ee” in “see”
e = like the “e” in “bed”
i = like the “i” in “pin”
oo = like the “oo” in “soon”
o = like the “o” in “rope”
eu = like the “ou” in “should” said when smiling
u = like the “oo” in foot.
uh = like the “er” in “butter” but without saying the “r”
Learn Thai Vowel Combinations
ao = like the “ow” in “now”
aeo = like “ao” but with “ae” sound held out
oi = like the “oy” in “toy”
ia = like the “ia” in “Maria”
iu = like the “ew” in “eww” (yuck)
ui = like the “ouie” in “Louie”
io = like the “io” in “neo”
iao = “ee” + “ow”
eo = like the “ayo” in “mayo”
ua = like the “ua” in “Kahlua”
uay = “oo” + “ay”
eua = “eu” + “uh”
euy = “eu” + “ee”
euay = “eu” + “ay”
Free Learn Thai Lessons: Food & Drink
Learn About Thai Street Food
If you live in Thailand and aren’t eating Thai street food, then you simply ain’t living. Thai street food often is the best cuisine to be found in Thailand (and the world), as well as the cheapest. Many tourists and expats shy away from Thai street food because of fears of getting a little sick. That fear is legitimate to a degree, especially if you have a sensitive stomach. However, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying one of Thailand’s great pleasures.
Thai street food is not “dirty” (at most stalls). It is only that your stomach isn’t use to the same strains of bacteria that are found in Thailand. Our recommendation is always to just jump right in and start eating Thai street food immediately, so that your body can get accustomed to any bugs. Diarrhea can be uncomfortable but it is easily and very cheaply treated over the counter.
How to you choose the best Thai street food vendors in Thailand? That is easy. Don’t choose the street food stall that looks the nicest and best maintained to your eyes. You simply don’t know what to look for when sizing up the facilities of a Thai street food stall. The only thing you need to look for is how many customers are eating there. Thais are very finicky about where they eat street food in Thailand. They have no strong allegiances. They will always choose the one who makes the best food.
You therefore want to be choosing those street food stalls in Thailand which have the most customers. Since any Thai street food vendor worth their fish sauce will be very busy at lunch and dinner time, you want to start scouting where to eat at around 11:30am (for lunch) and 4:45pm or 7pm for dinner, so that you can escape the rush but still gauge how popular the place is with the locals. If you like to enjoy a beer with your Thai street food, that is no problem. Just drop by one of the ubiquitous 7-11s in Thailand and grab a beer to take with you on your survey of street food.
For our learn Thai language lesson today, we are going discuss a Thai dish that is popular among farangs except for one aspect of its preparation. When you are doing a survey of Thai street food, you will likely see a stall with a large side of pork on a cutting board. This stall is serving khâo khăh mŏo (ข้าวขาหมู), which is sliced pork leg or shoulder over rice, served with a delicious Thai dipping sauce and chunks of garlic. The problem is that Thais love fat and the pork that is placed on top the white rice often includes large pieces of fat.
If you would rather not eat roasted fat, you can order this Thai dish very easily with only meat. This is what to say to the Thai street food vendor selling khâo khăh mŏo:
ขอข้าวขาหมูครับ พิเศษ ไม่เอามันนะ เนื้ออย่างเดียว
Khăw khâo khăh mŏo khráp. Phí-sàyt. Mâi ao man ná. Néua yàhng-dio.
Request rice leg pork (polite). Special. Not want fat (soften). Meat only.
I would like a large plate of Khao Kha Moo. No fat please. Just meat.
Learn Thai Food Tip: Note in the above lesson on Thai street food in Thailand that the Thai word phí-sàyt (พิเศษ) literally means special but in the context of food ordering it means a large order. Usually Thai street vendors will have two prices posted, one for a regular size plate and the other for the large (phí-sàyt) order.
Some farangs may not feel the large order is sufficient for their hearty appetite. If that is the case, instead of saying phí-sàyt, you could say how much you want to pay. If you order a 70 baht plate of khâo khăh mŏo, you should be more than satisfied.
Learn How to Say Delicious in Thai & Isaan
Today we are going to teach you how to say delicious in Thai—not just your ordinary tasty, but out of this world delicious. You perhaps already know the word for delicious in Thai, which is a-ròi (อร่อย). But that word is so commonly used in Thailand, that it doesn’t really pass as a compliment that will make your host beam with pride. Everybody says everything is a-ròi in Thailand when asked. To say anything else would be impolite.
What you need is another Thai word to attach to the end of a-ròi to show that what you are eating is soaring toward the level of ambrosia and food for the gods. As fate would have it, that extra Thai word (hàw) actually means soaring into the air as if my magic. So, next time you really want to delight your host or the chef at a Thai restaurant, use today’s e-Learn Thai lesson to help you give a compliment that will win you that famous Thai smile.
a-ròi-hàw (อร่อยเหาะ) adj. – Extremely delicious
โอ้ พระเจ้าจอร์จ เค้ก นี่ อร่อยเหาะ เลย เธอ ทำ เอง จริงๆ เหรอ
Ô phrá-jáo jâwt! Kháyk nêe à-ròi-hàw leuy. Thuh tham ayng jing-jing rŭh?
Oh, god George! Cake this delicious-soaring (emph.). You make yourself, true (question)?
Oh, my god! This cake is awesome! You really made it yourself?
e-Learn Thai Language Tip – If you live or are traveling up in the Northeast of Thailand (Isaan), you will get extra kudos for speaking a few words in the Isaan dialect, which is primarily the Lao language infused with some Thai and unique language characteristics that vary from place to place. The word for delicious in Isaan is sâep (แซบ). To tell your Isaan host that their meal is incredibly delicious use this expression: Sâep lăi lăi déu (แซบ หลายๆ เด้อ). This literally means delicious + very very + a particle used for emphasis only in the Isaan dialect.
You are probably wondering from today’s Thai language lesson how the English expression “Oh my god!” became “Oh, god George!” (Ô phrá-jáo jâwt!) in Thai. This emerged from a popular Thai television show where the expression was repeatedly used. Thais also do commonly use the English expression “Oh my god!” to the consternation of Western evangelical Christian missionaries in Thailand.
Ordering Thai Noodles Without Blood
Noodle soup in Thailand is called gŭai-dtĭao, and it is ordered either with wide large noodles (sên yài) or thin noodles (sên lék). The soup includes a dark broth or clear broth. The dark noodle soup is called gŭai-dtĭao nám-dtòk (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวน้ำตก)—the phrase nám-dtòk literally meaning waterfall. However, if you just order gŭai-dtĭao, you are likely to get the bloody version, unless the noodle stand doesn’t serve it.
Eating a soup with blood makes some foreigners a little queasy, so in today’s free learn Thai lesson we are going to show you how to order gŭai-dtĭao without blood. You could always say mâi sài lêuat (ไม่ใส่เลือด), which means “not with blood”. But that isn’t how a Thai would order it. They would order it like we do in the following Thai language lesson.
ขอก๋วยเตี๋ยว น้ำใส่ ครับ
Khaw gŭai-dtĭao nám-sài khráp.
Request noodle soup water-with (polite).
Learn Thai Language Tip: We mentioned at the beginning of today’s Thai language lesson that noodle soup can be ordered with wide big noodles, which are called sên yài. The phrase sên yài also has a colloquial meaning. The Thai slang meaning of sên yài is that of a big shot or very important person who usually can get away with anything.
To remember how to order noodle soup without the blood, remember this learn Thai rhyme: “If blood makes you cry, order gŭai-dtĭao nám-sài.”
How to Order Not Spicy Thai Food
Simple and delicious Thai dishes can be found everywhere for around a dollar. You don’t have to be a spicy food fanatic to enjoy Thai food. There are plenty of Thai dishes that are not spicy but no less delicious. In today’s learn Thai lesson we are going to cover three of the best not spicy dishes that you can order at a Thai food stall that specializes in ah-hăhn dtam-sàng (อาหารตำสั่ง), which means food made to order.
Each of the following Thai dishes usually can be ordered with pork (mŏo) or shrimp (gûng). Or with a combination of pork, shrimp, and squid (ruam- mít). If you are a finicky eater or have a sensitive stomach, then stick with the pork—as the shrimp and squid can occasionally have a funky flavor, depending on where the Thai food vendor is sourcing their seafood.
Râht Nâh (ราดหน้า) – Often written as Rad Na or Raad Naa on Thai menus, this hearty Thai noodle soup includes large noodles in a brown gravy with vegetables and meat.
Phàt Siu (ผัดซีอิ๊ว) – Often written as Pad Siew or Pad See Ew on Thai menus, this delicious Thai stir fry has large noodles, vegetables, meat, and soy sauce.
Phàt Thai (ผัดไทย) – This is a favorite Thai dish among many Westerners who have already eaten it at Thai restaurants in their home country. This dish includes thin rice noodles, with tofu, peanuts, sprouts, and meat. Not all Thai food to order stands sell Pad Thai; you may have to get to a street vendor who specializes in Pad Thai to get this popular dish in Thailand.
When you sit down to eat one of these not spicy Thai dishes, there likely will be a set of condiments on your table that includes sugar, red pepper, fish sauce with spicy peppers, and vinegar with peppers (not hot). If you are a foreigner who doesn’t like spicy food, you might like to add some of the vinegar w/ peppers condiment (called nám sôm phrík) as this will add a pleasant sweet and sour boost to your Thai food. If you would like it to be a little saltier, then add a bit of pepper-less fish sauce (nám bplah), a bottle of which will also be on your table.
So to summarize or learn Thai language and culture lesson, this is how you will place your order of a non-spicy delicious Thai dish:
ขอ ราดหน้า หมู ครับ
Khăw râht-nâh mŏo khráp.
Request Rad Na pork (polite).
I’ll have the Rad Na with pork please.
Learn Thai Language Online: Holidays
How to Say Happy Birthday in Thai
In today’s Learn Thai language lesson, we will teach you how to say happy birthday in Thai. Birthdays in Thailand are becoming an occasion for celebration. Traditionally, birthdays were not celebrated much in Thailand except perhaps with a trip to the temple. But today many Thais are embracing the birthday custom of giving presents, having a party, or going out for a special dinner with friends.
Everyone in Thailand knows how to say happy birthday in English, and will often say “Happy Birthday!” to their Thai friends rather than using the equivalent Thai expression. However, it is still a good to know how to say happy birthday in Thai, and it will impress your Thai friends and colleagues.
So, let’s get to our online lesson on how to say happy birthday in Thai with an extra wish added on top for good measure.
สุขสันต์ วัน เกิด ขอให้ ชีวิต พบพาน แต่ สิ่ง ที่ ดี
Sùk-khà-săn wan gèut. Khăw hâi chee-wít phóp-phahn dtàe sìng thêe dee.
Happy day birth. Request give life meet but thing that good.
Happy Birthday! Wishing you all the best things in life.
Learn Thai Culture Tips: Getting a good birthday gift is often somewhat tricky; it’s especially so for birthdays in Thailand. If you have a male colleague and they are not a teetotaler, you can’t go wrong with the purchase of a bottle of Johnny Walker Black or Red–the liquor of choice among affluent Thais.
For Thai ladies, a box of nice chocolates is a good choice for a birthday present. Should you be cash strapped, it would better not to purchase any gift versus going for a cheaper brand of whiskey or chocolates. Simply offer your friend or colleague the happy birthday in Thai greeting we have taught you today
Learn About Valentine’s Day in Thailand
If you are looking for something romantic to write on your Thai valentine, then this learn Thai language lesson is for you. Although Valentine’s Day is obviously not a traditional Thai holiday, it has grown in popularity over the past couple decades.
A simple Thai valentine’s day card plus a romantic dinner at your favorite Thai restaurant will always be appreciated by your Thai partner. So, let’s get to it and give you a couple of suggestions to write on your Thai valentine on Valentine’s Day in Thailand.
Bàwk rák thuh thóok wan mâi kheuy bèua.
Tell love you every day not ever bored.
I’ll never get tired of telling you I love you.
Yòo dtrong-glahng hŭa-jai chăn nahn nahn ná.
Be in the middle heart me long time long time (soften)
Please stay in my heart always.
Learn Thai Culture Tip: If you are looking for a Thai Valentine’s Day card in Thailand, you should be able to find them at some of the 7-11 stores around most Thai towns, or you can find Thai Valentine’s Day gifts at many book stores.
Learn How to Say Happy New Year in Thai
The great mass exodus from Bangkok to the provinces, signals two things in Thailand: a New Year’s celebration and carnage on the roadways. Use extra caution this time of year when traveling up-country (which in Thailand means any province outside of Bangkok, regardless of its latitude and longitude).
While motorcyclists are in greatest danger, car drivers are not immune from becoming another tragic holiday statistic. Drunk driving is common over the New Year’s holiday in Thailand, despite increased police checkpoints. In addition, this New Year may prove to be more dangerous than usual with over 900k “first-car scheme” drivers on the roadways.
To be safe when driving during New Year’s in Thailand, operate under the assumption that other drivers may consider traffic lights and stop signs optional, and that passing other cars on blind turns and hills is the kingdom’s national pastime.
Keep in mind that Thailand is a country which celebrates a Happy New Year twice a year. The first New Year’s celebration is the one we are celebrating in a few days on January 1st. This New Year’s celebration in Thailand has been borrowed from the West—and (unlike the recent Christmas holiday) is celebrated as a national holiday with banks, businesses, and government offices closed.
The second New Year’s celebration in Thailand is the water-drenched holiday known as Songkran. This traditional Happy New Year’s occurs from April 13th-15th. Roads are perhaps even more dangerous during this holiday in Thailand due to the fact that young Thais take to throwing water in the face of anything that moves—including passing motorcyclists.
But we will leave a discussion of Songkran for another time. As New Year’s Eve in Thailand is fast approaching, it is time for you to learn Happy New Year in Thai. Many foreigners mispronounce Happy New Year in Thai because they misread the sign in Thailand that says: Sawasdee Pee Mai. A correct phonetic reading of this Happy New Year’s message is: Sà-wàt-dee Bpee Mài.
Now let’s add something a little extra to that wish for a Happy New Year in Thai, so that your friends can be impressed at how well you speak the Thai language.
Learn Thai Language Lesson: Happy New Year in Thailand
Sà-wàt-dee bpee mài! Khăw hâi thúk-thâhn mee dtàe khwahm-sùk.
Hello year new. Request give everyone have only happiness.
Happy New Year! Wishing all of you nothing but happiness!
Celebrating Christmas Time in Thailand
Christmas is celebrated in Thailand largely as a secular holiday, with increasing numbers of schools throwing Christmas parties and families buying Christmas presents for their kids.
However, Christmas is not a government sponsored holiday in Thailand, so few schools or business are closed except for Catholic schools and small businesses run by Christians. Some farangs will be given the day off on Christmas day, if they work at a Thai school or business, or an international company, but it all depends on the employer. Many Christians in Thailand simply take a sick day on Christmas if their employer does not offer the day off.
Excluding foreigners, there are approximately 530,000 Christians who celebrate Christmas in Thailand as a religious holiday. About half of these Christians are Roman Catholic, while the others are Protestant. Catholics in Thailand have a much more visible presence, as they have a very well established network of schools throughout the Kingdom, and quite a number of beautiful churches.
If you are a tourist or expat looking to celebrate Christmas in Thailand as a religious holiday, we would suggest attending mass at a Catholic church (even if you are a Protestant), as these masses tend to be quite enjoyable and inspiring services—with hymns often sung in both Thai and English. Priests in Thailand are also often fluent in English and more than happy to chat after mass is over.
So, how do you say “Merry Christmas!” in Thailand? Well, that is a simple one. You simply say it like you do in English. The most popular way to say “Merry Christmas” in Thailand is with the Tinglish or Thailish version. Merry Christmas is written phonetically in Thai as: เมอร์รี คริสต์มาส. Therefore, when someone says “Merry Christmas” in Thailand, they will often apply Thai pronunciation rules and say: Meu-ree Khrít-mâht!
There is another way that you could say “Merry Christmas” in Thailand. And that will be what we teach you in today’s e-Learn Thai language lesson. Here is the traditional way to say “Merry Christmas” in Thai to your Thai friends, family, and co-workers.
สุขสันต์ วัน คริสต์มาส
Sùk-săn wan khrít-mâht.
Be-happy day Christmas.
Learn Thai Language Tip: Note that in today’s Christmas in Thailand audio the woman does not pronounce Christmas the way that most Thais would: khrít-mâht. Whenever a Thai person does not change the final “s” syllable to a “t” (or drop the sound altogether), this is an indicator that they’ve had a good English teacher.
Never Blow Your Nose at The Table!
In today’s Thai culture lesson, we will discuss some dining etiquette. One of the biggest faux pas you can make while eating around Thais is blowing your nose. If your nose is running because of a spicy Thai dish, then you may dab your nose with a tissue. But a full blown blow is simply not done.
If a nose blow is needed, then retire to a bathroom. This holds true even if you are at an outside restaurant with salas (huts) around a pond. Don’t think that you can just walk a couple feet outside the sala and blow your nose. Thais in the other salas will be watching and your dining companions will lose face for dining with such an uncouth farang.
The only exception to this Thai etiquette rule would be if you are dining at a food stall on the street and there is no bathroom within close proximity. Then walk behind a car to blow your nose or somewhere that isn’t within earshot or line of sight of the other Thai diners. Now let’s learn how to say polite in Thai.
Polite v. – สุภาพ – sù-phâhp
สั่ง ขี้มูก ไม่ค่อย สุภาพ เข้าใจ ป่ะ
Sàng khêe-môok mâi-khôi sù-phâhp, khâo-jai bpà?
Command snot not very polite, understand (question).
You know, blowing your nose isn’t really polite.
Thai Language Tip: Questions in the Thai language are formed by adding a question particle at the end of the sentence. The colloquial Thai particle bpà (ป่ะ) is a substitute for the formal question particle măi (ไหม) and is used commonly among younger Thais and close friends. It’s probably not one to use in the Thai workplace unless you are goofing around with a younger staff member.
How shall we remember how to say polite in Thai? How about with this English/Thai language rhyme: ”Don’t shoot snot if you want to be sù-phâhp!”
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