How should one go about learning Thai?

Hey I am about to start trying to learn Thai. Anyone have any advice, books, and/or reference work? I know there are sites site up specifically for learning Thai, but I wanted to ask here to see if any members of the Sangha could share some of their experiences and suggestions. Many people head to Thailand to ordain, I thought perhaps some of them learned Thai as well and could share.

Best of luck!

A few things I learned along the way:

  • Learn the Thai script right away. It’s not hard, and you won’t have to unlearn the transliteration schemes, which are all inconsistent and inaccurate.
  • Practice the tones until you get them right. They are an essential aspect of the spoken language.
  • You’ll probably learn the “received Thai” pronunciation, but be warned: no-one really talks like that. It’s as common in Thailand as the “Queen’s English” is in England.

It’s some way down the line, but Ajahn Jayasaro used to recommend students of Thai listen to the Dhamma talks of Pra Paññānanda, a popular and erudite Dhamma speaker with clear central Thai enunciation.


Big +1. I used the book “Read Thai in Ten Days” It actually took me 14 days :sweat_smile:. But it saved months of frustration with the transliteration schemes.

Indeed. There is lots of beginner-level audio out there. Once you learn the script, spend a bunch of time listening and repeating words from begginer level apps / sites until the phonetics starts to make sense.

Thankfully, Thai script is pretty regular. The า vowel is always “ah” etc. So once you learn the weird sounds ตื, ปึ, etc make, you won’t have to learn them again (with few exceptions).

Indeed. the R has almost universally shifted to L for example :confused: Another reason it’s important to learn the script: You can then look at the writing, and see what they’re trying to say :laughing:

Oo Nice! News to me, thanks Bhante! :pray:

For apps, I recommend the Drops App for getting exposed to vocabulary. As soon as you learn the script, install it and turn off the Roman Assist. It’ll also help cement in the pronunciation.

And I use DictBox Thai as my main dictionary app.


Indeed, and it’s also the case with the “politeness” particles and so on. There can be a big difference in vocabulary between people talking with friends to talking to a waitperson, etc. Of course we do that in English, and other languages too:
“Hey mate, hows it going?”
“Hello, may I see the menu, please?”

My Thai is still pretty hopeless, but one thing I did to a decade ago was watch quite a lot of Thai movies, which gave me a better idea of how people actually talk than listening to news readers… Karaoke dvds can also be handy.