This article meant for those beginners who are still learning to read Thai. The most common Thai letter, อ (pronounced aw-ang), is a special character. Remember when you were a kid and you learned that the english vowels are ‘a e i o u . . . and sometimes y’? Well, อ is somewhat like that for Thai. Sometimes it’s a vowel, but sometimes it isn’t. It can be used in any of three ways:
1) As a place holder to support other vowels
2) As a vowel itself
3) To modify the tone of a word
Note that in the following examples that not all ‘words’ are real. They were constructed purely for demonstration purposes.
1) Let’s start with the first use, to support other vowels. Go look up the list of Thai vowels, and you will see อ written for every single one. In this case, it is a silent letter used to support the vowel. If the อ was replaced with a different letter, then that vowel will have that consonant sound used with it. Otherwise, the vowel remains ‘pure’. The below example demonstrates this concept, listing a few vowels both without and with a consonant.
Note that the temporally short version of อ is เอาะ.
2) The second use of อ is when it is as a vowel itself. This happens when no other vowel is being used in conjunction with it.
The letter อ does not need to be surrounded by any other letter to make a sound. For example, the BTS station Asok is spelled อโศก. The อ sound in this case is a vowel without a consonant.
3) The third and last use of อ is for modifying the tone of a word to the low tone. This only happens when in front of the consonent ย, which in the Thai language only happens for four words. These four words are very common, so you’ll see them often – they are worth learning now if you haven’t already.
||place, location; -ing
||similar, like, type
For practice on the third reason to use อ, I’ve listed a few songs below. I honestly think the songs are terrible, but as a Thai beginner you’ll find them worth watching from an educational perspective.