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Tap Sap (English Words with Thai Pronunciation/Spelling) Posted by on Aug 27, 2010 in Beginner

If you can’t read or speak Thai, you’d have no idea how much English has been adapted into the Thai language. English has been adapted throughout the Thai language, but it’s all written using the Thai alphabet and so badly pronounced that the uninitiated wouldn’t notice.

For example, let’s say you are walking down the street and see dozens of store signs all written in Thai. If you can read Thai, you’d notice that literally half of the signs are entirely English, just spelled out using the Thai alphabet! Why is this? Well, in the US its common to give restaurants and desserts a French name because it sounds fancy-smancy. Give your product a French name, and your customers wouldn’t know better. Why do you think Starbucks uses French words throughout the menu?

Well, in Thai, anything with an English name is considered fancy and high quality. I often joke that if you can speak English with a strong Thai accent, you’d technically be speaking Thai and everyone will understand you.

The Thais have a name for this, ทัพศัพท์. The word ศัพท์ means vocabulary, and คำศัพท์ means vocabulary word. So tap1sap2 means a vocabulary word taken from English. In this post I’ll give you a list of ทัพศัพท์ words you’ll see and use on an almost daily basis. And since they are taken from English, they’ll be easy to remember. The hard part is correctly mispronouncing it.

Now before we get started, I want to point out a few patterns you’ll notice. First, any word that ends in the letter L will, when pronounced in Thai, make an N sound. If it has an S, change it to a T sound. If the English word has ‘ter’ in it, change it to ‘dter’ with a mid tone. This is because the Thai language pronunciation rules of the Thai alphabet force these sound changes. As for spelling, English words will all use the more common Thai letters, with a preference towards the mid tone on each syllable. Lastly, as mentioned in previous posts, notice the heavy use of the อ์ character to silence a letter, a key hint that the word was taken from another language.

Try to pronounce each word as spelled in Thai:

คอมพิวเตอร์       computer                   kawm pew dter

คอนโดมิเนียม     condominium          kawn do min nium

แอปเปิ้ล               apple                            aep poen

สตรอเบอร์รี         strawberry                 sa dtraw ber ree

แอร์                      air conditioner         air

จอห์น                   John                              jawn

ซอฟต์แวร์            software                      sof waer

โปรแกรม             program                      bpro graem

คุกกี้                      cookie                          gug gee

เค็ก                       cake                               cehk

There are literally thousands more, and you’ll probably remember a few in my previous blog posts, such as words for mob and fake. Remember?


ทัพศัพท์    tap sap, using English words in Thai

ศัพท์          vocabulary

คำศัพท์     vocabulary word

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  1. Alan:

    Am just looking for a site, that would translate English words into the Thai pronunciation of English. Not a very complex question but finding a genuine site is a lot more. Quite simply a woman is starting a course to speak English better and I have no ability to speak/learn Thai, the complexity is fun but….You have mentioned a few word translations that are close but is there somewhere I can add my own as well?
    I don’t ever reply to any internet sites but somehow you may seem a bit genuine. If you’re not please don’t bother with any reply!

    • palmisano:

      @Alan I’m not entirely sure what you are looking for . . . you want to pronounce English words with a strong Thai accent, right?

      Assuming thats what you meant, I don’t know of any site. The basic rule is if a word ends with an L, pronounce that L with an N. For example, ‘sample’ becomes ‘sampon’, and ‘cartel’ becomes ‘carten’. If a word ends in S, make it a T. For example, ‘virus’ becomes ‘virut’. Certain letters don’t exist in Thai, so convert V to W, TH to T, and R to L. So really, ‘virus’ would be ‘wirut’.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Carol:

    How do I spell GABS in Thai? Please help

    • palmisano:

      @Carol Can you tell us what ‘GABS’ should mean?

  3. Kevin:

    I couldn’t help but notice this statement, “Why do you think Starbucks uses French words throughout the menu?” This is a very bad example especially for a language blog since all those foreign words you see on Starbuck’s menus are in Italian not French. And a latte is a latte in both Italian and English.

  4. Ronnie Pilkington:

    Many words are the same as English with no change in pronounciation. Examples include; Visa, Ice Cream, Sandwich, Cerial, Shampoo, jam, mayonnaise, cheese. Hamster, chips, check in, check out. Others that are similar include Bokalee for Brockley, Cahrot for carrot, Kahfay for Coffee, sha wit fye faa for electrical switch, socket fye far for electrical socket, beeah, for beer. Why for wine.