Thai Alphabet, Vowels Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Beginner

My last post talked about Thai consonants. On first glance, you probably thought something on the lines of ‘omg 44 consonants too many to learn!’ But really, English is very similar in difficulty once you account for capitalized and lower case letters. And in English, some letters also have multiple pronunciations such as the letter ‘c’ in carrot, celery, and concert.

Thai vowels don’t quite work the way they do in English, in terms of how they are written. In English, words are pronounced from left to right as they are written. But in Thai, vowels can be found not just to the right of the consonant, but also to the left and even above and below. And vowels sometimes even consist of multiple letters that surround the consonant!

Each vowel has its own rule on where to find it with respect to a consonant. In the following list, you’ll see a dashed line ‘–‘ which represents where a consonant would go. For example, าว is aow. So ดาว is daow and อาว is aow. If you put a อ in to the ‘–‘ location, the vowel will make a pure sound (ie อ is silent). My recommendation is to practice these vowels by using consonants from the previous lesson.

Vowels in orange are extremely rare, and therefore not worth memorizing for a beginner.

Symbol Royal Variants Similar Sound Symbol Royal Variants Similar Sound
–ร on orn aun in “faun”; same as -อน –ัวะ ua ewe in “sewer”
–รร an un un in tun; same as -ัน –า a ah, ar, aa a in “father”
–รร– a u u in “nut”; same as -ั- –าย ai aai, aay, ay ye in “bye”
–รรม am um um in “hum”; same as -ำ –าว ao au ow in “now”
–ว– ua uar ewe in “newer” –ำ am um um in “sum”
–วย uai uay uoy in “buoy” –ิ i y in “greedy”
–อ o or, aw aw in “saw” –ิว io ew ew in “new”
–็อ– o o, aw o in “not” –ี i ee, ii, y ee in “see”
–อย oi oy oy in “boy” –ึ ue eu, u, uh u in French “du” (short)
–ะ a u u in “nut” –ื ue eu, u u in French “dur” (long)
–ั – a u u in “nut” –ุ u oo oo in “look”
–ัย ai i in “hi” –ู u oo, uu oo in “too”
–ัว ua ewe in “newer” เ– e ay, a, ae, ai, ei a in “lame”


Symbol Royal Variants Similar Sound Symbol Royal Variants Similar Sound
เ–็ – e e in “neck” เ–ือะ uea eua, ua ure in “pure”
เ–ะ e eh e in “neck” แ– ae a a in “ham”
เ–ย oei oey u in “burn” + y in “boy” แ–ะ ae aeh, a a in “at”
เ–อ oe er, eu, ur u in “burn” แ–็ – ae aeh, a a in “at”
เ–อะ oe eu e in “the” แ–ว aeo aew, eo a in “ham” + ow in “low”
เ–ิ – oe eu, u e in “the” โ– o or, oh, ô o in “go”
เ–ว eo eu, ew ai + ow in “rainbow” โ–ะ o oh o in “poke”
เ–า ao aw, au, ow ow in “cow” ใ– ai ay, y i in “I”
เ–าะ o orh, oh, or o in “not” ไ– ai ay, y i in “I”
เ–ีย ia ear, ere, ie ea in “ear” rue ru, ri rew in “grew”
เ–ียะ ia iah, ear, ie ea in “ear” with glottal stop ฤๅ rue ruu
เ–ียว iao eaw, iew, iow io in “trio” lue lu, li lew in “blew”
เ–ือ uea eua, ua, ue ure in “pure” ฦๅ lue lu
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