Thai Language Blog

The Thai Phonemes, Part 2 Posted by on Apr 4, 2012 in Beginner

This is a continuation into the description of Thai phonemes of which pose difficulty to the typical native English speaker.


This letter is best pronounced like a ‘g’. Some authors say that this letter is pronounced like a ‘k’, but they are wrong. Their insistance has led to foreigners mispronouncing many of the cities in Thailand. For example, Phuket is really pronounced ‘puu get’, while the Koh of Koh Samui is really pronounced ‘Go’.

the rule:

If the ก is found at the beginning of a syllable, pronounce it as a ‘g’.

If the ก is found at the end of a syllable, pronounce it as a ‘k’.

For example, the word Bangkok is written in Thai as บางกอก. Although it’s written as Bangkok in English, the correct Thai way to pronounce it would sound much more like ‘baang gawk’. Notice that the first ก was written as a ‘g’ and the second as a ‘k’.


แอะ, แอ
Best written as ‘ae’, the short version of this vowel sounds almost identical to the ‘a’ in apple.


This vowel makes the sound ‘aaw’, like in the word ‘awkward’. It’s often transliterated as ‘or’, but this shouldn’t be done – an English speaker would incorrectly pronounce it like the ‘or’ in the word ‘organ’. Here is another example: in Thai, the word for blessing is pronounced ‘pawn’, and is popularly used for names. Unfortunately for them, their names are transliterated as ‘porn’.


One more note on transliteration with respect to my articles. I’m not transliterating Thai letter for letter or to be consistent with someone else’s way of writing Thai. Instead, I spell Karaoke in a way that best helps the American English speaker best pronounce each word.

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