Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reading and Writing Thai

People sometimes happen upon this blog searching for resources for reading Thai script. I am no expert, but I would recommend the free lessons at learningthai.com.


The links marked "Thai Reader" are especially good.

Some books teach Thai reading and writing. The AUA books entitled Reading and Writing are the best I've seen, but they are hard to find. They also assume a small core vocabulary and familiarity with the old AUA transliteration system. The book and CD Thai for Beginners by Benjawan Poomsan Becker is a good introduction if you can't find the AUA books or don't have the prerequisites.

To learn Thai script, most people get help from a teacher or a tutor. Some colleges and universities teach Thai reading and writing, and some cities have a Thai Buddhist temple that offers instruction.

Opinions differ about whether it's best to acquire spoken Thai before learning to read and write. On one hand, a student who begins reading right away runs a risk of developing bad habits, like reading with incorrect tones or no tones at all. On the other hand, students who delay reading often substitute some kind of transliteration, which is inefficient and can lead to an undesirable dependency.

When I studied Thai at the University of Oregon, we began by focusing on basic vocabulary. During that time, we used a transliteration system which distinguished all the features of Thai phonemes, such as tone, vowel length, and plain stop consonants. Instruction in basic vocabulary went on for about 8 weeks, then we learned the Thai writing system.

Students in the ALG program at AUA in Bangkok acquire quite a large core vocabulary by pure listening, with no support from a transliteration system, then proceed to learn to read and write. This seems like the best approach, but it's hard to do if you can't attend AUA.


Technorati tags: , thai alphabet, thai script


Thai Radio said...

Hi Scott,

For my part I learned to write thai with 'Easy Thai' by Gordon H. Alisson.

This book dates back to the 1960's.
But I think the method is still really effective.

One may have a look on google book:


I know there are many ressources on the web. But i was in need of such a book.
I found it in a shop while walking through Siam Square. ;-)

Scott Imig said...

Interesting. Thanks for the reference.

Until now, I had mistakenly assumed that you were Thai. :)

DoubleClick said...


Do you know what happened to learningthai.com?

They are no longer there.



Scott Imig said...

Hi, John,

The link still works for me. Maybe the site was down for maintenance.

Best regards,

DoubleClick said...

Hi Scott

Thanks for responding to my enquiry about learningthai.com. Yes, they were down for a few days and then appeared again.