There are only five words that use the อ sex-change doctor, all of them starting with ย.

อยุด stop   "dead boy" - sad tone
อยาก to want (to do something)   "dead boy" - sad tone
อยู to live/reside, to be at (a place); to be happening continuously (-ing)   "singing boy" - boring, no tone
อย่า don't   "dagger on boy" - sad tone

อย่าง
 

type, kind, sort, a quality of an object or person; as, like, in the way of... (changing an adjective to adverb as in -ly)

  "dagger on boy" - sad tone
อย่างไร how; whichever    

Get to know them because then for all other words spelled using อ, it can only either be:

  • a silent consonant "placeholder" for any vowel that is attached to it
  • the "awe" vowel if attached to the right side of any consonant.

The only time where there may be a potential ambiguity is when no vowel is written, as in:

อก chest invisibe "o" vowel: "ok"
อบ bake; to scent/perfume invisibe "o" vowel: "ob"
อด to go without, miss, refrain invisible "o" vowel "od"
อม hide; embezzle/cheat; suck in mouth invisible "o" vowel: "om"
องค์ organ, body part invisible "o" vowel: "ong"
องุ่น grape spacer "a" vowel: "a-ngun"
อโศก Asok spacer "a" vowel "a-soahk
อธิบาย to explain spacer "a" vowel:  "a-tibaai"

In general, except for the top five 2-letter words, which are single-syllable words, if you see อ as the first letter of a multi-syllable word and no vowel written then it is most likely to be the spacer "a" vowel.

English is a 'Tonal Language' - surprise, surprise!

In Chiang Mai, a woman came to the course who could already read after a fashion and speak fairly fluently – but she came because she had a great deal of confusion about the tones, and so never bothered to “read the tones” – previously she simply tried to recognize the tone from memory of her spoken Thai.

The ‘Rapid method’ clarified the whole issue for her.

Tones the 'Thai' Way

Tones are actually dead simple in Thai.

At least, it should be. Unfortunately, the traditional Thai system seems arbitrary and overly complicated, and the terminology is unnecessarily confusing (e.g. high class / high tone), which leads one to assume that there must be some matching relationship between class and tone.

Well there isn’t! None at all.

There is also a great deal of irrelevant information that has to be learnt… For example, for two of the tone marks, the class of the letter is irrelevant. And in general, it does not matter how long or short the vowel is, except in one special case. You also don’t need to know about initial and final consonant sounds, nor the actual names of the letters, etc.

The Rapid Method

Less is more.

How Thais (and Asians) pronounce their "R"s and "L"s

In the European languages like English, German, Italian, French and Spanish, the sounds for "L' and "R" are quite distinct. This is because the position of the tongue is either at the extreme front end of the mouth (pushing quite forcefully against the top teeth) for the "L" or at the general back part of the mouth for the "R". The French "R" is with the back of the tongue almost being swallowed at the back of the mouth, while the German "R" is vibrated very vigorously in the middle of the mouth. The English "R" is produced with the tongue floating just beneath the palate towards the back of the mouth.

So the "L" is a very different animal from the "R" because the "L" is a strong tongue-pushing-at-the-front sound and the "R" is a vibrating or rolling tongue sound nearer the back.

 

However Thas (and Asians in general) produce an "L" by positioning the tongue very lightly against the palate well behind the teeth just in front of the middle of the mouth.

While the "R" is in the same position but with the tongue allowed to drop a little so that it "floats" ever so slightly below the palate.

The Asian "R" becomes an "L" simply by touching the palate with the tongue.

That's why L and R sound so similar to our Western ears - because they are very similar. And when Thais (and Asians) speak a little lazily, or fast - which is usually the case - when pronouncing "R" it's usually easier to let the tongue touch the palate instead of leaving it "float" just below it - which results in an (Asian) "L".

At the end of a syllable, Ls and Rs aren't fully enunciated. Instead you simply close down your palate and push your tongue down. The resulting sound is very like our English "N".

That's why อาหาร and บิล are pronounced "ahaan" and "bin", respectively (not "ahaar" and "bill").