An American in Phuket

Well, not just Americans and not just Phuket – any ‘farang’ in Thailand has to decide whether to bother learning Thai or just get by with English-speaking Thai people instead.

Here’s an extract from an article in the Phuket Post, to learn Thai or not to learn, that is the question:

We all know what life is like for a farang… Pretty damn good if we are to be truly honest. Sure, there is the odd bit of stereotyping and discrimination involved in being white in Phuket, I mean we’re all not here as sex tourists or here to exploit a cheaper workforce in order to profit ourselves are we? Some of us are here because we enjoy the lifestyle, the beaches and the food. Some of us take steps to become integrated into Thai society. Don’t we? Don’t you?

Even if you don’t then you’re still unlikely to experience many problems. You can re-create your little Western existence in Thailand without having to even acknowledge you are in a foreign country or even a foreigner.

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

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


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 (usually written informally or spoken as ยังไง)    

Get to know them because then for all other words spelled using , 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.

When a vowel is attached to it then it just becomes the sound of the vowel. The อ letter itself is silent (actually, it's the "glottal stop" so that you can launch into the vowel sound):

อา โอ ฮี อึ เอา

When it's attached to the right side of a consonant then it is the "awe" vowel:

รอ บ่อ นอน

The only time it can be potentially confusing is when it's a two-letter word with the invisible or implied "o" vowel in-between; or when it's fused together with another consonant, making it unpronounceable as it stands:

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 suck, keep in mouth; hide; embezzle/cheat invisible "o" vowel: "om"
องค์ organ, body part invisible "o" vowel: "ong"
อร่อย delicious spacer "a" vowel: "a-roi"
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.