Thai/Adding vocabulary with word association

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If you can, please help by adding Thai script to the table below.

Learn by association[edit | edit source]

Here are some Thai words that sound something like English words, and so can be easy to remember. It helps if you create a vivid image in your mind connecting the meaning of the word with the sound. Concentrate on it for a few seconds, and test yourself or at least revise it later on, to fix it in your memory. It may help if you use stories.

Some of the associations presented are slightly 'off the wall'. Some have a lavatorial humor to them. This is not intended to offend. For me such things make the learning 'more fun' ( mor fun = DENTIST )("fun" is pronounced more like "fan").

This will give you a head start, but you still need to learn pronunciation and tones.

When considering a link between meaning and trigger images within your mind, do note that recalling human faces, animals of all kinds and sometimes plants is far easier than remembering inanimate objects such as table, stone, bed etc. So when you create an association, do include something living with notable physical features (doesn't have to be grounded in reality!) in the scene. Doing this will enable you to achieve at least 90% instant two way (from definition or from pronunciation) recall from a list of 1,000 common words, and more.

The Thai language contains a few alphabet letters which sound basically the same. Consequently, words with different spelling but with the same vowel length and tone may be pronounced the same way while having a different initial consonant. Fortunately, in Thai every letter has a word associated with it and these are depicted on all Thai alphabet tables. To differentiate the words in your mind, simply add the meaning of the initial consonant to something in your association. For example:

- ท or toh is called ท ทหาร or toh tahaan and ทหาร means soldier or army. To know the word you are creating a link for begins with ท, simply add something of a military nature to your scene. This could be anything associated with soldiers such as uniform, rifle, vehicle, warrior, medal etc. This categorization process will serve you well in terms of ease of recall down the road, regardless of word similarity, once you have over 500 words memorized.

The reason for this is because categorization = organization. Your mind can be the most organized filing cabinet or the most untidy one. Imagine you are a clerk at an office and your job is to fetch files from a huge cabinet and put others back for your boss 8 hours a day. If the files are not stored systematically, you will eventually find the file you require but it may take you all day to find that one file your angry boss told you to find in the morning.

It is therefore recommended that for every word you create an association for, you should embed the meaning of the initial consonant into the scene in a subtle fashion. When it is time to recall a meaning or a pronunciation, your mind will be able to immediately eliminate all the irrelevant files and concentrate on searching more efficiently through relevant information only.

When a word with the same initial and final consonant sounds similar to another but has a different meaning because there is a long vowel instead of a short vowel, you may distinguish the two in your mind by thinking of a long path, long rope or long anything to depict a longer sound and vice versa for short vowels.

Notes on spelling[edit | edit source]

These are given in romanised spelling, but it is recommended that you learn to read and write Thai using Thai characters.

There is no official standard way to write Thai in Roman characters, except perhaps the Royal Thai General System ( As used by Pronouncing Thai correctly can be a challenge. As in most languages pronunciations vary regionally. One of the most common confusions arises, because many Thais find it difficult to pronounce the 'R' sound and pronounce 'L' instead. This page tries to present actual English words which sound as close as possible to how the Thai word sounds.

Most dictionaries and language courses provide some very contrived 'Romanised' spellings. These are groups of Roman characters, which are supposed to represent a Thai sound. Since these groups of Roman characters often don't appear as real English words anyway, the student is still left trying to puzzle out how they should sound ( hence the great value of taped conversations which accompany some language courses ).

Suggested associations[edit | edit source]

These are only suggestions - take what works for you, and make new ones, as long as it works.

English Word Thai Word In Thai Sounds Like Typical Dictionary
Crazy บ้า Bar / Bah Ba
Noodles (*1) บะหมี่ Barmy Ba Mee
Pig / Pork หมู Moo Moo
Chicken ไก่ Guy Gai
Crab ปู Poo Pu / Bpoo
Vegetable ผัก Pack Pak
Mushroom เห็ด Head Het
Onion หัวหอม Who uh hom Hua hom
Chili พริก Prick Phrik
Hot (spicy) เผ็ด Pet Phet
Cool เย็น Yen Yen
Cold หนาว Now Nao
Excrement ขี้ Key
Hair ผม Pom Phom
Ear หู Who Hu
Eye ตา Ta Taa
Eyebrow คิ้ว Queue Kiu
Mouth ปาก Bark Pak
Tooth ฟัน Fan Fun
Doctor หมอ More Mor
Dentist หมอฟัน More fan Mor fun
Finger นิ้ว New Niu
Arm แขน Can Khaen
Back หลัง Lang Lang
Leg ขา Car Kha
Armpit รักแร้ Rack Ray rakrae
Drive ขับ Cup Khap
Car รถ Wrote Rot
Traffic Jam รถติด Wrote Tit Rot Dtit
Go ไป Bye Bai / Pai
Go away Bye, Bye (*3)
Come มา Ma Ma
Here นี่ Knee Ni
Come here มานี่ Ma knee Ma ni
Dog หมา Ma Ma
Horse ม้า Ma Ma
Ghost ผี Pee Pi
Day วัน Wan Wun / Wan
Two สอง Song Song / Sorng
Four สี่ See Si
Five ห้า Ha Ha
Seven เจ็ด Jet Chet
Eight แปด Beht Bhet / Paet
Ten สิบ Sib Sip
Many / Much มาก Mack (*3) Muk / Maak
Colour สี See Si
White สีขาว See Cow Si Khao
Black สีดำ See Dam Si Dam / si Dum
Pink สีชมพู See Chom poo Si Chomphu
Blue (light blue) สีฟ้า See Fah Si Fa
Rice ข้าว Cow Khao
Fried Rice ข้าวผัด Cow Pat Khao Phat
Sweet Corn ข้าวโพด Cow Pot Khao Phoht
Bean ถั่ว Too uh Thua
He / She / They เขา Cow Khao
Cigarette บุหรี่ Boo ree Buri
Ash Tray ที่เขี่ยบุหรี่ Tikka Booree Thi Khia Buri
Cigarette Lighter ไฟแช็ก Fire Check Fai Chaek
Don't / Not ไม่ My Mai
Know รู้ Roo Ru
Bad Smell / Stink เหม็น Men Men / Menh
Lemon / Lime มะนาว Mah Now Manao
Scorpion แมงป่อง Man Pong Mang Pong
Frog กบ Cop Kop / Kopf
Bird นก Knock Nok
Leaf ใบ Buy Bai
Lane ซอย Soy Soi
House บ้าน Barn Baan
Village หมู่บ้าน Moo Barn Moo Baan
Hotel โรงแรม Wrong Ray em (*4) Rong Raem
Shop ร้าน Raan (long "a" sound) Raan
Mountain ภูเขา Poo Cow Poo Kao
Who ใคร Cry Krai
Gold ทอง Tong Torng
Straight Ahead ตรงไป Trong Pie Torng Bpai
Meet พบกัน Pop Gan Pop Gun
See เห็น Hen Hen
Watch (as in TV) ดู Do Doo
Beach ชายหาด Chai Haat Shai Hart
Sand ทราย Sigh Sai
Powder / Flour แป้ง Bang Bpairng / Paeng

(*1) Ba Mee are egg noodles, as opposed to plain noodles, which are called G'why Tee ow(ow as in ouch) among other things.

(*3) Some Thai words are repeated for emphasis. So for example if 'go' is 'bye', then 'go away' is 'bye, bye'. Usually this is not an unfriendly 'go away', but if the person you are with is trying to get you to get a move on, they may say 'bye, bye'. note I have put a comma between the first bye and second bye, this is because there is a slight pause between them. Also the word for 'many' is 'maack', if there are really a lot, then a Thai may say 'mack mack'.

(*4) I will admit that the 'Room' bit of 'Wrong Room' is stretching it a bit, but it is easy to remember as a start point for learning, and who knows how to pronounce 'Raem' anyway, if they've never heard it spoken.

Use stories[edit | edit source]

Making up little stories can help you remember the words. At first this takes a little thought, but later becomes second nature, especially where the association has a touch of humor to it.

Here are some examples of the kind of story you can make up to help you remember.

'His old CAR was beginning to ROT'.

'She decided to exercise her LEGS, instead of taking the CAR'.

'There was no need to order them to "COME HERE", they came as soon as they saw the MONEY'.

'The Chinese love to BET, their lucky number is EIGHT'.

'You can SEE FAR when the sky is BLUE'.

The pronunciations are approximate and it takes practice to get them right. Although dictionaries show both 'DOG' and HORSE' as sounding like 'MA', they are in fact pronounced differently (different tones), hence the Thais know which one is being referred to.

Remembering tones[edit | edit source]

Tones are often difficult to learn for Westerners. There are several ways to help remember the tones:

  • If it's too difficult, try your best but don't worry too much. Context will help people understand which meaning you intend.
  • With constant practice and exposure to the language you may start to imitate the tones subconsciously.
  • If you have trouble remembering which tone has which meaning, you might like to try using visualisation - imagine the thing high in the air, or falling or rising, or eye level (medium) depending on the tone.

Suggested images:

Thai word & tone Image (meaning in bold)
glai (falling tone) Visualise a model plane. The plane glai (glides) down to crash near my feet.
glai (medium tone) The plane glai (glides) far away from me at eye level.

See also[edit | edit source]