Learning the Thai alphabet is a challenge, but far from an impossible one, and many people learn the full alphabet – vowels included – in as little as one month. To help you get started we’ve put together our top learning tips below.
1. Invest In A Notepad
My first tip is to buy a cheap and cheerful notepad. This simple, essential tool help you familiarise yourself with the characters on a daily basis.
Make sure you buy a pocket-sized one that can be carried around for on-the-go learning. Being able to reach for your pad at any time will help embed the script in your memory bank, and allow you to scribble down different fonts you see when you’re out and about.
2. Use The Visualise & Draw Technique
The best technique for learning the Thai script is to memorise each character one-by-one. Start with one of the groups (low, medium, high) and break them down further into manageable learning groups.
Look at the character for a while, and then close your eyes. Visualise drawing the character in your mind, and then attempt to draw it in your note pad. Painting a mental visual and creating a tangible version is a proven way to etch something in your memory bank for life.
3. Get A Wall Chart
Perhaps you work in an office, or perhaps you have a spare room at home; either way, try to find space for an alphabet wall chart. If you live in Thailand these can be bought from bookshops or local markets.
These alphabet charts are standard issue in Thai schools and therefore readily available. A good chart features consonants and vowels, meanings and groupings. Having this reminder at home or in your place of work provides another great tool for memorising the characters, and a constant reminder that you should be learning!
4. Practice With Anubaan Books
Anubann is the Thai word for elementary (school). Thai children learn the alphabet from anubaan books that help with the forming of characters and words using dots as guidelines. These books are cheap (starting at 10 Baht) and readily available and Tesco, markets and bookshops, and are awesome for learning to write from scratch. Before long you’ll be writing and reading basic Thai.
5. Learn The Thai Alphabet Song
All Thai kids learn the alphabet using this famous song. It’s pretty fun, in a silly way, and you’ll soon find yourself singing along and repeating the letters in your head throughout the day. We’ve put a few versions together for you to get started. Click here to go to the songs page.
6. Boost Your Brain Power
Extra learning means extra brain power, and there are a number of things you can do to boost your learning power such as eat more greens, read more, sleep earlier, cut down on sugar and take regular exercise.
You should also consider cutting out as much distraction as possible when studying: put your phone on silent, disconnect from Facebook and find a relaxing, fairly secluded space where people aren’t likely to keep bothering you. To study productively you need to get into the ‘zone’ with maximum focus.
7. Don’t Waste Valuable Learning Time
Not having the time to learn is a typical excuse for ducking out of or not fully committing to a lengthy or difficult task, but at the same time, we appreciate that work and family life gets in the way of learning.
Using your time efficiently will make learning less of a burden. Use opportunities like train and bus journeys to study your notepad, read time in bed, on your coffee break, even on the toilet if you have to!
8. Try The Thai Alphabet System Hack
Learning gets more challenging as you get older, and your brain isn’t the sponge it once was. The main thing people struggle with when learning the Thai alphabet is that the pictures used to reflect the characters don’t correlate with English words.
For example, Gai is chicken, but the English-speaking brain associated chicken with the letter C – can you see how this could get confusing.
However, there’s a system specifically designed for English speakers learning the Thai alphabet that overcomes this problem and makes the whole process far easier. Read more about that here.
9. Get to Grips with Different Fonts
One thing you’ll discover that presents a bump in the road is the use of different fonts. Just when you’ve gotten to grips with the alphabet you’ll come across words you just can’t read because the fonts make the characters look totally different.
Don’t get frustrated or shy away. Challenge yourself by taking every opportunity to read new fonts using these steps:
- Read signs wherever you go: train stations, road signs, restaurant signs
- Buy a Thai newspaper each week and try to decipher the Thai script
- Collect free Thai magazines from cafes and get to grips with the modern styles used in the adverts
- Notice brand names on products in the supermarket and try to identify the pronunciation.
Enjoy your learning!