Tone changes, Meaning changes!

Thai tones

How to improve your Thai tones and pronunciation

I can’t count how many times i got asked about these 3 words whether or not they are the same. As you can see, they are obviously NOT the same from Thais’ view.

So, what make them different from one another? It’s the TONES!!! Every single syllable or word has its tone and tones distinguish a meaning of one word from other words“

Because tones carry the meaning of the word, there is no way that you can ignore it even though it seems difficult. It just seems difficult!!

Let me tell you one secret. As a beginner, if you learn Thai scripts, Congrats!! You will be able to master Thai pronunciation  and Thai tones much easier than ones who learn Thai with romanized scripts. 

One step extra for you is you MUST learn tone rules in order to know tone of each word when you read. At least to know the tone of each word is good enough. If you still can’t pronounce it correctly, it’s totally fine. It takes time and practice but it will get better day by day. 

Key is you must KNOW the tone of word you read. Find tone exercise to train your ears.

 Check my YouTube videos, the playlist “All about Thai tones“ if you need help.

If you learn Thai with romanized script and you can’t read Thai at all, the only way to improve your Thai pronunciation is every time you learn a new word or a new sentence, you have to MEMORIZE tone markers above vowels on each syllable.

For example a sentence “pǒm àan khàao dtaawn gin khâao“ you MUST remember all those tone markers above the letters. You can’t just simply learn “pom aan khaao dtaawn gin khaao“

That’s why you keep having such a question. Is this word the same as that word???

Ones who can read Thai probably have less problem with this issue. They see “ผมอ่านข่าวตอนกินข้าว”. They learn the tone rules and they read it according to the rules.

Ones who learn from romanized scripts, they see “pǒm àan khàao dtaawn gin khâao“. To remember tone of each word you have to MEMORIZE those little tone markers above the vowel like à á è û.

Thai scripts & tone rules: you learn it once. You understand them and you will not forget them as it becomes a skill. You can read any Thai words and know their tones.

Romanized scripts: each book or each teacher use different system. You have to get used to them. Sometimes it causes a big confusion. Moreover, memorizing à é û ö doesn’t seem helpful. You tend to forget it easily or worse, you don’t even care. Then you get back to your teacher “Is this word the same as that word???”

Back to day 1 that you learnt Thai. Your book or your Thai teacher told you that Thai is a TONAL language. When the tone changes, the meaning changes. Don’t tones sound important enough? It totally changes the meaning!!!

I‘m not writing this to scare you. It depends on your goal of learning. If you just want to speak it out, don’t care about the pronunciation. Thais are kind and patient and they always try to understand you. This is fine.

But if you want to have a good pronunciation and boost your confidence when speaking Thai, do not ignore Thai tones. And if you can’t read Thai script, consider learning Thai scripts. Life will get much easier and you will feel like you get new eyes and you see another new world, the world of Thais.

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