Learn Thai Transcription

Thai Transcription (also known as transliteration, phonetic symbols and romanization) is a set of written symbols representing all the sounds that are made in speaking Thai. It helps a learner to start learning to be able pronounce Thai words and sentences before learning to read the Thai alphabets.

The very important that thing is that you learn and make the sound of each symbol accurately at the beginning so you can have a good pronunciation when speaking Thai later on. For those who want to start with the Thai script right away, go to Learn to Read the Thai Script.

Note: The Thai transcription is not used by native speakers. It is there only for a Thai language learner who wants to start learning Thai but not ready to learn the Thai script at the beginning.

The following transcription is based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). You can check the sound of each symbol on the Interactive IPA Chart website here.

Master the Thai Pronunciation through the Transcription

All the spoken sounds in Thai are categorized into five groups based on their functions. You can learn all the Thai transcription and practice pronouncing them here. At this stage, you can ignore the Thai script shown in the tables since we focus on the Thai transcription here.

21 Initial Sounds

There are 44 consonants in Thai language but there are only 21 sounds. It is because some of the consonants share the same sound. Below you will see a table containing all the initial sounds in transcription with the audio tracks, and the equivalent Thai alphabets. When making a sound of each consonant, we combine the consonant sound with the ‘ɔɔ (-อ)’ vowel. 

TranscriptionSoundAudioThai Script
phphɔɔ ผ, พ, ภ
ththɔɔ ฐ, ฑ, ฒ, ถ, ท, ธ
ttɔɔ ต, ฏ
ddɔɔ ด, ฎ
chchɔɔ ฉ, ช, ฌ
khkhɔɔ ข, ฃ, ค, ฅ, ฆ
ffɔɔ ฝ, ฟ
ssɔɔ ซ, ศ, ษ, ส
hhɔɔ ห, ฮ
nnɔɔ น, ณ
llɔɔ ล, ฬ
1. Although in Thai pronunciation has a rolling 'r' sound, people usually ignore to pronounce it properly in casual conversation. They usually do not roll their tongue. Listen to the examples below.

'rooŋ-rian' becomes 'looŋ-lian' = school

'rew rew' becomes 'lew lew' = quickly

2. ʔ symbol is called a glottal stop in phonetics. Some people think of it as a vowel holder. There are also teachers who might not use this symbol in their transcription. See some examples and listen to how we pronounce them.

ʔaakàat / aakàat = weather

ʔaahǎan / aahǎan = food

ʔarɔ̀y / arɔ̀y = delicious

ʔûan / ûan = fat

27 Vowel Sounds

It may seem to be a lot of vowels and their symbols to learn, but once you know all the symbols with the sounds they represent correctly, you will be able to pronounce any words written in transcription. Unlike English, one symbol of the vowel can produce only one sound in Thai transcription.

The length of the vowel sound is also important in Thai because it changes the meaning of the word. There are a group of short vowels and a group of long vowels. Below is a table containing all Thai vowel sounds written in transcription with the audios as well as the Thai script.

Single Vowels
Short Vowels Long Vowels
SymbolsSoundsThai ScriptSymbolsSoundsThai Script
e เ - ะ
ee เ -
æ เเ - ะ
ææ แ -
ɨɨ ือ
ə เ - อะəə เ - อ
a - ะaa - า
u uu
o โ - ะ
oo โ -
ɔ เ - าะɔɔ - อ

Short Vowels Long Vowels
SymbolsSoundsThai ScriptSymbolsSoundsThai Script
iaʔ เ ียะ
ia เ ีย
ɨaʔ เ ือะ
ɨa เ ือ
uaʔ ั วะ
ua ั ว
Note: ʔ symbol in short mixed vowels is there just to indicate that it is a short vowel.

Short Vowels
SymbolsSoundsThai Script
ay ไ - / ใ -
aw เ - า

Practice reading some words

Listen to the below examples and pronounce them along. These words are combined with ‘the initial sound’ and ‘vowel sound’

pii = year

yaa = medicine

duu = to watch

ʔææ = air-conditioner

pay = to go

mɨɨ = hands

thee = to pour

cəə = to meet

too = grown up

cam = to remember

rɔɔ = wait

bia = beer

rɨa = a boat

wua = a cow

ʔaw = to take

Tonal Sounds

This is the fun part of learning Thai language, the TONES. Thai is one of the tonal languages with a complex tone system among 88 languages all over the world according to The World Atlas of Language Structures Online. Therefore, if your native language is one of them, you will not find it so difficult to pronounce Thai words correctly.

However, if you are not used to speak tonal languages, you will need some training for your ears.If you already know what a tonal sound is and how important it is in speaking tonal languages, then you can skip the following paragraph and jump to the 5 TONAL SOUND table below to start learning them. But if not, please keep reading a bit more before practicing.

Your pitch changes, the meaning changes

The pitch of your sound plays a vital role in tonal languages like Thai, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese, and so on. It distinguishes the meaning of the word you pronounce. Let takes the word ‘maa’ as an example.

When you pronounce ‘maa’ in middle flat tone, it means ‘to come’. Then when you change your pitch into ‘high tone’ and pronouncing this same word máa, the meaning changes into ‘a horse’. That is still not enough to play with this word. Try to pronounce mǎa in a little sassy way, which we call ‘rising tone’ and you will say ‘a dog’. So, let’s start singing Thai with the following tone table.

Name of the TonesSymbolsExample WordsSounds
Middle Tone

Low Tonelow tonemàa
Falling Tonefalling tonemâa
High Tonehigh tonemáa
Rising Tonerising tonemǎa

Don’t rush yourself to master these tones at the first time! Normal progress would be that you will be able to hear the difference among these five tones. Later, you will be able to pronounce and recognize what tones you are pronouncing. The key exercise to improve your Thai tone is to listen, listen and listen to the Thai language.

Listen to the example words below and practice pronouncing them before you move to the next topic.

yaa = medicine

yàa = do not

mày - new

mây - no, not

phîi = older person

phǐi = ghost

sɨ̂a = shirt

sɨ̌a = tiger

phɔɔ = enough

phɔ̂ɔ = father

8 Final (Consonant) Sounds

The final (consonant) sound is a sound of the last consonant of a word which is very common in almost every language. Although there are 37 Thai consonants which can be used as a final consonant, there are only 8 final sounds exist because some consonants share the same sound.

Follow the table and listen to the audio so you can hear how all the final consonants are pronounced in Thai.

- kmâak ก, ข, ค, ฆ
- prîip บ, ป, พ, ฟ, ภ
- tpə̀ət ด, จ, ช, ซ, ฎ, ฏ, ฐ, ฑ, ฒ,
ต, ถ, ท, ธ, ศ, ษ, ส
- ŋyuŋ
- nrian น, ญ, ณ, ร, ล, ฬ
- msǎam
- ykhuy
- whǐw

The – k, – p, and – t endings are not pronounced in the same way as in English. It has a very soft ending sound. It is so soft that some people thought we don’t pronounce them at all because they cannot hear it. But we do pronounce it! You just don’t release the air from your mouth when you finish pronouncing a word with these endings.

Listen to more examples so you can get familiar with the sounds.

- k

rák = love

càak = from

nók = a bird

- p

sìp = ten

chɔ̂ɔp = to like

rûup = picture

- t

yùt = stop

phûut = to speak

nûat = to massage

Clustered (Consonant) Sounds

This is the last component of all the necessary sounds to master Thai pronunciation. Clustered consonant sounds occur when two consonants exist before a vowel. In Thai language, there are 3 consonants used as clustered sounds which are l, r, and w.

The word ‘khráp’, which is a polite final particle for a male speaker, is a good example of a clustered sound in Thai.

1st Consonant2nd ConsonantVowel + ToneFinal ConsonantFinished Word


When you listen to the word ‘khráp’ from the table above, you hear a proper pronunciation of the word. However, in casual conversation, Thai people usually drop the clustered ‘l’ and ‘r’ when speaking. Therefore, you will hear Thai men saying ‘kháp’ instead of ‘khráp’ more often.

The following are words which have clustered sound. So you can practice listening and pronouncing with the audio. You will hear the proper pronunciation of the word along with the casual way to pronounce them.

Clustered Sound - Proper PronunciationClustered Sound - Casual Pronunciation

klàp = to return

k(l)àp = to return

khráŋ = time

kh(r)áŋ = time

plìan = to change

p(l)ìan = to change

triam = to prepare

t(r)iam = to prepare

A Reminder about the Thai Transcription

This transcription you are learning from this page is one among the acceptable top 3 forms of the Thai transcription used in teaching and learning the Thai language. It is based on a standard IPA system which is used and acceptable worldwide among the linguistics and language teachers and learners.

Unfortunately, there is yet a single standard transcription for the Thai language, and you may see many different forms used by teachers and learners. (Read more about alternative Thai Transcription) However, sticking to one form of the transcription is recommended to avoid getting confused with all the sounds.