Thai Transcription

The Thai Transcription 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.

Learn Thai 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.

Table of contents

  1. Initial sounds
  2. Vowel sounds
  3. Tonal sounds
  4. Final sounds
  5. Clustered sounds

Initial sounds

  • There are 44 written form of the consonants in the Thai language but there are only 21 sounds. 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.
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.

‘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.

ʔaakàat / aakàat = weather

ʔaahǎan / aahǎan = food

ʔarɔ̀y / arɔ̀y = delicious

ʔûan / ûan = fat

Vowel sounds

  • There are 27 vowel sounds in speaking Thai. The length of the vowel sound matters because it changes the meaning of the word. There are a group of short vowels and a group of long vowels.
Single Vowels
Short Vowels Long Vowels
SymbolsSoundsThai ScriptSymbolsSoundsThai Script
i - ิ
ii - ี
e เ - ะ
ee เ -
æ เเ - ะ
ææ แ -
ɨ - ึ
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
Short Vowels
SymbolsSoundsThai Script
am - ำ
ay ไ - / ใ -
aw เ - า

Practice reading words with different vowels


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

  • There are 5 tones in the Thai language. 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 trainings.

The pitch changes, the meaning changes

The pitch of your sound plays a vital role in speaking Thai. It distinguishes the meaning of the word you pronounce. When you pronounce ‘maa’ in middle tone, it means ‘to come’ but when you change your pitch into a rising tone ‘mǎa’, then you are saying the word ‘dog’.

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.

Practice reading words with different tones


yaa = medicine

yàa = do not

mày - new

mây - no, not

phîi = older person

phǐi = ghost

sɨ̂a = shirt

sɨ̌a = tiger

phɔɔ = enough

phɔ̂ɔ = father

Final sound

  • The final sound is a sound of the last consonant of a word. There are only 8 final sounds exist in the Thai language.
- 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 it is not pronounced at all. But Thais do pronounce it! When you pronounce, just don’t release the air from your mouth when you finish pronouncing a word with these endings.

Practice reading words with final 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 sounds

  • 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.

Note: In casual conversation, Thai people usually drop the clustered ‘l’ and ‘r’ when speaking. You will see both proper pronunciation and casual pronunciation in the following table.

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 form you are learning from this page is one of the 3 acceptable forms of the Thai transcription 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. However, I recommend you to stick to one form of the transcription to avoid getting confused with all the sounds.

Keep on reading: Learn to read the Thai script >>