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Better to learn Thai tone rules or Thai vocabulary?


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I have learned a lot Thai words using transliterated (Thai written in English phonetic letters). Auto autodidact. Never attended any Thai classes. Can now have most basic Thai conversation.

To learn more, I have now learned all Thai consonants and vowels. I can read easy words which already helps with understanding and pronunciation.

 

Words with Thai tone marks (mai ek, mai tho, ...) are simple. The other Thai tone rules rather overwhelming. This is what I mean:

 

thai-tone-chart-kris.jpg

I am stuck now. What would you recommend next?

Is it more easy/efficient to learn the tone rules or should I just keep learning vocabulary?

 

Many Thai people don't know the tone rules either. Obviously they still speak perfect. They just know every word with every tone and don't even think about it. Similar for my native language. While I certainly couldn't teach the rules of my native language I am yet perfectly capable of using all of these rules in practice.

 

That would speak for just learn more vocabulary, learn the right tone for each word and then after a while I also would develop an intuitive guessing the right tone by reading words?

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9 hours ago, pbrock said:

I am stuck now. What would you recommend next?

Is it more easy/efficient to learn the tone rules or should I just keep learning vocabulary?

Many Thai people don't know the tone rules either. Obviously they still speak perfect.

 

Let's take those points in reverse order.  The tone rules really are only a way of getting started.  When you become fairly proficient you will recognise many words and will automatically know the correct tone.  At a more advanced level one recognises patterns and can apply them to new words without any explicit thought.

 

By "learning vocabulary" I presume you mean learning the spelling of Thai words.  You will find it much easier to advance if you know the tone rules.  Otherwise you'll have to memorise the tones of each word you learn.  Also, knowing the tone rules helps you work backwards from the pronunciation to the correct spelling.

 

There's an interactive course (free) that covers the basics of reading Thai.  I think it should help you get to the next level.  

 

http://thai-notes.com/reading/index.shtml

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Definitely take the time to learn the tone rules. I waited too long myself because like you I was put off by the apparent complexity of the rules . I finally created my own easy to follow (for me) cheat sheet to refer to and then it really wasn't so bad learning the rules. I was able to fit all the tone rules for each of the three consonant classes on its own small flash card and I would carry the 3 cards in a pocket to refer to when needed. I think it took a couple of weeks to get a good feel for the rules with this method.

 

Here are my cheat sheets for the 3 consonant classes. Hopefully correct if not some of the more advanced readers will likely point out any errors.

 

อักษรสูง
No tone mark---------->Rising
Ending K,P,T----------->Low
Ending short vowel--->Low
ไม้เอก   อ่     Low
ไมโท    อ้     Falling
ข ฉ ถ ฐ ผ ฝ ศ ษ ส ห
------------------------------------------------------

อักษรกลาง
No tone mark---------->Common
Ending K,P,T----------->Low
Ending short vowel--->Low
ไม้เอก  อ่   Low             ไม้ตรี      อ๊    High
ไมโท   อ้   Falling         ไม้จัตวา  อ๋    Rising
ก จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ
------------------------------------------------------

อักษรต่ำ
No tone mark----------------------->Common
Ending K,P,T and long vowel--->Falling
Ending K,P,T and short vowel-->High
ไม้เอก    อ่      Falling
ไมโท     อ้      High
ค ฅ ฆ ง ช ซ ฌ ญ ฑ ฒ ณ
ท ธ น พ ฟ ภ ม ย ล ร ว ฬ ฮ

 

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Nice job KeeTua, you beat me to it. I made something similar that works for me. The flowchart shown above is to confusing for me to easily memorize. I think each person should make what works best for them. Mine is hand-written and fits on one side of one 3 x 5 card. Just a note, KeeTua, I think on the High Consonants you are missing ฃ.

 

I broke the information into smaller parts and concentrated on memorizing one at a time. First I only memorized the nine Middle (M) Consonants and the tone rules. Once I had that I moved on to the eleven High (H) Consonants and rules. Once I knew them I didn't have to memorize the 24 Low (L) Consonants because when I see them I know they are not Middle or High. I just memorized the tone rules.

 

I have several hand written 3 x 5 cards that I keep as book markers in my Thai books. Now I only have to refer to them occasionally. Mine is one side of one card divided into three parts as follows: (I typed this up quickly, if there are mistakes at least you get the idea)

 

M (9): ก จ ฎ ฏ ด ต บ ป อ

Live = Mid Tone;  Dead = Low Tone

  อ่   Low   อ๊  High   อ้ Falling    อ๋ Rising

 

H (11):ข ฃ ฉ ถ ฐ ผ ฝ ศ ษ ส ห

Live = Rising Tone;  Dead = Low Tone

อ่   Low   อ้ Falling    

  

L (24): ค ฅ ฆ ง ช ซ ฌ ญ ฑ ฒ ณ ท ธ น พ ฟ ภ ม ย ล ร ว ฬ ฮ

Live = Mid Tone;  Dead & Short = High Tone;  Dead & Long = Falling Tone

อ่ = Falling;  อ้ = High

 

 

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It is easy learning the tone rules. There are only five rules to remember.

It will take about a week if you try. Most people don’t try. And then claim it is somehow difficult.  

use this method below.
 

Out of 15 possible scenarios of tone rules, you really only need to memorize only a handful.

High and Rising tone markers will always produce high and rising tones, respectively. So you do NOT need to worry about them, or memorize anything. If you see them, you know the tone no matter what.

 

So now that leaves only Low and Falling tone markers to worry about. Low and Falling tone markers will always create Low and Falling tones respectively, except when they appear with… LOW CLASS.

I will count this as the first two tone rules you have to memorize, even though you only need to memorize only low class consonants. 

[So Low Class with Low Tone Marker creates Falling tone, and Low Class with Falling Marker creates High tone]

Now that we’ve covered the tone markers, it leaves us with what to do in the absence of tone markers.

Live Syllables and Dead Syllables are easy to distinguish. If you assume all dead syllables with no tone markers create a low tone, you then only need to worry about dead syllables with short or long vowels when they’re….You guessed it: LOW CLASS. 

[Low Class Dead Short Vowel is high and Low Class Long Vowel is Falling]

So now, with only memorizing LOW CLASS consonants, you have already learned 12 of the 15 tone scenarios.

That leaves us with only Live Syllables with no tone markers. If you assume all Live Syllables with no tone markers create a Mid tone, you’ll probably be correct most of the time. The only rule you need to remember is that High Class Live Syllables create a rising tone.

So with only memorizing Low Class Consonants, and realizing their rules change with Low Tone and Falling Tone Markers, you’ve almost mastered all the rules. Then you just realize that a High Class Live Syllable creates a rising tone, you’ve finished all the rules.

It’s worthy to point out that you never need to memorize Mid Class consonants, as when live, they’re mid, when dead, they’re low and with markers, follow the rules of the names of tone markers.

And you only need to memorize High Class for the purpose of the absence of tone markers.

It’s really the Low Class you need to memorize as Low Tone Marker changes it’s sound to Falling, and Falling Tone Marker changes it to High Tone. And of course with no Tone Marker, Dead Short Vowels are High Tones and Dead Long Vowels are Falling Tones. That’s a total of what? Five rules you need.

That’s basically only memorizing five things.
 

It takes about a week, after a month it becomes natural, you don’t even think about it.


 

 

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21 minutes ago, ColeBOzbourne said:

Just a note, KeeTua, I think on the High Consonants you are missing 

Darn it you're correct and too late to edit. Not a commonly used consonant so I never noticed it missing.

 

Nice job on your 3x5 cards as well, easy to understand.

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3 hours ago, KeeTua said:
3 hours ago, ColeBOzbourne said:

Just a note, KeeTua, I think on the High Consonants you are missing 

Darn it you're correct and too late to edit. Not a commonly used consonant so I never noticed it missing.

 

In fact it's a never used consonant.  It's completely obsolete, as is .  Best ignored.

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Take in everything written here but don't try to remember it.  I would refer to Natai Beach's summary on occasions where you need to. You need to learn what a dead word is if you don't already know. 
The only problem you may encounter is dead words/syllables with Low class consonant, where short vowel is third(high) tone. ใ , ไ and เอา are not short vowels so ไม is not a dead word, to make it third tone it needs ไม้โท and เทา is not third tone for example.   

Edited by tgeezer
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It certainly is location specific.  North and Issan and Mae Hong Song area pretty different.  KK different than Udon Thani......I personally think learning the local dialect will produce a better experience.  Even speaking Issan in Bangkok is more fun than speaking Central Thai in Nong Khai

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In learning any tonal language its, Tones, Tones, Tones!

 

Try not to be sucked into the idea that if you learn a word, without understanding the tone it will get you anywhere.

 

I learned that lesson many years ago when I was learning Mandarin. 

 

If you don't 'get' the tones then even if you think you are pronouncing a word perfectly it may well be unintelligible.

 

It's always hard for anyone who speaks a non tonal language to get it, since for us tones merely provide emphasis or emotion, whereas in a tonal language it provides meaning 

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4 minutes ago, FalangJaiDee said:

I would honestly just memorize words, patterns, and the tones involved? I'm too lazy to learn to read and write thai, and I do ok with around intermediate level 

Well thats another interesting point.

 

Thai, compared to reading Mandarin, which I struggled with, is easy so long as you get tones, since unlike Mandarin, it is an alphabet, albeit a complex one. 

 

Thai has 44 consonant symbols, 16 vowel symbols which combine into at least 32 vowel forms and four tone diacritics

 

This why in Issan they simply transliterate Lao using Thai script into how they hear the words

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