Thai Study Diary: Week 2

Continuing my Thai study journey, in this article, I’ll cover what I did over my second week of studying Thai, along with a summary of where I’m at and some audio recordings of my current accent.

Starting point

During my first week, I focused on acquiring the writing system and understanding Thai phonology. I ended up learning most of the Thai letters and understanding Thai phonology on a basic level. I also learned a few basic words, but learning words wasn’t my focus.

This week’s summary

  • This week, I continued to dive into Thai phonology, while finishing up acquiring the alphabet and starting to learn some basic words and sentences.
  • For my textbook, I decided to switch from using the “Teach Yourself Thai” textbook to the “Pocket Thai Master” app. I like the format and pace of this app more, and I like how it makes the audio recordings easily available in an interactive way.


Total study days: 14

Total study hours: ~30 (including time spent doing lessons and reading research papers)

Number of words I know: ~50 (mostly just the pronouns and a smattering of simple verbs, adjectives, and temporal adverbs)

I can now use the words I know to form simple sentences in Thai on the fly. It takes me a few seconds to create (and recognize) such sentences, but that will become much faster as I keep practicing. I can also read all the Thai letters and syllables and correctly determine the tone for each (having memorized my handy reference charts).

To demonstrate my current level, here’s an audio clip of me saying some simple sentences in Thai:

  1. เขาจะเปิดหน้าต่างครับ: He / she will open the window.
  2. หมาจะไม่กินข้าวครับ: The dog will not eat the rice.
  3. เราไปโรงพยาบาลแล้วครับ: We went to the hospital already.
  4. ผมจะไปโรงเรียนด้วยครับ: I will go to school too.
  5. หมาจะไปที่บ้านครับ: The dog will go to the house.
  6. หมไม่ชอบเขียนภาษาไทยครับ: I don’t like to write Thai.
  7. หมชอบเขียนภาษาไทยมากครับ: I like to write the Thai language a lot.

My pronunciation and rhythm probably sounds pretty unnatural (at least, it certainly doesn’t feel natural for me), but I feel like I’m making good progress on being able to say things in an understandable way.

I’m also fully capable of making these sentences on my own; in fact, I actually spoke these upon looking at an English sentence, and translated them on my own before speaking, rather than reading the Thai sentence.

Full weekly log

September 3rd, 2023

  • Starting to go through “Teach Yourself Thai” and repeat after examples with basic verbs
  • Still figuring out tones, vowel length, etc.
    • something that stuck out to me: in พวกเรา, the first syllable has a short-sounding [pʰuăk̚], where I was expecting a long [pʰuːăk̚]
      • found a paper explaining why it’s short. TLDR; ă-diphthongs have no phonemic length, and are always shortened in closed syllables1Check out my article explaining this and more.
  • Discovered the paper “Pitch Target Representation of Thai Tones”2Prom-On, S. and Xu, Y., 2012. Pitch target representation of Thai tones. In Tonal Aspects of Languages-Third International Symposium. with more insight into tones

September 4th, 2023

  • Kept drilling the written vowels (prompting myself with a random vowel symbol, trying to read it, and correcting myself if I’m wrong)
    • I’m thinking it might help to write them down to make them clear in my head
  • Thinking of starting to use Anki to memorize words.

September 5th, 2023

  • After looking for some pre-made Anki decks with Thai words to get started, I discovered the Pocket Thai deck and the corresponding app for it. I really like its format and I think I’ll switch to using it instead of the “Teach Yourself Thai” textbook.
    • Some of the reasons are:
      • Convenience: a mobile app is easier to use than scrolling through a book
      • In-app audio recordings; “Teach Yourself Thai” has recordings, but they’re on a separate website and having to switch to it away from the textbook is annoying.
      • Interactive exercises: Always a fun and motivating way to test your own knowledge.
      • Less overwhelming lessons; Pocket Thai breaks things down into smaller pieces that are easier to follow, whereas the first lesson of Teach Yourself Thai already has a ton of words, sentences, and concepts.
      • I like the transcription system of Pocket Thai more.

September 6th, 2023

  • Finished learning the Thai letters, including the retroflex and breathy series
  • Also went through the first several lessons in Pocket Thai to review all the letters I’ve learned. It’s really nice to hear them spoken conveniently in the app.

September 7th, 2023

  • Started practicing determining the tone of syllables.
  • Completed Lesson 17 (“Simple Sentences”) of Pocket Thai, and finally started learning how to put words together
  • Started working on Lesson 18 in Pocket Thai
  • Started to use an Anki deck to learn the words I’m encountering

September 8th, 2023

  • Learned3Technically, they’re still new cards in Anki, but I’ve at least been exposed to them all now. all words in lesson 18 using Anki
  • Going to now practice speaking sentences out loud and getting the rhythm and tones right
  • Read “Stress in Thai”4Peyasantiwong, P., 1986. Stress in Thai. In Papers from a Conference on Thai Studies in Honor of William J. Gedney. Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asia, Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (pp. 19-39). and learned about the 3 levels of stress.
    • TLDR; last syllable is stressed, short syllables with a final glottal stop are totally reduced, and others are just slightly reduced
    • This explains why the first two vowels of ภาษาไทย (/pʰaː˧.saː˩˩˦.tʰaj˧/) sounded shorter to me when I first heard them.
  • Gonna do 20 words a day or so in Anki over the next month to quickly get to 600 words before I arrive in Thailand.
  • Now that I fully understand the sound system, I just need to keep practicing!

September 9th, 2023

  • Continuing lesson 18 on simple sentences and adverbs in Pocket Thai
  • I’m reading every sentence out loud (first time without listening to the Thai),
  • Listening to the Thai native speakers
  • Repeat until what I say sounds about the same.
  • There are 14 sentences I did this for, and it’s not fast – a couple minutes per sentence. I focus on getting a little closer each time, while paying particular attention to tones (especially the rising tone, which sometimes doesn’t have an audible rise to my ears)
  • Also learned another 15 words through Anki (45 new cards with listening, reading, and audio)
  • Wrote Modern Thai Tones and Thai Word and Syllable Stress
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