Picture Phrase Books: For When They Can’t Speak Thai

When They Can't Speak Thai

This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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What to do with your guests, lah?…

When guests arrive for a few days of sightseeing in Thailand, what do you do?

Knowing that not everyone has been created equal in the foreign language department, do you…

  • Shove them out the door and hope for the best.
  • Send them off with an English speaking taxi driver.
  • Fill their backpack with Thai language phrase books.
  • Invest in a Thai-English English-Thai dictionary for a PDA.
  • Drag your butt to the same tourists spots yet again.

Or do you go for the pictures option?

Pictures to go…

ICOON – global picture dictionary

Date: 2008
Pages: 95
Size: 4-1/2 x 6-1/4 x 1/4

Overview: A lot of thought went into this book. It is a large resource, with over 2800 icons to choose from, some in colour. You can even browse 76 sample pages online.


Possible negatives: It’s a wee bit large for a medium size pocket, but would go easily in a purse or a backpack. It took awhile to work out what a few of the drawings were trying to put across.

Table of contents:

  • Clothing
  • Hygiene
  • Health
  • Money
  • Leisure
  • Accommodation
  • Authorities
  • Travel
  • Measurements
  • Emotions
  • Food
  • World

Me No Speak

Me No Speak Author: Cheryn Flanagan, Benjamin Kolowich
Publisher: Me No Speak
Date: 2008
Pages: 93
Size: 4-7/8 x 3-3/8 x 1/4″

Overview: Small in size, this fabulous phrase book is set up for the English speaker to point to the needed Thai word or phrase, some with graphics. Each section has lined pages for notes, and we always need notes.

Possible negatives: The only fear I have would be it falling apart with too much use, but that pretty much goes for any phrase book.

Table of contents:

  • General
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Accommodation
  • Shopping
  • Health and safety

Point It: Traveller’s Language Kit

Point It Author:
Publisher: Graf Editions
Date: 2003 Tenth Edition
Pages: 64
Size: 3-3/4 x 5-1/8 x 1/8″

Overview: Small in size, this phrase book uses photographs instead of drawings, so you aren’t struggling to guess what the artist is going for. And although some photos could mean more than one thing, most are clear.

Possible negatives: This book is not laminated, but it would just be a matter of having that done before tucking it into a purse or back pocket.

Table of contents:

NOTE: I’ve had The Universal Phrase Book and The Wordless Travel Book sent to the UK. I’ll add both to the review either while there, or on my return.

Other Pictionary type resources…

Guide to Thailand Free Thai Script Phrase Cards and Phrase Wizard.

Thai picture dictionary

Thai For Kids Pictionary

The Internet Picture Dictionary

Visual Dictionary

Visual Dictionary Online

LingvoSoft Talking Picture Dictionary for Pocket PC

The Oxford Picture Dictionary: English-Thai Edition

Thai picture dictionaries…

2,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

4,000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

5000 Word English-Thai Picture Dictionary

And if you run out of resources, you can always read the Thai Phrase Book series again. Yes?

Reviewing Thai phrase books, the series…

6 thoughts on “Picture Phrase Books: For When They Can’t Speak Thai”

  1. Driving people crazy with photos is what I do too! My Thai teacher really gets into it with me when I drag out a photo filled computer. Like you, I have so many questions and they are easier described via photos.

    But now what I need is a larger hard drive.

  2. Excellent post. Pictures are a great way to learn new words and the big reason Rosetta Stone has done so well. I find out new words a lot by using the pictures I take and driving the girlfriend crazy with questions about them.

  3. Amy, when I went looking for phrase books I found a whole heap of interesting books, with the picture books being amongst them. Some are quite old fashioned (small photos) and some quite modern-grand.

    And I guess I should scan in some inner pages so you can see what they look like… (next week 🙂

  4. I’d never even heard of picture dictionaries such as these until I read your post, Cat! They’re really neat looking and I imagine that if you know SOME Thai to supplement the pictures, your communication ought to be effective.

  5. Martyn, I was surprised at just how good ‘Me No Speak’ is. It not only has easy graphics, but Thai along with English.

    One thing I found in MNS is a phrase you can’t go wrong with – ‘I’ll have what they are having’.

    I mean, how many times have you needed to say that in a country where you don’t speak any of the language?

    If I head out to Italy this year, I’ll order the Italian version for my trip.

  6. Graphics, pictures and photographs seem a quite logical way to learn a foreign language. My only doubts would be the lack of word volume and perhaps an inability to get around the finer points (grammar etc) of learning a language. A picture paints a thousand words but in this case maybe not. All in all I would say these picture language books are a good start on the road to learning a new lingo.


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