This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Reading and Writing Thai…
For years I’ve been hearing raves about Somsonge Burusphat’s Reading And Writing Thai. It was created way back in 2006 and continues to gather an enthusiastic fanbase.
Reading And Writing Thai is a complete guide to reading and writing Thai at all levels. It is researched and designed by a Professor of Linguistics with extensive experience of teaching Thai to non-Thai speaking learners. A linguistic approach has been applied to the book so that the learners not only learn how to read and write the Thai language but also understand some aberrant linguistic phenomena.
The book is suitable for self-study or classroom use. It is organized in an easy way. The book gradually builds up reading and writing skills from the beginner level to advanced level. A beginner can begin the basics and then move on to intermediate lessons within the same book. The final lessons are for advanced students to increase their reading and writing skills.
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Included: Common and rare consonants, consonant clusters and sequences, simple and complex vowels, tone markers, exceptions to writing rules, graded texts.
The price is quite reasonable. You can purchase Reading and Writing Thai for around 350 baht at Asia Books in Bangkok or Chiang mai. You can also get it online from DCO Books (they ship everywhere).
One of my main concerns about the book was the lack of audio files. So, on a wild hair day back in June, a Thai friend and I decided to make it our project. We’ve just finished.
The audio was recorded by a Thai teacher in Bangkok via an iPhone, and then sent to me in Chiang mai where I edited out the blips (but I still need to check for accuracy). Due to the extra materials in Chapter 17 (Reading Graded Texts) Veradej Wisetjarkhun pitched in to help. My thanks to them both!
You can download the free audio files from Box.com: Reading and Writing Thai Audio. If you don’t already have one
you’ll need to get a box.com account you can access the files without an account. But no worries – the membership and downloading files is free.
As the book is for beginners, the audio has been recorded slow and sure, speeding up towards the end. For variety some lessons have both fast and slow audio. Please note that the recordings are not fancy. Some have rain in the background (we’ve been experiencing the rainy season) but they are clear and easy to understand.
Jamie McGregor completed the entire course so I asked for tips and insights:
Little Tip #1: There are now sound files to accompany this book (a huge thank you to Catherine Wentworth and her friend) which will be a huge boost to anyone learning from this book. Make sure you download them! However, when I studied with this resource there were no sound files to accompany the exercises, which made it extremely frustrating as a beginner to teach myself the Thai script. My way of overcoming this problem was to download the Thai-English Dictionary (with full pronunciation software) onto my iPhone. When learning new words I would type them into the dictionary to play back. For about two months, I did this one to two hours, three to four nights per week. This method really worked for me. It helped get me through the exercises by myself without using a teacher. So if you can’t get a hold of the sound files or a Thai teacher I suggest you download a dictionary with audio.
Little Tip #2: I’ve read comments where some people mention that they struggle to decipher the breaks between words, and that they couldn’t see where words began or ended. To get around this problem I drew little lines between each word. This gave me practice breaking up words. Some people may not want to do this, that’s fine, but for those who do have trouble with the breaks I highly recommend it. Here’s an example of what I did below:
Somsonge does a good job with introducing Thai consonants in bite-sized chapters. This method helps students learn a little bit at a time without being overwhelmed by the large amount of characters. The short and long vowels are introduced and explained in a simple yet effective manner. When working through the exercises I had no problems understanding and learning vowels.
The book gives ample opportunity for writing practice. An amazing feature is that you translate small sentences from Thai script into English, from English into Thai script, and from transliteration to Thai and back. There are also sections throughout the book where you write and compose your own sentences by using what you learned in previous lessons.
By the time you reach the end of the book you should be well-equipped to complete and understand the final chapter of the book which consists mainly of “graded texts”. These texts are a great “icing on the cake” and are an awesome addition to the materials. You will be able to read things such as: The Thai National Anthem, food menus, travel advertisements, weather reports, recipes, comics, and interesting cultural notes and information about Thailand.
Thank you Jamie. It was your enthusium for Reading and Writing Thai on FCLT that brought it to my attention once again. Previously, I didn’t do much more than skim through the book before placing it back on the shelf.
Now, I’m not a fan of transliteration (as you well know) but after going through this book I can understand why transliteration has been included – it was designed to be used without audio. To help get the Thai alphabet and tones into your head, and to reinforce what you know, Somsonge has students bouncing back and forth between Thai script and transliteration. And when you think about it, it’s a logical solution.
So while I’m not hooked on transliteration, I see this book as catering to those who prefer using that method to learn the Thai alphabet. And really, that’s why I’ve taken the time to create recordings. That, and the fact that Reading and Writing Thai has proper lessons throughout, and as far as I’m concerned, the lessons alone makes it a valuable resource for learning to read Thai (and audio only makes it better).
If you somehow missed it, here are the audio files from Box.com:
Reading and Writing Thai audio files via Folder and by Single Files (note: inside the folder there’s an option to download all files at once).