Tag Archives: language

Survival Thai for Dining

Living in Thailand, you are exposed to some of the most fantastic, intense and delicious meals on Earth – so it’s really important that you aren’t held back from eating those wondrous dishes by a language barrier. Here I will give you some basic tools to get by in any restaurant. Continue reading Survival Thai for Dining


Survival Thai Numbers

Even if you’ll only be traveling in Thailand for a few days it’s extremely useful to know Thai numbers. They are extremely simple and once you get the sounds down, you’re good to go! So here are the basics to Thai numbers: Continue reading Survival Thai Numbers

Survival Thai for the Classroom

My students hard at work
My students hard at work

I find in my own daily teaching that Thai commands are much more effective than English ones. I can’t count the number of times I ‘shushed’ my class just to have them all mimic me loudly for the next 5 minutes because it means nothing to them. Here are the commands or words I find the most effective (or just the most fun to use):

*sidenote: pair this guide with the Pronunciation Guide for super Thai speaking abilities!

1. ‘Nee-Up!’ (knee-up): “Quiet!” Emphasize the ‘nee’. For maximum results, deliver loudly and harshly.

 2. ‘Liaow Liaow’ (lee-ow lee-ow): Hurry Up! Quickly!” I find this phrase most effective when my students are dragging their feet to do something, like leaving the classroom or getting out their books.

3. ‘Put Maak!’ (poot mawk): “You’re talking too much!” This is usually delivered as a scolding. I bust this baby out when my students won’t stop talking. Very effective.

4. ‘Kao Jai Mai?’ (cow jye my): “Do you understand?” If the students’ English level is low, this is a great way to check for understanding. I love it when my all-male classes answer me with a resounding ‘Kahp!’ (Yes!)

Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks
Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks

 5. ‘Put Tam’ (poot tom): “Repeat”. If you can’t get your students to repeat after you, throw one of these out there.

6. ‘Alai-na?’ (uh-lie-nah): “What was that? Come again?” The respectful way to ask, huh?

 7. ‘T-t-t-t’: Okay, I have no idea how to write out this sound, but it’s a clicking sound made behind your teeth, like when you call a cat or something. If you put your finger in front of you in the ‘quiet’ formation and do this, it means the same thing as “Shh!”. Thai’s don’t use “Shh”, and I often find it has the opposite effect that I’m looking for (aka, the kids find it hilarious).

8. “Bai Lao!” (bye laow): “Let’s go! Here we go!” This phrase has a lot of meanings, but whichever one you’re going for, it’s best used with enthusiasm.

Do you have any Thai phrases you use in class to add to the list? Let me know! Email me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Quick Thai Pronunciation Guide

My Thai teacher Aom and I
My Thai teacher Aom and I

This Pronunciation Guide focuses on sounds in the Thai language that are difficult for English-speakers to pronounce (I base this on personal experience, here). I have tried to use the same spelling you see out and about in Thailand to make it easier. Enjoy!

  • ‘bp’ as in ‘bpai’ (go):

The bp sound is a difficult one to make for a lot of foreign speakers, as it’s the simultaneous sound of a b and p. You could describe it as a harder and more aspirated ‘b’.

  •  ‘k’ or ‘kg’ as in ‘kung’ (shrimp):

This is an extremely difficult sound to make. It’s like a ‘g’ sound (as in go), but you make the sound farther back in your throat and shorten it so that it’s more like a ‘k’.

  •  ‘ph’ as in ‘phet’ (spice):

This is just like a ‘p’ sound but more aspirated, like you’re whispering, hence the h in the spelling. Add some air to that P! Unfortunately, some people read it like English and make the f sound. No! Hard P only. Don’t be like that person who said ‘fuck-it’ instead of Phuket! (poo-ket)

  •  ‘th’ as in ‘Thai’ (Thai):

Just like the ph sound, the th is always a hard ‘t’ like in time. One of my favorite parts of Hangover 2 is when Alan keeps calling it ‘Thigh-land’ in his speech at the reception dinner. Don’t be like Alan!

  •  ‘v’ as in ‘Suvarnabumi’ (the major international airport in Bangkok):

One of the most confusing things about Thai language is the ‘v’ and ‘w’ mix-up. If you’ve ever taught English, you know most Thais find it confusing too! The ‘v’ sound in Thai is always pronounced like a ‘w’, as in water.

  •  ‘r’ as in ‘tao rai’ (how much?)

Like the ‘v’ sound in Thai, the ‘r’ is not usually pronounced as an English r. Thais have a difficult time pronouncing it, so it usually comes out as a straight ‘l’ sound, like in ‘love’. Sometimes the r is trilled like a Spanish r, but that is considered more formal.

  •  ‘ai’ as in ‘mai’ (no/not):

This is an easy sound to make, it sounds like the ‘I’ in kite and it’s very difficult to mess up.

  •  ‘ae’ as in ‘gafae’ (a):

This sound is a bit more tricky. It’s like the ‘a’ in apple meets the ‘eh’ sound and is drawn out a little longer. My Thai teacher taught me to show my whole tongue when I say it to help make the sound.

  •  ‘ao’ as in ‘mao’ (drunk):

This sounds just the way it looks, like the ‘ow’ sound in ‘ouch’.

  •  ‘iaow’ as in guay tiaow (noodle soup):

This is a group of sounds found in a lot of words and is pronounced like ‘ee-ow’, as in ‘knee’ and ‘ouch’

  •  ‘i’ as in ‘ti ni’ (here) and ‘i’ as in ‘sip’ (ten)

The ‘i’ in Thai is used to note both the ‘ee’ sound, like in ‘knee’ and the ‘i’ sound like in ‘lip’.

  •  ‘u’ as in ‘wan gur’ (birthday)

The ‘u’ sound in Thai is tricky, as it often sounds more like ‘uh’, as in ‘what’. It’s much more guttural. 

Have any questions about this guide? Shoot me an email at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

Brushing up on your Spanish

learnspanish2Now that I’ve applied to the Auxiliares and BEDA programs it’s the waiting game for the next few months. So, what’s a good way to pass the time? By brushing up on a little español. I’ve listed here the free websites I’ve been using to practice Spanish, and some info about their benefits and drawbacks:


1. Duolingo: Emphasizes grammar and sentence structure over vocabulary, but still exposes you to a lot of vocabulary this way.

 What I like:

  • Uses listening and speaking (there is a microphone application that allows you to practice verbal translating and pronunciation)
  • Placement test option which lets you skip the more basic skills you already know
  • Builds on previous vocabulary and grammar so you maintain those lessons as you go along
  • Tests at the end of each unit allow you to measure your understanding
  • Diversity of questions keeps your mind active and engaged
  • Tells you the different ways you can say the same thing, which helps for learning more ‘natural’ Spanish
  • Points and levels give you tangible goals to work towards
  • Progress bar at the top shows you how close you are to finishing the lesson
  • Introductions at the bottom give you the gist of the ‘rules’ or grammar you are working on
  • You can get the app on our phone!

 What I don’t like:

  •  Minimal vocabulary introduced in each unit (usually around 10 words)
  • No practice of the ‘vosotros’ form

Who I would recommend this site to: Anyone really, from a total beginner to an advanced student that wants some practice with grammar and vocabulary

 2. Memrise: Works more like a series of flashcards and therefore stresses vocabulary and sayings more than grammar.

 What I like:

  • You have the option to select an image to go with the word or saying you’re studying. I found them generally funny and helpful
  • Flashcard set-up exposes you to the word over and over again, helps with memory
  • Carries vocabulary words and sayings so that you get to keep using and practicing them
  • Spanish sayings and vocabulary are very useful for daily life, especially if you have no Spanish skills yet
  • You can get the app on your phone!

 What I don’t like:

  •  Each lesson is quite long and there is no progress bar to see how much further you have to go
  • There is no real introduction to grammar or vocabulary, it just starts showing you basic structures and you are supposed to remember them (no instruction)

Who I would recommend this site to: Someone who wants a vocabulary refresher for basic Spanish or someone who has very little knowledge of Spanish

3. Lang8: This is my favorite website to use. You write journal entries in the language you are practicing and native speakers edit them for you sentence by sentence.

 What I like:

  • You can add friends, which allows you to develop pen pals that you can practice with more regularly.
  • Capability to add Skype information to your profile, so you could potentially Skype your new friends!
  • Mutually beneficial. You can edit the entries of people who are trying to learn English, which I find to be fun, interesting, and rewarding.
  • Editors look for grammar and spelling, but also for ‘natural flow’. This was super helpful for me, because I wanted help with writing more fluently and sounding more ‘Spanish’. I have already improved a lot just after a few entries.
  • You often get multiple editors which ensures that no mistakes go unnoticed!
  • Allows you to be creative and write about whatever you’d like, which keeps you more engaged and interested in your Spanish learning.
  • The editors are really patient, even when you make a lot of mistakes

 What I don’t like:

  •  Nothing! I love this site.

 Who I recommend this to: Someone with more advanced knowledge of Spanish who wants more complex practice or an enthusiastic beginner.

Do you have any sites you find helpful in practicing Spanish? Any experience with these ones? Let me know! Email me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com