by Sergej Y. Dmitrenko

Thai is one of the major languages of Southeast Asia. It is spoken by about 30 million people worldwide, mostly in Thailand.

Here are some Thai words written in the standard Thai writing system, followed by their phonetic transcriptions in Roman letters and their English meanings:

Roman alphabetic transcriptions and English meanings (in random order, with one mistake for added challenge):

thâ:k

vày

lá:w

va:y

vá:y

than

ng

‘to clear (a field)’

‘to swim’

‘bamboo shoot’

‘to end’

‘rattan’

‘to have time’

‘thorn’

ka:w

la:w

thà:n

tha:n

vay

thâ:t

ka:y

'glue'

‘Laotian’

‘You (informal)’

‘charity’

‘age’

‘tray’

‘body’


Task #1:
Match the transcriptions to the correct Thai words (see important notes below).

Task #2: Write the following additional Thai words in the Thai writing system:

vá:n      ‘sweet’

ya:ng     ‘rubber’

thâk      ‘to tie’

và:w      ‘kite’


Important notes on transcription:

  1. A colon (:) after a vowel indicates a long vowel. For example, /â/ is a short vowel and /â:/ is the same vowel but pronounced longer. This difference is very important in Thai.
  2. Marks above vowels indicate tone. For example, /a/, /â/, /à/ and
    /á/ are all very different vowels in Thai, and so they are treated as different in the writing system.
  3. The sequence /ng/ represents a single sound.
  4. The sequence /th/ represents a single sound.

This is a challenging puzzle, but is meant to be solved by highschool students who have never studied Thai. Good luck!
English version Copyright © 2001, Department of Linguistics, University of Oregon