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Learning Tones

Discussion of all things related to Thai language. Have a question about grammar, or the origin of something? Post it here!
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Posts: 39
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:37 am
Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Learning Tones

Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:09 am

Both pronunciation and understanding. How did you do it?

For me I ask my ex girlfriend to sit down with me as I endlessly pronounced กา ก๋า ก่า etc. until I had them right. Then I'd randomly quiz her on which one I was saying to make sure I had it correct and could produce it when I wanted.

Hearing the tones when they're spoken came a lot slower and took me over a year before I could hear them -- but now I'm pretty good with that. That just came through a tonne of listening practice.

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Posts: 110
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2014 8:26 am
Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Re: Learning Tones

Mon Sep 29, 2014 12:10 pm

The attachment is really good, and it is basically what I've used. I wouldn't say I have them down 100% though. This resource which quizzes you is also helpful:

At the end of the day, it is indeed just practice. I'm not sure how many shortcuts you can take on this one.

One thing to note though is that if you can hear a word and distinguish it, and/or be able to read a word, tones aren't necessary. As mentioned before, most Thais can't recognize which word has which tone, yet they can easily read them, write them, and listen to them by recognitizing the word. Additionally, I've met a couple people who can speak and listen to Thai fluently but can't read or write much at all.
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Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: Learning Tones

Sat Nov 29, 2014 2:10 pm

Well, this is purely unscientific, but from what I can gather....

mid tone = flat tone with no fluctuations
low tone = same as mid tone, but at a lower register
falling tone - the vowel sound starts broad and becomes narrow
rising tone - vowel sound starts narrow and gets broader
high tone - vowel sound goes broader then quickly narrow (i.e. the rise hits a peak and drops off)

I've had the opposite problem you had - hearing the tones has always been easier for me than producing them. I think hearing words in sentences versus isolated helps a lot.

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Tod Daniels
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Nov 30, 2014 3:38 am
Location: Bangkok Thailand

Re: Learning Tones

Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:15 am

I learned how to tone thai word by eliminating what tone a word can't ever be and working from there.
Middle class consonants are the only group that can carry all 5 tonez and the only one which uses all four tone marks
High class consonants can't have a mid or a high tone (that leaves low-falling-rising)
Low class consonants can't have a low tone or a rising tone. (that leaves mid-falling-high)

When thaiz learn to conjugate the tones sounds (ผันอักษร) they learn recite them as; mid-low-falling-high-rising. So just a tip ReubenA, when you make the sounds using กอ ไก่ and า you need to do them this way; กา-ก่า-ก้า-ก๊า-ก๋า

It is interesting to note that thaiz do this 100% of the time; even if the consonant they're conjugating can't carry some of the tone. If you ask a thai the tone of a word, watch them. Usually they'll count off on their fingers and stop on the correct tone before telling you.

Words we think sound similar except for the tone are as different as night and day to a thai. They'd never confuse the words come-dog-horse มา-หมา-ม้า because to a thai those words don't sound ANYTHING alike. It's only our foreign tuned ears which picks up on what we hear as a similarity.

Now don't get me wrong tones in thai are important. However just as important or more so is the vowel length. There is very little restriction on vowel length in english and I can say; Hellooo Heeello, or Heelllooo and every one would know the word. However in thai if a word has a short vowel (a vowel sound with a short duration) you can't say it with a long vowel (a vowel sound with a long duration).

"farang84" I think you need to re-think it just a little. Mid is just like it says, your normal register of speaking. Low is just like it says lower than your normal register. Falling starts high and falls off when you say the words. High starts higher than your normal register, goes even higher and then falls just a teensy bit at the end. Rising starts low and just goes up. There are a LOT of good you tube videos which will show this with charts etc. There is one by Stuart Jay Ral which really explains it well.

It is my experience that you can be off on the tone and as long as you hit the vowel length right, most thais will "auto-correct" based on the context of what your saying.

I'm NOT saying don't learn the tones, I'm saying there are three components needed to spit out understandable thai; correct vowel length, correct syllable stress and the right tone.

Good Luck
Whoever said 'Money can't buy you love or joy' obviously was not making enough money. <- Quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS

Posts: 31
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 12:48 pm

Re: Learning Tones

Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:17 am

It's just the way I remember. It's saying the same thing.

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