Learning the lingo #2 …Thai language apps, phrasebooks and e-dictionaries

Well, I’ve been trying to learn Thai for about 5 months now, with lessons every Saturday and I think I’m getting somewhere …slowly. Apart from the school’s textbooks I’ve also acquired some Thai language apps on my phone, a phrasebook and an additional DIY textbook ( I figure you cannot have too many resources?). So I would just like to give a quick review of these, just in case anybody might be interested in the future 🙂

Paiboon English-Thai dictionary app.  ($24.99 ) This is great, except for one major flaw if you have the Android version. The good things: it has a huge dictionary, apparently 150,000 words, so you should be able to find anything that you need to translate. You can translate from English into Thai, or from Thai script into English, or from phonetic Thai into English (which could be a bit hit or miss considering the transliteration problems). Every Thai word is spoken, and also has the transliteration in phonetics, using your choices of systems. You can also choose to “explain spelling” or find the words inside more complex words. It also has warning symbols for words that are for literary and  technical use, and for the less polite ones !

The bad news: the Android version uses Google’s DRM and has to check back with Google’s servers every 15 days to make sure you have a licensed copy. That would be fine if you were constantly connected to the Internet, but a pain in the proverbial if you are not ! Several times I’ve been out and about, wanted to look up something, but been unable to because of the license check. If it checked whenever you were connected, then gave 15 days grace before the next check it would be ok, but as it is now you can be certain that the Android version will at sometime infuriate you. They did tell me in an email that they were working on getting rid of the licensing, but who knows when or if they actually will. Until then, I would give the iOS version 10/10 but only 6 or 7 for the android, just for the DRM hassles.

Walen Language School app for iphone and Android (free ) This app has 165 “useful” phrases, some more useful than others, directions, days of the week, etc plus all the Thai letters, numbers and tone marks. Thai words are spoken , written in Thai and transliterated. Good for learning numbers, colours, simple phrases etc, and I’m using it as flashcards to learn the letters. Considering it’s free 🙂 it’s worth having on your smart phone. 7/10

Thai Script  (Android only, free, adware !) Learn to read and write the Thai script. This app is a great reference for the symbols and sounds , but that’s all … no dictionary or phrases. Apart from the usual flashcard method of showing a letter and the user pronouncing the sound, it also does the reverse…play the sound and you have to draw the symbol on your phones screen then tap to see the correct version…. which gets interesting with letters like these :  ฐ ฒ !! 6/10

Thailearner ( Android only, free, adware) This application contains over 20 categories (numbers, food, verbs etc ) plus a section on the grammar, sentence structure etc. Each word is in Thai script and phonetics with tone markers ↑↓ , but the spoken sounds are a bit robotic and stilted. After going through each section you are given a multiple choice test to check your progress ( or otherwise). I doubt that I would pay much for this app, but as it’s free 6/10

As for old fashioned paper and ink, I’ve bought the Lonely Planet phrasebook and a textbook from Paiboon Publishing, the same people as the first app mentioned. The LP phrasebook would have to be the granddaddy of Thai phrasebooks, I remember buying one over a decade ago. What I now know is that you will never learn to speak Thai from it without extra help, it’s transliterations are weird and variable, but it is helpful for the grammar and sentence structure in combination with other sources. It does have quite an extensive food section, but the readability is compromised by their use of coloured font for the phonetic English names, and small faint Thai fonts on an off-white page ..you need good eyes and good light ! The other pages use normal fonts on normal white paper, a lot easier to see. 5/10

Although the language school has it’s own textbooks I’ve found quite a few errors in them, in last week’s reading lesson I saw 3 glaring mistakes …same letter for 2 sounds, letters missing from a word in reading practice, and a word using letters we have not learnt yet. Sloppy proof reading ! Add to that a teacher who struggles with her English vocabulary when trying to explain some of the more complicated grammar rules, and it was reason to buy the other textbook.

Paiboon’s book “Thai for beginners” certainly explains the rules for the tones better than the teacher has …in Thai  the high/middle or low class consonants combined with tone markers or long/short vowels give different tones and therefore different meanings. The tones is one area where I am struggling, I can (usually) hear the difference but I have to really exaggerate the rising/falling/high/low tones when I am speaking. This book does have some strange symbols for a few sounds, such as back to front “c’s  (⊃⊃) for the”oor” sound, but I’ve seen a lot stranger. If you want to try and learn Thai from a book make sure it comes with audio CDs as well, as this one does. You really need to hear the sounds to make progress. 7/10

manee1 And finally something that I’ve only had a quick look at after downloading it the other night is “Manee and friends“. This was the official Thai reading textbook for decades, millions of young Thais learnt to read while following the adventures of Manee in her village. A lady friend got the giggles last night after seeing it …”you learn read same young boy, same as me”. The PDF version has big print, easy words, and pictures, so it suits me ! LOL The download has all 12 books in the series, so I’ll see how I go with kid’s books ….I doubt it will be too intellectual. 🙂


About Mike

A recently retired "Baby Boomer" , looking forward to having more time for my photography and travel.
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