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There are two main “standard” Thai-to-English transcription systems.


Thai Standard: Royal Thai General System of Transcription

This is the official Thai transcription system. When we say “official”, we mean that it was created and used by government authorities. Examples are the names of cities, roads, and places in Thailand.

It is not the same as common Thai people’s Pasa Karaoke but they shared something in common that Thai people have no problems recognising the transcribed texts using this system.

baeb thi nueng: khian tam mattrathan baeb thai thai

แบบที่ 1: เขียนตามมาตรฐานแบบไทย ๆ


International Standard: IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

IPA is the set of symbols that is widely used by linguists all over the world. The purpose is to transcribe the “pronunciation” accurately. Many transcription systems of Thai for foreigners were developed from IPA.

bɛ̀ɛb tîi sɔ̌ɔng: khı̌ian dtaam mâat-dtrà-tǎan paa-sǎa-sàat sǎa-gon bɛ̀ɛb bprà-yúk

แบบที่ 2: เขียนตามมาตรฐานภาษาศาสตร์สากลแบบประยุกต์


Even though they are called “standard”, it is not the standard for everyone.


Thai Standard: Royal Thai General System of Transcription

Unreadable and unpronounceable by the non-Thai and it was not originally created for language learning.


International Standard: IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

Not understood by most Thai people as it contains some “special” letters that they do not recognise and the way the pronunciation is transcribed is sometimes too different from the Thai way.

It is like reading the IPA transcription of English:

ˈriːdɪŋ ðɪs fəʊˈnɛtɪk ˈælfəbɪt  ɪz kwaɪt ˈdɪfɪkəlt, ˈɪznt ɪt? 

ɔːlˈðəʊ ɪt ˌrɛprɪˈzɛnts ðə kəˈrɛkt saʊndz, ɪts hɑːd tuː 

ˌʌndəˈstænd ðə ˈmiːnɪŋ  æt fɜːst glɑːns.

Reading this phonetic alphabet is quite difficult, isn't it? Although it represents the correct sounds, it's hard to understand the meaning at first glance.

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Although all the pronunciation was transcribed accurately, it is not suitable for communication at all. The same problem goes for other systems developed from this approach.

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