University of Vermont

Asian Studies Outreach Program

Learning Thai Script the Thai Way

A Visiting Scholar Provides information on the history of Thai Language

Visiting Scholar Nattida in front of the Thai names of Montpelier students.

The following reflection is written by Nattida Pattaraworathum, a Visiting Scholar from Bangkok Christian College in Bangkok, Thailand. Nattida is currently a 2012-2013 Visiting Scholar at Montpelier High School in Vermont.

During these two months, I have gained lots of experience I have never had before since this is the first time I have been in an English speaking country. For me, everything here is totally different from Thailand. Hence, every person and every place are my teachers who give me a new life lesson every single day. As a Visiting Scholar, I have a great opportunity to share my culture with the American students at Montpelier High School, and Thai script is one of the Thai lessons that I have shared with them.

At the beginning of the class on Thai script, I explained that the origins of the Thai alphabet was created in 1283 by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. It is based on an alphabet adopted from the Khmers of Cambodia. Students wondered how Thai people can remember all 44 consonants, 21 vowels symbols, four tone marks and a set of Thai numerals. I asked them how they they could remember the English alphabet before I told them a Thai secret – a Thai alphabet verse which we recited when we were young. I showed the students a video clip of the Thai alphabet verse (in a song version which is much more enjoyable). In the verse, it shows the connection of each alphabet sound and the word in Thai daily life. Now they know how we, Thai people, could memorize our consonants.

After that, I gave students a worksheet of the comparison between Thai and English alphabets. I taught them how to use the table in the worksheet to spell their names in Thai and I let them do it themselves. They tried hard before they gave me their Thai names. They were really excited and found it fun when I pronounced their spelling loudly (I do love seeing their smiles and surprised faces). Then, I helped them in spelling their correct Thai names. Furthermore, students used their Thai names to do their art work as they wrote their Thai names on cardboard and decorated these Thai letters in order to express themselves. Finally, I proudly displayed these wonderful art works in the library.

It is my pleasure to see the students enjoy learning Thai script and writing their Thai names. I strongly hope that my Thai lessons will broaden their cultural knowledge, enhance the understanding of the cultural differences and also support the good relationship between us, Americans and Thais.

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