Thai to You
Karaoke Code
Alphabet Table

For those who are using other systems or read and write Thai script well already, this Karaoke Code is still very useful to you. Just a quick look or skimming through it in our lessons, you will get more familiar with the Thai way of transcription. You then can read names and signs as well as chat with Thai people more easily and more integrated with the Thai community and culture.



  • “h” was taken out of /kh/, /th/, and /ph/
    • Easy to read
    • Not confused with the sound of the same English letters
  • “_” was added under /k/, /t/, and /p/ to indicate the unaspirated sound.
    • In English, /k/, /t/, and /p/ are sometimes pronounced as unasiprated such as sky, star, and spa.
    • When using it for communication (i.e. typing in the email or chat), you don’t have to underline ( _ ) these letters as Thai people also use them for both aspirated and unaspirated consonants.
  • “จ” was represented by /j/ instead of /ch/.
    • Differentiating /จ/ from /ช/
    • Thai people usually write “j” for “จ” because it sounds like “j” in English. (Don’t get confused with “j” in other languages.)

Final consonants are categorised according to the Eight Word-Ending Protocols:



  • /-d/ and /-b/ are used for แม่กด (No. 3) and แม่กบ (No. 5) instead of /-t/ and /-p/.
    • In Thai, these word-ending sounds are represented as /-ด/ and /-บ/ which are usually transliterated as /-d/ and /-b/.
    • Final consonants in the Thai language are always unaspirated, so /-d/ and /-t/ ending sounds are pronounced exactly the same. So are /-b/ and /-p/.
  • แม่เกย (No. 7) and แม่เกอว (No. 8) have two symbols.
    • “ย” and “ว” are semivowels, so words with the final consonant “ย” and “ว” sound are diphthongs. The vowels determine which symbol to use as can be seen in the Vowels Table.
    • Thai people are familiar with these transcriptions: ย = y, ว = w. However, when combining with the transcribed vowels, “ay”, “uy”, and “aw” sound too different in English and might cause too much confusion. So, we replaced them with “ai”, “ui” and “ao”.


  1. Thai final consonants are always unaspirated; -d, -t, -j, -ch, or -s are pronounced the same.
  2. Some of the Eight Word-Ending Protocols have more than one final consonant:
  • แม่กด (No. 3) has 18 consonants
  • แม่กน (No. 4) has 6.
  • แม่กบ (No. 5) has 5
  • แม่กก (No. 1) has 4.

This is mainly because of the influence of other languages such as Pali,Sanskrit, and Khmer. It is not surprising why Thai people transcribe the words differently. Some choose to maintain the “root”; others follow the pronunciation.



  • A dot (.) is put under a vowel to indicate the short vowel sound.​​​
  • We are not the only one that use a dot to represent the short vowel sound. The “Thai Grammar Reference” also uses it; the difference is that dots are put above vowels.
  • It was inspired by the musical symbol “Staccato”. We decided to add this tiny dot instead of using other complex symbols. This way, learners have the short vowel indicator and Thais have no problem reading it.


The letter “r” in the vowel /-er/ and /-or/ is silent. “r” is present to show the pronunciation difference only.



  • The tone mark and the short vowel dot (.), if any, are put on and under the first vowel letter.

  • In a multisyllable word, if no tone mark is present on a short vowel such as /ạ/ (สระอะ), it means that this syllable is an unstressed syllable that is pronounced as the half sound, i.e.  the mid tone instead of the low or high tone according to the Thai spelling rule. To show the precise pronunciation and prevent confusion, we chose to not add any tone mark on it.

These tone marks are:

  • commonly used in Thai learning materials.
  • shaped from the real sound wave occuring in the spectrum graph when pronouncing each tone.
  • displayed of the sound rising and falling only, not the description of the pitch level. For example:
    • The falling tone mark (â) represents the sound falling from the higher pitch. It sounds considerably high because the pitch does not fall to the low level.
    • The low tone (à) starts from the low pitch moving to the even lower one but the mark seems like the high pitch falling to the low pitch.


Karaoke Code exists as not only a transciption system but also a communication tool. So, we have to set a good balance between the two.

For Accurate Pronunciation

Although some words might have more “natural” spellings, we chose to stick with the system rule. For example:

​For Accurate Pronunciation:

  • “ลอง” is transcribed as “lorng”, even though “long” seems easier to understand. “long” is for “ลง”.
  • “นิดหน่อย” is transcribed as “nid-noy”, not “nid-noi” that might be more popular. (Thais often use “-oi” for short vowel and “-oy” for the long one.) The reason is simply because it is still easily understandable.

For communication

However, exceptions are unavoidable. We have to take into account the social ettiquette, the culture, and what people are really using out there. Even the official Thai has the exceptions that did not follow the RTGS such as:

  • “Suvaranabhumi” and “Sriracha”—to maintain the Pali and Sanskrit root.
  • “Pattaya”, “Khao Kheow”, and “moo 1”— to keep the common spellings as they have been written like this for a long time.


We limited the number of exceptions to the minimum as follows:


  • Person names: Write like how that person writes their own name.
  • Place names: Use the official spellings.


OFFICIAL WORDS Including words that are commonly written like the official Thai’s such as “krathong”.


Words that are commonly transcribed a certain way and used so often that Thai people have the consensus on the “correct” spellings. Thai people usually write these words to show Thai etiquette.  For example, when writing a work email:

  • Dear Khun A
  • Thank you na krub.

If you write it differently such as “kun”, “koon” or “khoon” instead of “khun”, it will look strange and might be considered as inappropriate.


Exceptions will not be put any short vowel dot (.) or tone marks except ฟัน /fūn/ and ฝัน /fŭn/.



  • Person names, country names, city/town names, and place names

E.g. Korn, Sukhumvit, and Yêe-pụ̀n.

  • Loanwords that need to be capitalised in English

E.g. Songkran and Pad Thai.


  • Foreign loanwords

​E.g. taxi.


  • Omittable syllables

E.g. computer.

  • Omittable words

E.g. ạ-rạ̄i nạ́ kạ́?


  • Between syllables of a word

E.g. ภาษา /pā-să/.

  • Between syllables of a compound word

E.g. ลูกค้า /lûk-ká/.