One of the aids that foreigners use in learning Thai is transcription, the representation of Thai pronunciation using Roman (Latin) alphabet. There is no consensus on Thai transcription system yet. Most transcription systems of Thai for foreigners were developed from phonetic transcription using International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols.


Thai people also use transcription called “Pasa Karaoke”. Some use it with the English text to be polite in Thai style such as: “OK ka, Khun Loic. Thank you na ka.” Some type the whole sentence in Pasa Karaoke when chatting with their friends.

If you have ever chatted with Thai people, you might spot some spelling differences for the same word and think that this transcription approach is random and always flexible. No, it is not. Interestingly, there are underlying transcription rules and patterns that Thai people understand.

Some words have the “correct” spelling and cannot be written otherwise. For example, “khun” means “you” or “Mr./Ms”. It would be inappropriate to write this word differently like “kun”, “koon” or “khoon”.


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

baeb thi nueng: khian tam mattrathan baeb thai thai

แบบที่ 1: เขียนตามมาตรฐานแบบไทย ๆ

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.


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

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

แบบที่ 2: เขียนตามมาตรฐานภาษาศาสตร์สากลแบบประยุกต์

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.


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.


Obviously, the transcription systems used by the Thai and the non-Thai are different. We do not oppose any systems as the goal of the two approaches are quite different: foreigners use it for pronunciation, whereas Thai people use it for communication.

However, in our opinion, when you stay in Thailand, become a part of the community, and learn Thai to talk to Thai people; it is unnecessary to learn “the foreigners’ Thai language”. Instead, you should just learn the real-life Thai.

We always emphasise on teaching Thai that is “practical”, “simple” and “native-like”.

The purpose of learning a language is to communicate with the native successfully and appropriately.

So, we integrated the linguistic, academic approach with the practical, real-life approach and developed them into the new transcription system called “Karaoke Code” which can be used for not only pronunciation but also communication with Thai people.

The Karaoke Code is a good alternative transcription system. Now that you decided to learn Thai and are about to learn the new transcription system anyway. It would be great to write these very same words to communicate with others and have some conversational practice, especially when you can’t write Thai script or have just started to learn it.

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 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.

Thai to You Karaoke System

We provide both Thai script and Roman transcription in our lessons as not everyone can read and write Thai script in a short time.

As our transcription is a combination of phonetic alphabet that uses simple alphabet and Thai people’s “Pasa Karaoke” – the way Thai people transcribe Thai language using English alphabet, we called it “Karaoke Code”.

ThaiToYou Karaoke Code is not just a transcription system. With our Karaoke Code, you can read Thai accurately and write these very same words to communicate with Thai people!

You can use Karaoke Code for

  • Pronunciation
  • Written communication with most Thai people


  • Integration of the academic, linguistic and the practical, real-life transcription approaches
  • Easily understood for both non-Thai and Thai people. 

Each letter was carefully selected from various transcription systems. The chosen ones are those that are likely to be familiar by both Thai and non-Thai.

  • No ambiguous letters (one symbol per one sound)
  • Having pronunciation notations and learning helpers
    • Indicator of short and long vowels
    • tone marks
    • hyphen (-) between syllables of the same word


  • No need to write dot (.), hyphen (-) or any other symbols. Only write the letters. Most Thai people neither understand nor need these symbols anyway.
  • Do not afraid of writing the words wrong. For Thai people, the transcription is flexible.


  • Easily understood by Thai people.
  • Integrated with Thai society and culture.

You might also see other aspects of Thai language such as the variety of the ending consonants which will be useful in learning Thai alphabet.

However, every transcription system is only a tool that helps you with the pronunciation. Accurate pronunciation can only be achieved by listening to the real sound when the native speak and trying your best to imitate it. 

Moreover, although the spellings of Pasa Karaoke are flexible, Thai alphabet is not. When writing Thai script, you must write the words correctly.

If you are determined in learning Thai, we suggest that you should learn how to read and write Thai alphabet, too. It is the best tool to communicate and understand Thai language, culture, and people.