Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook

Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook

When it comes to learning a language in preparation for a holiday, you no longer need to go to your local bookstore to buy a phrasebook. The digital revolution has changed not only how we prepare for our holidays, but helps contribute to a more enjoyable time. For a few years now, phrasebooks having been available on your smartphone to help you communicate while you are on your holiday. There are some good ones out there for Thailand, but in my opinion, Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand have just released the best “Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook” on the market. I’m not exaggerating. If you only buy one Thai phrasebook this year, make sure it is “Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook”.

This is how they describe it: This phrasebook + mini-dictionary app has more than 12,000 professionally edited words, phrases, and ready-to-use, customizable complete sentences organized into 250+ practical categories like “Language Difficulties,” “Hotel,” “Renting a Place,” “Food/Drink,” “Price Haggling,” “Transportation,” “Health,” “Shopping,” “Sightseeing,” “Love/Romance/Sex” and even “Swearing/Insults.”

So, why do I like this phrasebook so much? Well, it is definitely the phrasebook I wish I had when I first came to Thailand twenty years ago. Remember in the old days when we had to try and work out the pronunciation of the Thai words. They used to write this in “Karaoke English” which was hard to decipher. It was like learning two languages at the same time. And of course, as Thai is a tonal language, it would have been doubtful if we had pronounced it correctly. I remember sitting on a train and asking a Thai family how to pronounce each word and phrase. But, with this talking phrasebook, you don’t need that help. It has over five hours of studio-recorded sound.

The second problem is that there were always a limit to how many phrases that there could be in a printed phrasebook. For example, they may have “Where is the train station?”, but they might not have “Where is the post office?” With this interactive phrasebook you can make up your own phrases by choosing the destination. Another good example is the phrase “Can I visit you at 4:20pm on Saturday 4 July?” You can not only change the time but also the date too. Then listen to a native speaker reading the phrase. If you cannot pronounce it then let your friend listen. Cool, yes?

Another problem I had with Thai phrasebooks was the gender problem. There are different words for “I”, “me”, “my” etc depending on whether you are male or female. The same went for the polite particles like “krab” and “kaa” which come at the end of sentences. With the Talking Phrasebook, you just set your gender in the settings and then you are given all the correct words and phrases for your sex. No need to embarrass yourself by using the wrong word. Another problem is that phrasebooks often used formal words and sentences. With the Talking Phrasebook you get both ways. So you can be more colloquial among friends and peers.

Going back to the transliteration problem. It would seem that no two books could agree on how to write Thai words in the English alphabet. There is the official system but it often bears no relationship to how it should be pronounced. Then the “Karaoke English” in the Lonely Planet phrasebook was also very different to what I was using in Thai for Beginners. It used to do my head in. But, with Talking Phrasebook, you can choose one of up to 12 pronunciation guide systems. An added bonus, in settings you can also turn off the pronunciation guide which is helpful for those people who are learning to read Thai and want to guess how to read it before they click the “play” button. Very cool.

While talking about settings, lets take a look at what else you can change. One of the first things I did was to make the text larger. My eyes are not as good as they used to be. But,I don’t necessarily want the English very large. Luckily there is a separate setting so you can just make the Thai text larger. You can also change the type of keyboard, how the time and numbers are displayed and also the volume for playback and keyboard clicks. I think it is this ability to change things that makes the app so useful. The help section is also very comprehensive. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it only helps you use the app. It also has a great introduction to learning the Thai language which is actually quite comprehensive

And while I’m thinking about it, the conversion calculator is wonderful also. Convert everything from money and temperatures to distances and areas. And then click the “play” button to hear it spoken in Thai! You can also convert length, speed, volume and weight. If you want to see what Thai year you were born in, you can convert to that too. I know you can use calculators for this kind of thing, but only the Talking Phrasebook will read aloud your answer! Converting currency is also useful. As the Talking Phrasebook doesn’t need Internet connection to work, there is a button to click to update to the latest exchange rates. There is also a setting if you want this to update automatically every day.

These are are just some of the things that jumped out at me during my first look at the app. As there are over 250 categories and 12,000 words and phrases, I’ve only just scratched the surface. I also love the Glossary section. I just went through all 77 provinces as well as a long list of cities and tourist destinations in Thailand making sure I was pronouncing them correctly. I wasn’t. Two provinces I need to work on for a better pronunciation. Some of the lists are really comprehensive. For example, animals have 542 entries and birds have 1,025! Other lists include body parts, hobbies, family members and also Thai festivals and events. All of the US states and capitals are listed as well as other places around the world. Very comprehensive already and they say there will be free upgrades in the future.

If y0u have this smartphone app already then please post a review in the comments below. If you have a question then please feel free to ask.

Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook is available for $14.99 in the iTunes store. It works well on both the iPhone and iPad so only need to purchase once. Please note, much of this phrasebook will be added in a major upgrade to the more expensive Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary at the end of this year. This dictionary is $24.99 and is an app which I use often. Highly recommended. If you have the dictionary already then you might want to wait. Up to you.




I have five copies of this app to give away for free. Two copies will be given away to two people who re-tweets the message above. A further two copies will be given to anyone who posts a comment below and answers the questions: “Why do you want to learn Thai?” You can enter both competitions in order to double your chances. The fifth prize will be given away in a quick fire competition on twitter in a few days. Deadline for all of these competitions is midnight on Saturday. Good luck.

30 thoughts on “Talking Thai–English–Thai Phrasebook

  1. “Why do you want to learn Thai?”

    I want to improve my spelling, reading, and writing. I’m reviewing what I didn’t use for 18-months in the US. I kept up my listening. All of this will allow me to better live and work in Thailand for years and years to come!

  2. I’d like the phrasebook because I wil be in Thailand with my family in a few weeks and this would be very helpful.

  3. Great prize. I want, need and desire to learn Thai to really understand Thai people and culture and to integrate myself more deeply in to Thai society. Without the language this would be impossible. With thai language it opens up a whole new mirror in to this wonderful country and its peoples

  4. “Why do you want to learn Thai?”

    Actually, I have been learning Thai for the last 6 years and can manage pretty well. The question “why I want to learn Thai?” can see answered very easily. You live in a different Thailand when you can speak and read Thai. Everything becomes so much easier and you don’t need to depend on anyone. I have been learning Thai from free resources and I would like to review what I’ve been studying and find alternative ways to say things.

  5. I am quitting my job this summer and I intend to move to Thailand in November.
    Having this app would surely help me to learn Thai so I can prepare for this BIG MOVE. Getting it for free would also save me some money 🙂

  6. “Why do you want to learn Thai?”
    I spend a lot of time in Thailand and i think, that learn Thai is a part of respect for this people. Also i have fun, when i try to speak by thai with thais 🙂 And one more think, is good to know numerals, it’s important for get good price everywhere in Thailand.
    Learn Thai, speak Thai.

  7. I was sent on a project for sustainable aquaculture to help poor farmers get more money for their product. I chose to continue to live and work in Thailand as I think sustainable food production would make the world a better and safer place. I have been living and working on a farm for a year and a half, I don’t know any other white people so Thai is essential as no one speaks english. Because my wage is minimum wage in Thailand, 300 baht, its been difficult to buy any learning resources so I have had YouTube and Facebook as my teacher. ผมอยากพูดเก่งๆเพราะว่าคุยกับเพื่อนทำงานได้และช่วยถ้าเจอปันหา ได้แก่อาทิตร์ที่แล้วปลากะพงตายเยอะ โดนเห็บ อยากอาธิบายแต่บอกไม่ถูก น่าเบื่อมาก ถ้าพูดไทยได้ก็ช่วยคนได้ ขอบคุณมากพี่richard

  8. i want to learn to Thai, or as a matter of fact I am already learning It, because for my coming to live to a new country without trying to learn it’s language is like only half living there.

  9. “Why do you want to learn Thai?”
    As for me, living in Thailand, I cannot imagine to rely only on English.
    Learning Thai will improve my relation to Thai people and able to make friends with them, to exchange ideas, to learn from them.

    In everyday life, I can feel quite independant, able to get what I need without trouble and misunderstanding.I can live on my own out of the tourist trade, read the newspapers, watch TV (even if I cannot catch everything…)

  10. “Why do you want to learn Thai?”

    I want to learn Thai because my wife and I are doing long term volunteer work in Thailand with kids and youth. At the moment you usually need to use a translator, but it would be really good to be able to do more work without that dependence.

  11. Why Do I want to learn Thai?

    I live in a Thai n.eighborhood and have been here six years. Would like to be able to talk to my neighbors and be able to conduct simple business transactions without pointing like a deaf mute.

  12. I want to learn Thai becuase my wife is Thai. So, now I have a mom and dad who barely speak English. The only way to communicate with them is in THAI. I have not met them in person yet. When my wife and I travel to Thailand together I want to be able to talk to them. Lastly, we will be getting married in a tradidtional Thai wedding so I have to learn Thai if I want to know what is happening in my wedding. If I win the constest I will use the application to learn Thai and tell everyone I won the app at Richard Barrow’s website!

  13. I want to learn Thai to communicate better with the Thai teachers. I am returning to Thailand to work again in a bi-lingual school. I want to do it better this time!

  14. I am planning to learn Thai because it will enable me to better communicate with Thai people when visiting Thailand, including my husband’s aunts and uncle who live in Bangkok. I also think Thai is a very interesting language to learn and I think the process will make me work hard 🙂
    My husband and I have had some lessons and we have a Thai alphabet poster in our toilet, which our six year old loves to read and talk about.

  15. FWIW; Benjawan Poomsan Becker and Chris Pirazzi have turned out some of the very best three way dictionary appz out there in the marketplace!!

    I think this phrase book dealy has been needed for a long time..

    Oh, why do I wanna learn thai.. Well, I already got that covered, but I learned to read/type/write speak & understand thai because most rank-n-file thaiz have an abysmal grasp of engrish. It was easier for me to learn thai than to try to compel thaiz to speak english..

    Even though I only scanned the review about it, I’m sure if it comes from Benjawan it’s a good app. She’s real particular what she puts her name on..

  16. I am planning to learn Thai because I can talk with Thai people in Thailand. It will be better to get around in Thailand. I also think Thai is a very good language. I really really like Thai.

  17. Hi Richard, I am learning Thai since October and I could use the phrasebook app so very well! Why do I learn Thai? I am in Thailand at least once a year and I plan to retire “parttime” in Thailand as well. I love to interact with people and if you can speak (and read) Thai it is so much more fun and brings you closer to the Thai people. And haggling is much more successfull…..

  18. I want my Thai to improve so I can better communicate with those outside of my neighborhood/office. And I’m tired of receiving quizzical looks when I try using the phonetic version of Thai using English characters.

  19. I have a love of languages and linguistics (part of my studies as an English teacher), and I love the way Thai sounds. I have visited before and have a flight to visit again this summer and would love to be able to communicate politely. Also, I don’t want to get ripped off again when buying a fresh mango!

  20. I’m living in Thailand now as a teacher at an international school. I often lament the fact that I don’t speak good enough Thai. Just today at Bumrungrad when I was getting an injection into my knee for arthritis, the nurse said I spoke good Thai. But I really don’t. She said to me, “Thai people really like when farang speak Thai.” I agree with the idea that out of respect for my current host country, I should do all I can to learn Thai. And while many Thais will compliment me on my Thai, it’s just a courtesy. I’m not yet deserving.

  21. Thanks to everyone who took part in this competition. I put all the names in the randomizer and the first two out were Stephanie and Pam. There are no prizes for the two runner-sup. I just named them in case I am unable to contact the two winners.

    1. Stephanie
    2. Pam
    3. Lori Conover
    4. Barbara Howden

    If you are interested, I used this website to randomize a list.

    Next up are the winners from Twitter.

  22. Hi, Richard. I just read this entry. Do you know if the phrasebook has been incorporated to the app already? I am planning to get it. Thanks.

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