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.
COMPETITION TO WIN THE TALKING THAI PHRASEBOOK:
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.