There seem to be more and more people around with an interest in learning Thai, and the most common problem they face is the fact that Thai is a tonal language. Personally, I have never made an effort to learn the tone rules – my language acquisition comes purely from the listen and repeat method, in the same way that a child would learn its mother tongue.
It did however get me thinking about how we use tones in English which reminded me of a hilarious sketch I saw many years ago where a reporter on TV read the classified results with the wrong intonation. If you were listening only to the tone rather than the words it gave the impression that the wrong team had won.
As everybody (English anyway) knows this Saturday afternoon ritual, it can be used to practice the 5 Thai tones. Let’s start with a home win
Arsenal 3 – Manchester United 1 - the 3 would be the Thai rising tone and the 1 would be the Thai falling tone.
To master the mid tone think of a score draw e.g. Liverpool 1 – Chelsea 1 – easy!
The low tone can also be mastered by thinking of the most boring 90 minutes of football ending in a 0-0 draw, e.g. Aston Villa 0 – Everton 0.
Finally for the high tone you just have to think of the most incredible result from a high scoring game
e.g. Manchester City 5 – Newcastle 7
It’s important to note that it’s only the score not the team name that gets the tone – here’s a recap.
Arsenal 3 (R) - Manchester United 1 (F)
Liverpool 1 (M) – Chelsea 1 (M)
Aston Villa 0 (L) – Everton 0 (L)
Manchester City 5 (H) – Newcastle 7 (H)
(H) High Tone, (R) Rising Tone, (M) Mid Tone, (F) Falling Tone, (L) Low Tone