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Usually, if someone has more language learning experience then they also gain transferable knowledge along with it. A clear example of this is if you are learning a new language which is in the same language family as one you are familiar with – so if you are fluent in Spanish, you have lots of transferable knowledge which will help you learn Italian. Typically, you will be able to use similar vocabulary and/or grammar from the language that you are familiar with. So when I found some unexpected similarities between Thai and Danish pronunciation, I was extremely surprised!

watarunchaopraya

Despite the languages being from completely different parts of the world, they actually both share sounds that English doesn’t.

“y” and “อื”

In Danish, the “y” sounds absolutely nothing like it’s English counterpart. In Thai, the corresponding sound is “อื” which I fondly remember through a comical description in a Thai textbook which went along the lines of ‘the sound one would make if they accidentally step on something wet and sticky’. It’s a throaty “eurghhh” sort of sound, and if I had never learnt Thai language, it would be a completely brand new sound to me.

soft endings or final consonants

Some words in Danish have very soft final consonants, which end in a sort of “th” sound. Thai language also has a lot of soft consonants which end in this way – a great example of this is with the Thai word for it’s currency (Baht) “บาท” (listen to it here). There are lots of final consonants in Thai which are transliterated as ‘d’ or ‘t’, but they really have this very soft ending.

long and short vowels

Technically long and short vowels do exist in standard English, but they depend on the stressed syllable in a word and there are no written clues on how to pronounce it properly (without using IPA or other indicators). Danish does have some written clues on long and short vowels, and adjusting to the idea of long and short vowels was a relatively easy thing to grasp, as Thai language is absolutely full of them.

Not starting from scratch

Thai and Danish do not have much in common in the way of grammar, writing systems, vocabulary… but they do have some similar sounds which are not found in English. I guess it just goes to show that regardless of whatever language you are learning, the skills you acquire rarely end there.

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