When I was studying Japanese, I bought a set of kanji flashcards. They were very helpful in that I could carry a handful with me when I was on the train to work, which allowed me to practice. What I did not like about them, however, was that they got worn and torn pretty easily, and one slip of the hand caused them to fall all over the place. To be honest, it was a huge pain in the butt.

When I started studying Thai I looked all over for some vocabulary flashcards. I found one or two, but hesitated on purchasing them for the same reasons I didn’t like the kanji cards. I don’t know exactly how the idea hit me, but I remembered that the local office supply stores sold index cards that were spiral bound. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Spiral Index Cards

Using these bound index cards immediately solves the problem of how to keep things organized. Another added benefit is that the index cards are larger than the typical flashcard, so more information can fit on each card.

Here is what I ended up doing. I always carry around an incomplete bound set in my book bag. Whenever I’m studying and come across a word I don’t know, I immediately write it in large letters on the blank/non-lined side of the card. Something like this:

Front of my Thai flashcards

I use this side of the card when I do my vocabulary reviews, first trying to pronounce the word correctly, and then seeing if I remember the definition of the word. When I think I have it, I flip the flashcard over to check the answer. The back of each flashcard looks something like this:

Back of my Thai Flashcard

As you can see, there is quite a bit more information on the back of the card. Starting from top left to the bottom:

  • The complete word, as shown from the front. I put this here, too, so I don’t have to keep flipping the cards back and forth once I’m on the “answer” side.
  • The Romanized pronunciation of the word.
  • The part of speech the word is classified as (ADJ = adjective, N = noun, V = verb, etc.)
  • The English definition of the word, in big, bold letters so I can find it easily if I’m just working on definitions and not necessarily pronunciation.
  • At the bottom, I divide the word into syllables, and for each syllable I show the Thai script and an English explanation for how it gets its tone rule.

In this particular example you will notice that some parts of the Thai script are in parenthesis. These are “hidden” components of the syllable; they exist in terms of pronunciation and tone, but are not written. I will discuss this in a subsequent post, but I felt it was important to show since I do add them where applicable.

I strongly suggest the Flashcard method. You never know when you’ll have a few spare minutes to study.

Editing Note (9/4/2009): It just occurred to me that a very good addition to these flash cards would be the inclusion of a word’s classifier (in the case of nouns that is). My post on classifiers is coming soon, btw…