The kind folks at Lanna Innovation sent me their latest product – Thai Consonant Flashcards to take a look at and comment on. In the Thai language-learning community there is plenty of room for new product growth. The problem is that the major players have such a firm grasp on the market in terms of what books you must have to learn, it can be difficult to break through with a new product and set yourself apart from the pack. (I have some product ideas in development as well, so I know this problem all too well.)

So the question is, can a company with a new product break through and make a mark in the learning community? More to the point, does the Learn Thai consonants flash cards set have what it takes to get added to the list? Let’s find out…

About the Cards

Front of the gɔɔ gài flash card. (Copyright Lanna Innovation Co., Ltd)

The Learn Thai 44-card set covers all of the consonants in the Thai language and provides the user with an easy-to-use and easy-to-carry reference guide to study anywhere you want. Each card is well-made and packed with information. According to the company’s website, the cards are “Safe and non-toxic, we use edible, soy-based inks.”

Each card has:

  • Color-coded for consonant class (yellow/blue/red colorblind-safe)
  • Intuitive phonetic transcription
  • Visual tone graphs indicating frequency and duration of tones (acoustic phonetics)
  • Final sound and live-dead consonant indicators
  • Traditional printing as well as handwriting indicators
  • Mouth position using Sammy diagrams of the manner and place of articulation (articulatory phonetics)

Lots of visual representations here, organized very well and spaced out so as to not give the learner sensory overload. As the list above states, each consonant is color-coded according to its class – yellow for low-class, blue for mid-class, and red for high-class consonants. A nice large and clear picture representing the associated word is also shown to help with mnemonic memorization.

It took me a while to figure out what the graphic in between the consonant and the associated word picture was, until I realized that it shows the tone. I have to be honest, I’m not really a fan of this representation. It’s cludgy and although it accurately shows the literal vocalization of the tone (in this case a mid tone) I think the beginning student is going to get very confused; I would have preferred to just see “mid tone” written in its place.

Back of the gɔɔ gài flash card. (Copyright Lanna Innovation Co., Ltd)

The back of each card shows the romanization of each consonant, as well as diagrams showing which part of the vocal mechanism is used to produce each sound. The associated word definition is also shown, just in case you can’t figure out what the picture on the front is.

I like where they are going with this, but again I think it might be a little confusing to the beginning student. I have found that learning how to correctly pronounce each syllable and word – and I’m certainly no expert – needs to be learned with the help of a Thai native speaker, and cannot be taught (or learned) from a book or flash card. This graphic seems somewhat unnecessary to me. I applaud the completeness they are trying to achieve, but it falls a little short in my opinion.

The other issue I have, and if you’ve been reading my blog you know that this is a problem I have with romanization in general, is that the romanization being used doesn’t seem natural to me. I think this is a problem with Thai language learning products in general, not just these flash cards. To me, “gau” should be pronounced like it rhymes with “cow” when in reality this consonant should sound more like it rhymes with “law.” I’m a fan of the Paiboon+ romanization system, and I’m a bit of a pain in the butt when it comes to having to use any other system. If everyone would just use PP, learning would be so much easier.

Are They Worth the Price?

For $8.99 USD (฿250 in Thailand) they are absolutely worth the price. My criticisms notwithstanding you will still get an awful lot of use from these cards. You can order them directly from their website, and they are very helpful folks.

If anyone orders and uses the products, I would love to get your comments on what you think about the flash cards and whether or not they have helped you in your progress.