I think I’m starting to sound like a broken record. I’m sure it will come as no shock to hear that the folks at Paiboon Publishing have, once again, set the standard for Thai language learning with the release of their Thai-English Talking dictionary for iPhone. Not content to rest on the success of their paper dictionary and PC software dictionary, PP’s addition to the ever-expanding list of Thai language iPhone apps proves once again how committed they are to putting out the highest quality products.

Okay, so I’m gushing a little bit, I admit. But you have to understand, I have about ten copies of their paper dictionary scattered throughout my house, car, and work backpack. It can be very tiring to have to look up every word I need a definition for (and I need a lot of them). With my iPod Touch, words come to me in a matter of a few seconds rather than minutes.

And so, I’m happy to offer this completely biased, fan-boy review of the Thai-English Talking Dictionary for iPhone.

The dictionary has over 100,000 entries. Unless you are literally a brain surgeon and need translations of advanced medical terms (you’ll find basic medical and scientific terms listed) you’ll pretty much find anything and everything you need. This dictionary — unlike several others — does not require an Internet/3G connection to be used, which is fantastic since I have an iPod Touch and not an iPhone. The dictionary is also iPad-compatible, if you have one.

Simplicity is Key

Three search options are offered — look up a word from English, look up a word from Thai script, and look up a word from Thai transliteration. Where other dictionaries force you into finding what you want by one lookup method only, PP makes sure all of the bases are covered. I spend most of my time using the first two methods, admittedly I probably won’t look for words using the transliteration option, but the fact that it’s available if I need it really makes a world of difference; it’s been available in their print dictionaries for a long time.

Search results are offered in real time as you type, very similar to how Google has changed their search functionality. This is a great time saver, especially when you are searching via Thai script. Each result offers the English translation, grammar function, Thai script, and transliteration. Additional information such as “female speaker” when the word or phrase has ค่ะ /kâ/ in it, or that the word is a classifier, for example, helps the user to understand context.

More Options Equals Better Learning

The dictionary offers several options to help you learn

When you touch the Thai script, a menu appears that allows you to hear an a audio clip of the word. Again, brilliant design move on their part. The clips are crystal clear and very easy to understand.   I can’t imagine how many hours it took to record and edit all of the words, but it makes all the difference in the world. Clicking on the “Go” link will take you to the dictionary entry as if you had searched for it using Thai script.

But my absolute favorite part of the program is when you click on the blue “more” arrow on the menu. Here you will find all of the truly important information:

  • See Real-World Fonts – If you have trouble reading many of the signs in Thailand because of the funky fonts, you can click this option to see what the words look like.
  • Find Words Inside – Click this option to see if this word is contained in other words. An excellent option if you only heard a part of the word.
  • Explain Spelling – My favorite feature. Each syllable in the word/phrase is broken down in fine detail and gives you the specific information on consonant class, vowel length, live or dead ending, and tone marker to show you exactly why the syllable has the tone it does. For those of you that struggle to understand how all of the pieces fit together, this is the option you want to use the most.
  • Google Thai Word – I admit that I have never used this function (I have an iPod Touch, after all, not an iPhone – hence, no 3G) but again, having the ability to access additional information when you need to is always a good thing.

Real-world fonts to help you identify Thai script

It’s always the little things that sets great products apart.


Don’t Overlook the Help

In another stroke of genius, PP added some much needed guides in the Help section. In addition to the typical “how to use the program” information, they also included a pronunciation guide, reading and writing help, and a Useful Word Groups section where you can get lists of colors, classifiers, days of the week, etc.

You can also choose which transliteration guide you want to use. Twelve options are offered, and although I am an exclusive “Paiboon+” user, you can choose the system that works best for you. It’s nice that PP recognizes its way is not the only way (even if it should be the only way); customers first, after all…

Overall Impression

The transliteration search feature

Overall, this is the best dictionary I have to date. Save for the fact that I have a blog and want to review products that may benefit the Thai language learning community, I don’t think anyone will be able to come up with a better Thai-English dictionary for the iPhone. If you are considering buying one, there is no decision or choice to be made; this is the only one you will need.