Lao: ຂອບໃຈ

So … I wasn’t into Lao at all. It didn’t take me very long for me to come to this conclusion, so I won’t take very long in explaining why it didn’t work out.

SUMMARY: Lao is a tonal language in the Kradai family, spoken by over 15 million in Laos, Thailand and other parts of the world. Lao script first appeared in 14th century, which is based off the Khmer writing system. Lao culture is painted with accents of Buddhism, which had a considerable influence on the language’s vocabulary.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Not very favorable, unfortunately. As I mentioned before, I was turned off by the orthography entirely. As it is rather complicated, Lao words are not spaced apart in normal writing, which is challenging if you are not familiar with the vocabulary. There’s also no standard for writing Lao in Roman form.

Like Thai, however, the language’s grammar seems to be easy simple when it’s compared to English’s. It’s a Subject-Verb-Obect language, even though the subject can often be omitted. There are no definite or indefinite articles and Lao uses special words to show tense for verbs and to show negation.

For example, the particle ບໍ່ is added before verbs to make them negative. So ບ + ຢາກ (want) = ບຢາກ (do not/does not want). Seems easy, right? Nouns and pronouns don’t decline either, so the verb stays the same. One thing to note is that special classifiers are used with nouns when referring to the amount of things.

Lao is big on honorific grammar, or altering sentences to make them more polite. Markers like ແດ່ (de) can be used at the end of sentences to make them more respectful.

In terms of listening to Lao, it sounded very monosyllabic. Even though it sounds extremely similar to Thai, I prefer the latter, maybe because it sounds less … strained? I’m not sure how to describe it. But I wasn’t into Thai that much either, so I care even less for Lao.

Ouch! I hope that wasn’t too harsh. But don’t worry, maybe things will turn around — the last language in the blog, Catalan, is up next! We’re SO close!


Intelligibility: 2
Complexity: 2
Resonance: 1
Continuation: 1

Wikipedia – Lao grammar

COMING UP: Catalan

6 thoughts on “Lao: ຂອບໃຈ

  1. Why do you get so hung up on writing systems? If it’s not Chinese, or, for the same reason but to a lesser extent, Japanese, it absolutely doesn’t matter. It takes years to get fluent, who cares if you have to spend a week or two to wrap your head around a new set of symbols?! The same is true for word oder, and even lack of spacing really isn’t much of an issue. You should really see these things more in proportion!

    1. I was just going to say the same thing. Sure, you might have to learn a new bunch of letters, but so what? I think it adds to the identity of a language, and it’s less confusing than learning endless pronunciations of Roman letters.

      As for the spaces in between words: canyoureadthis? Ofcourseyoucan,it’seasy. Don’t know why we bother with them in English 😛

      1. Hi Eldon,

        I agree, the orthography of a language certainly paints its identity. However, if an alphabet or abugida is difficult for non-native speakers to learn, wouldn’t it be condusive to mention this? Especially when “sampling” the language?

    2. Hi Max,

      Thanks a lot for your feedback, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to reply sooner.

      I’m actually inclined to disagree with some of this. While it’s true that it takes years to learn a language, I think you may have missed an important point of the blog, which is a “speed-dating” excercise of sorts. Did you get a chance to read the information on the “About” tab? In any case, some of my observations are a little harsh, but honest and merely first impressions. I write from the perspective of an American English speaker. Word order, spacing, orthography, how the language sounds … these are all things I’m considering.

  2. Hey Keith,

    You’re right – I guess it’s not quite the same as if you were learning it to fluency, and yeah, it’s worth mentioning that it was tricky. I don’t know, I just found learning Japanese kana and Chinese characters much easier than everyone made out (thanks to mnemonics, mind), and I figured it was probably just as easy to learn any other script.

    Hope the Catalan turns out to be more enjoyable 🙂

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