5 reasons to learn Lao

“The language you speak determines how you think” – Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

Lao is the lingua franca of Laos, the national language of the country, and the language of mass media broadcasting there (where the “Vientiane” dialect is the standard).

Yet, outside of Laos, the language itself is often overlooked in favor of its well-known neighboring or relative languages.

When it comes to translation projects, Lao is often excluded if Thai is already an option. This is because many Lao people who grew up in Laos can already understand Thai — speak it, read it, and write it as the languages are very similar and from Thai content consumption. Thus, there are more resources (books, tutors, online teachers, courses) to learn Thai than Lao.

Despite not being so well-known, here are five reasons to study Lao – whether it’s for cultural, intellectual, business, or even just ‘refreshing’ your Lao.

When it comes to translation projects, Lao is often excluded if Thai is already an option.

1) Understand the culture for a better culture experience and understanding.

While there are many other ethnic minority languages spoken in Laos (Khmu, Hmong, etc), learning the national language is a great start to communicate among Lao people.

In general, Lao people in Laos will be glad you’re able to speak/understand their language and are willing to speak Lao back to you. It just makes your travel experience more immersive.

Plus, thanks to the growth of a global digital world, there is an increasing number of Lao people from Laos on social media forums and online conversations taking place, exposing people to Lao language more than ever.


2) Get the benefits of learning multiple languages at once.

Lao does not take really long to learn it (compared to other languages that might take many years or decades).

If you are a student of Thai, most likely you started learning the standard Central Thai dialect. However, by learning Lao as well, you will cut the learning curve for understanding Isaan quicker, which has very close connection to the Lao language.  If you can read/write Thai and speak Lao, then you essentially can understand Isaan.

Even though Thai, Isaan, and Lao are now distinct languages on their own, they do share some similarities. Both Lao and Thai are from the Tai-kadai language class, so by learning Lao first as the foundation, you’ll be able to understand a variety of Lao regional dialects and Thai quicker.

3) Get practice in a tonal language.

If you come across writings in the Lao script, you know it will need to be pronounced with the Lao tones.

Lao is a tonal language like its Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Mandarin counterparts. If you can learn a tonal language like Lao, you’ll gain the confidence to learn other tonal languages.

4) Be able to write/read in a beautiful script – Lao writing (ຂຽນພາສາລາວ)

The writing of Lao script is really beautiful (adapted from the old Khmer system with its Brahmi origin). The current Lao writing system has been slightly improvised to increase literacy in Laos. Thus, the Lao reading/writing system today is near phonetic.

There are classic literature, poetry, short fiction/sci-fiction stories, novels, and even adaptations written in Lao language that can only be truly enjoyed by learning to read Lao first.

If you have ever read classic poetry from Laos, you’ll eventually learn that Lao is one of the most elegant and expressive poetic language.

Lao adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland"

In Laos, you’ll be able to read a wide variety of content — billboard signs, street signs, menus, and more.

In the online world, you’ll be able to consume Lao e-magazines, news sites, and other Lao websites content/media. Be able to understand and enjoy Lao streaming shows, Lao “ລຳວົງ” karaoke music videos and movies.

5) The Future: More Lao visual medium and content than ever before

What is the best way to learn a language? Engaging with interesting or entertaining media content!

Learning and knowing Lao open you up to discover a whole new world of both classic and modern Lao pop music artists and movies.

Classic Lao song - "ດອກຈຳປາ" (Dok Champa - Laos national flower and symbol)

Upcoming boyband in Laos (GB2)

A popular song from Laos right now


The future of Lao media content from Laos looks very promising despite facing other economical challenges.

Recent infrastructure development has allow opportunities for the younger Lao generation to produce original Lao media content and more. As a result, the upcoming generations in Laos are gradually finding their unique voice in story-telling mediums.

As such, Laotians are proud of their culture; they are starting to infuse more aspects of their traditional values into arts/entertainment distinct from their neighboring countries.

The future of Lao media content from Laos looks very promising despite facing other economical challenges.

There has been some great Lao film festivals in the recent years — Vientiane International Film Festival and Laung Prabang Film Festival.

Be sure to visit these Lao film festivals below:

And learn more about the Lao Film Academy (supporting upcoming young Lao film talent):

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