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Lao / Laotian Resources

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502 posts - 1093 votes 
Studies: German

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06 May 2020 at 12:34am | IP Logged 
During the period from February 2020 through May 2020, I conducted a complete revision to the twenty-eight (28) lists of resources which I had posted on the LLORG during the previous three-year period. As revising these types of documents directly on the LLORG in the “Edit Mode” is fraught with difficulties, I removed their contents from the LLORG, stored them on my computer, and completed the revisions. During the revision process an event occurred which prevented me from reposting the contents to their original files and, as a contingency measure, I have posted them here on the HTLAL in the anticipation that either the Administrator or the Moderators of the LLORG will copy/paste them to the LLORG. - Speakeasy


[color=#0000FF">Laos [/color">, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ, romanized: Saþalanalat Paxaþipatai Paxaxōn Lao; French: République démocratique populaire lao), commonly referred to by its colloquial name of Muang Lao (Lao: ເມືອງລາວ, Muang Lao), is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Located at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast and Thailand to the west and southwest.

Lao Language
[color=#0000FF">Lao [/color">, sometimes referred to as Laotian (ລາວ, [láːw] 'Lao' or ພາສາລາວ, [pʰáːsǎːláːw] 'Lao language'), is a Kra–Dai language of the Lao people. It is spoken in Laos, where it is the official language, as well as northeast Thailand, where it is usually referred to as Isan. Lao serves as a lingua franca among all citizens of Laos, who speak approximately 90 other languages, many of which are unrelated to Lao.[5] Modern Lao (language) is heavily influenced by the Thai language. A vast number of technical terms as well as common usage are adopted directly from Thai. Like other Tai languages, Lao is a tonal language and has a complex system of relational markers.[clarification needed] Spoken Lao is mutually intelligible with Thai and Isan, fellow Southwestern Tai languages, to such a degree that their speakers are able to effectively communicate with one another speaking their respective languages. These languages are written with slightly different scripts but are linguistically similar and effectively form a dialect continuum.[6] Although there is no official standard, the Vientiane dialect became the de facto standard language in the second-half of the 20th century.

Lao Dialects, Structure
Scholars do not agree on the number of [color=#0000FF">Lao dialects[/color">: Ethnologue lists five (Vientiane, Luang Phrabang, Sawanakhet, Pakse, Lao-Kao, Lao-Khrang) while other scholars list three.The standard language is based on the Vientiane dialect, spoken in the capital of Laos, which is widely understood throughout the country. Written Lao is also based on the Vientiane dialect.
Comparing Thai and Lao
The Thai and Lao languages both belong to the Tai language family and are closely related. Different aspects of the languages are compared here…
Selected Discussion Threads

Languages in Northern Laos - LLORG - July 2019
Axon wrote:
It's my last of seven nights in Laos, and I thought I would post some information about the languages I've used during this trip.

I'm traveling with a very good friend of mine from college. We're both tall, white, American men, and this definitely affects the languages that people assume we speak. He can speak basic Mandarin and some Spanish.

We entered from Thanh Hóa, Vietnam, where I used Mandarin to confirm the bus schedule with somebody at the bus station. The bus was filled with Vietnamese people, some of whom spoke a little Lao. In Laos, we stayed in four cities.

1. Sam Nuea, Vieng Xay (day trip) - Very few foreign tourists, but one cafe operated by an American. Vietnamese spoken by long-distance bus drivers. Some people in shops and restaurants understood some Vietnamese or English, and many restaurants had Vietnamese written on their signs. Our guesthouse owner spoke only Lao. Audio tours of Vieng Xay caves offered in English with English-speaking tour guide. Children shouted "Hello" at us on the street.

2. Muang Hiam - Very few foreign tourists. Some English spoken at the bus station. Less Vietnamese on signs. Our guesthouse owner spoke only Lao. Spoke English at the pharmacy and Mandarin at a general store owned by a Chinese immigrant. Children shouted "Hello" at us on the street.

3. Nong Khiaw - Many foreign tourists. A handful of signs in Vietnamese and Chinese, most in English. Many restaurant owners spoke English; our guesthouse owner knew a few words but kept switching to Lao on me. Restaurants off the main street likely to have monolingual staff. Children shouted "Sabaidee" at us on the street.

4. Luang Namtha - Some foreign tourists. Many signs in Chinese and English, a few with Vietnamese as well. Many restaurant and shop owners were Chinese immigrants and spoke Mandarin and sometimes Cantonese. Restaurants and hotels had a surprising number of German books on their shelves. Shops off the main street likely to have monolingual staff, visibly shocked when I spoke Lao. Our guesthouse owner spoke good English. Children did not shout at us on the street.

A couple of observations:

- Vietnamese is a strong asset to have in Laos. Not only are there many Vietnamese people living or doing business in Laos, but Vietnamese makes the cut along with Chinese and English as languages that Lao people are often interested in learning.
- The influence of Chinese wasn't very strong until we got to Oudomxay or Luang Namtha provinces, at which point it ramped up hard because that's where the Chinese railway is being built. It was very common along the highway in those provinces to see Chinese/Lao bilingual road signs or safety posters near construction sites.
- That said, there are still many small towns where buses will stop for repairs or food, and where Lao people mostly just speak Lao.
- Some people will take it in stride that a foreigner is speaking Lao, and others will heap praise upon you for saying the simplest things.
- More than half of signs in shops and on streets have no English, though bus schedules often have transliterations of city names.
- A lot of music and TV is in Thai and I imagine that someone fluent in Thai would have no trouble at all communicating in Laos.

I didn't make any effort to learn any of the dozens of other languages spoken in Laos. I believe that I sometimes heard people on the street talking in other languages, but I can't be sure. I did see an ad for a Hmong-speaking taxi service in Sam Nuea.

Overall, I'm very glad that I spent a little time on Lao before arriving. I wish I had been a little better at predicting what I would need, though of course you don't need much because context goes such a long way. I look forward to maintaining and improving my tourist Lao for next time!


Lao Courses, Supplements, etc.

DLI Lao courses from the 1960’s - 1970’s - NONE

FSI Basic Lao (1970) Vol. 1, 449 pages, by Warren G. Yates and Souksomboun Sayasithsena
Vientiane dialect. Audio recordings were NOT prepared to accompany this course. Rather, this manual comprises a set of materials and guidelines for conversational interplay between students and their native-speaking Lao instructor. A PDF version of the text is also available via the ERIC website as: ED041264

FSI Everyday Lao (2014), 222 pages, by FSI Staff
Familiarisation course with AUDIO recordings (avec remerciements à Axon!).

FSI Reading Lao: A Programmed Introduction (1974), 492 pages, by by Warren G. Yates and Souksomboun Sayasithsena
For self-instructional manual. Preface: “first of a two-volume course to teach students to read newspaper articles, technical descriptions of moderate difficulty, literary narratives, political speeches, and other materials of similar difficulty …” Includes extensive AUDIO recordings.

FSI Reading Lao Course, Volumes 1,2,3 (1970, 1971, 1974) by Warren G. Yates and Souksomboun Sayasithsena
The single-volume reprints by Samurai Media Limited are mostly likely copies of the “FSI Reading Lao: A Programmed Introduction” which may, or may not, have been a consolidation of the preceding volumes.

Spoken Lao, Vol. 1, 2 (1956) by G. Edward Roffe, Thelma W. Roffe - American Council of Learned Societies
Virtually no information available on this legacy course. It might have first appeared during the 1940’s as one of the numerous introductory language courses which had been commissioned by the U.S. Armed Forces for the instruction of their personnel, but this is pure speculation on my part.

U.S. Peace Corps Lao - NONE
There are no legacy Peace Corps Lao courses on the Yojik, Live Lingua, or ERIC websites.


Lao Courses, Supplements, etc.

FSI Lao Basic Course, Vol. 1, 2 [new 2014">, 431 pages total, by FSI Staff
Elements of FSI Basic Lao (1970) might appear in this “new” edition (2014). Includes substantial AUDIO recordings. The most complete course in spoken Lao that I have come across.
Lao Basic Course (1995), 350 pages, by Warren Yates and Souksomboun Sayasithsena – Hippocrene Books
I strongly suspect that this publication was a half-sized copy of the original FSI Basic Lao course (1970).
księżycowy wrote:
Having a copy of the Hippocrene version of Lao Basic Course, I can attest to the fact that it is indeed the full FSI course (obviously the old version with romanization only). It has all the lessons present in the other versions of the FSI courses as far as I can tell anyway.
Lao for Beginners (2nd ed., 2009), 264 pages, – by Benjawan Poomsan Becker - Paiboon Publishing
Probably CEFR A1. Book sold separately or as part of package containing 3 AUDIO CDs. Well-received by Amazon customers.

Lao for Beginners: An Introduction to the Spoken and Written Language of Laos (5th print ed., 2001), 210 pages, by Tatsuo Hoshino - Tuttle Publishing
Probably CEFR A1. No mention of audio recordings. A number of the Amazon customers complained about the font size which they found to be too small.

Lao Language: Interactive online course – SEAsite Laos

Learn Lao Language Every Week – Vanida WP – YouTube
Axon wrote:
… My main study resources (for what limited study I did) were Vanida's channel on YouTube,…
Let's Speak Lao (2006), 230 pages, by James Higbie - Orchid Press
Includes 1 CD.

NFLC Learning Portal: Lao Practice Sets – University of Maryland - NONE

Parlons Lao, (1994), 250 pages, by Chou Norindr - Editions L'Harmattan
Parlons Lao AUDIO Recordings - indisponible
Available in FRENCH only. CEFR A2. Publisher has ceased offering audio recordings which once accompanied their “Parlons” series.
Lao Courses, Supplements, etc. (Mandarin base)

Axon wrote:
… Learners who can understand Mandarin would do well to search for similar courses (try 老挝语入门/老挝语基础) because it was very high quality...

Lao Phrase Books, Language Guides, etc.
Unless otherwise stated, the phrase books are not accompanied by audio recordings.

English-Lao Phrasebook with Useful Word List (1980), 160 pages, by Khamchong Luangprascut, Nguyen Hy Quong - Center for Applied Linguistics
Interestingly, one offer for this vintage phrase book includes 3 AUDIO cassettes.

Lao-English/English-Lao Dictionary and Phrasebook (2001), 207 pages, by James Higbie - Hippocrene Books

Kauderwelsch : Laotisch - Wort für Wort
Kauderwelsch : AusspracheTrainer Laotisch (mp3)
Available in German only. Paired set of phrasebook and AUDIO recordings (extracts only). Sold separately.
Axon wrote:
… Kauderwelsch, the German phrasebook publisher, has German versions of a phrasebook and a pronunciation trainer (really just the accompanying audio for the phrasebook) available as digital downloads on their website. While I did not use these for my own study of Lao, I own several Kauderwelsch phrasebooks and have found them all to contain lots of examples and clear explanations. A cursory glance at the webpage did not reveal which dialect of Lao is represented in the phrasebook.

Lao Basics: An Introduction to the Lao Language (2010), 96 pages, by Sam Brier - Tuttle Publishing
Includes 1 AUDIO CD.

Lao de poche: Guide de conversation (2011), 224 pages, by Klaus Werner et al - Assimil
Available in FRENCH only.

Lonely Planet Lao Phrasebook & Dictionary (5th ed., projected release 2020), 224 pages; Lonely Planet Staff

Lao Phrasebook - Wikitravel

Lao Grammars and Related Materials

A Grammar of Lao (2007), 592 pages, by N. J. Enfield- De Gruyter Mouton

Lao alphabet handwriting (2019), 32 pages, by Nickkey Nick - Independently published

Lao Serial Verb Constructions and Their Event Representations (2016), 217 pages, by Douglas James Cole - Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Iowa

Shapes and Sounds of the Lao Language (2018), 152 pages, by David Dale – Orchid Press
Lao Dictionaries
This is but a selection of dictionaries; several others are available.

English-Lao Lao-English Dictionary (revised 2001), 424 pages, by Russell Marcus- Tuttle Publishing

Lao-English Dictionary (1972, 1994), 1223 pages, by Allen Kerr- I B D Ltd;
Originally published in 1972 by the Catholic University of America Press in two volumes. This is the second printing in one volume.

Three-Way Lao-English English-Lao Dictionary (2003), 780 pages, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker - Paiboon Publishing

Lao Readers and Related Materials
Big Brother Mouse
Axon wrote:
… Big Brother Mouse is a literacy project that publishes funny and engaging children's books in Lao and in parallel Lao-English versions. Some are free to download…
Area Handbook for Laos (1972), 346 pages, Donald Whitaker - Foreign Area Studies (FAS) of the American University
Designed to be useful to military and other personnel who need a convenient compilation of basic facts about the social, economic, political, military institutions and practices of Laos.

FSI Reading Lao Course, Volumes 1,2,3 (1970, 1971, 1974) by Warren G. Yates and Souksomboun Sayasithsena
The single-volume reprints by Samurai Media Limited are mostly likely copies of the “FSI Reading Lao: A Programmed Introduction” which may, or may not, have been a consolidation of the preceding volumes.

Lao Culture, Society, History, etc.

Historical Dictionary of Laos (3rd ed., 2008), 555 pages, by Martin Stuart-Fox - Scarecrow Press

History of Laos (1997), 272 pages, by Martin Stuart-Fox - Cambridge University Press

Lao Media

KPL: Lao News Agency – online news

Pasaxon – online news

Vientiane Mai Newspaper – online news

University of Oregon: Self-Study Program
I’m pretty sure that the UofO program has resources for Lao; however, I haven’t been able to penetrate the system (techno-peasant).

China International Radio – Lao

Radio Free Asia – Lao

VOA: Voice of America

SBS Radio
I’m pretty sure that Lao broadcasts are available.

Global Recordings Network - Lao
Nota bena: Christian broadcasts.

Journal of Southeast Asia Language Teaching

Please feel at liberty to post your own recommendations and/or comments and I’ll see what I can do about incorporating them into the lists above.

Visitors to this file are encouraged to review the subsequent comments, posted below, as they include members’ suggestions concerning materials and form a running commentary on resources for the study of this language.

Completely revised: April 2020

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