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Lao phrasebook

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Revision as of 12:08, 4 April 2007 by 61.91.191.11 (Talk)

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Lao (ພາສາລາວ phaasaa laao) is the main language of Laos, also spoken to some degree in the northeastern Isaan region of Thailand. Thai is also closely related to Lao.

Pronunciation guide

Instant Lao
Speak Thai already? Here's a three-step program for instant Lao fluency (or pretense thereof).

  • The letter "r" must be eliminated.
    • At the beginning of a word, "r" turns into "l": roiloi "hundred"
    • Within a word, "r" turns into "l": karunaakalunaa "please"
    • In a cluster, "r" disappears completely: prathetpathet "country"
  • All "ch" turn into "x" (pronounced "s"). changxang "elephant"
  • Say baw instead of mai when you want to say "no" or ask a question.


Lao is a tonal language with six tones in the Vientiane dialect: low, mid, high, rising, high falling, and low falling. Meanings can change critically based on the tone, so try not to inflect your sentences: in particular, any questions should be pronounced as flat statements, without the rising intonation ("...yes?") typical to English questions.

The script used to write Lao has the same Brahmic base as Thai and Khmer, and Thai readers will be able to puzzle out most of it. The Lao written language is essentially alphabetic and, thanks to extensive post-revolutionary meddling, now considerably more phonetic than Thai or Khmer. Still, there are 30 consonants, 15 vowel symbols plus 4 tone marks to learn, and the Lao also share the Thai aversion to white space between words, so it remains a bit of challenge to pick up, eventhough it is usually conisdered easier to learn than Thai.

Lao romanization is bedeviled by the incompatibility between French and English pronunciation: most older transliterations are French-based, while newer ones are English-based. The French-style "Vientiane", for example, would be spelled "Wiang Chan" in English. Wikitravel uses a modern English-based orthography modeled on the Thai system, but the French transliterations have been noted below when appropriate.

Vowels

Lao has a complicated set of vowels that distinguishes between vowel length (short and long) and vowel position (front and back). Vowel signs are always written around consonants.

French transliterations use "ou" for "u" (eg. "Louang Prabang") and often tag a seemingly superfluous "e" at the end of words to stop the consonant from being swallowed (eg. "Kaysone Phomvihane").

Consonants

Lao distinguishes between aspirated ("with a puff of air") and unaspirated ("without a puff of air") consonants. Unaspirated consonants exist in English too, but never alone: compare the sound of 'p' in "pot" (aspirated) and "spot" (unaspirated). Many English speakers find it helpful to pronounce an imperceptible little "m" in front to 'stop' the puff.

In romanized Lao, the distinction is usually represented by writing aspirated consonants with "h" and unaspirated ones without it. In particular, "ph" represents a hard aspirated 'p' and not a soft 'f', and Phongsali is thus pronounced "Pongsalee". Likewise, "th" is a hard aspirated 't' and hence That Luang is pronounced "Tat Luang".

like 'b' in "bed"
not used in Wikitravel, but in other romanizations may represent 's'
like 'd' in "dog"
like 'f' in "fan"
not used in Wikitravel, but in other romanizations may represent unaspirated 'k'
like 'h' in "help"
like 'dg' in "edge"
like 'k' in "skate" (unaspirated)
kh 
like 'c' in "cat" (aspirated)
like 'l' in "love"
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
ny 
like 'ni' in "onion", can also be used at the beginning of words
ng 
like 'ng' in "sing", can also be used at the beginning of words
like 'p' in "spit" (unaspirated)
ph 
like 'p' in "pig" (aspirated)
not used the modern orthography, should be pronounced as 'l', 'h' or ignored
like 'ss' in "hiss",
like 't' in "stab"
th 
like 't' in "top"
not used in Wikitravel, but in other romanizations may represent 'w'
like 'w' in "weight"
like 'y' in "yes"
like 'ss' in "hiss", completely identical to 's'

Phrases

Basics

Hello. 
(Sabaai-dii.)
How are you? 
(Sabaai-dii baw?)
Fine, thank you. 
(Sabaai-dii.)
What is your name? 
(Chao sy nyang?)
My name is ______ . 
(Khoy suu _____.)
Please. 
(Kalunaa)
Thank you. 
(Khop jai)
It's nothing. 
(Baw pen nyang.)
Yes. 
(men/doy/eur)
No. 
(baw)
Excuse me/I'm Sorry. (begging pardon
(khaw thoht)
Goodbye and Take Care (sohk dee')
I can't speak English [well]. 
(khoy wao pha-saa ung-git dee baw dai)
Do you speak English? 
(jao paak pha-saa ung-git dai baw?)
Go to sleep  
(pai nåwn)
I don't understand. 
I don't understand. (Khoy baw khao jai)
Where is the toilet? 
(hong naam yuu sai?)
I am Korean 
(Khoy man Gao'Le)

Problems

Leave me alone. 
Leave me alone. ('Boh tong koun khoy')
Don't touch me! 
('Boh tong jup khoy)
I'll call the police. 
('Khoy si toh dtum louat.)
Police! 
Police! (Dtum louat!)
Stop! Thief! 
Stop! Thief! (...)
I need your help. 
I need your help. ('Soy khoy dai boh')
It's an emergency. 
It's an emergency. (souk sunn)
I'm lost. 
(Khoy lhong taang)
I lost my wallet. 
(Khoy seeuh gkapow)
I lost my bag. 
(Khoy seeuh tong)
I'm sick. 
(Khoy pben kai.)
I've been injured. 
('Khoy jep.)
I need a doctor. 
I need a doctor. ('Khoy tong kan Mau')
Can I use your phone? 
('Khoy sai torrosup dai boh?)
May I talk to _______? (Khoy ko lum num _______?)

Numbers

Lao numbers are effectively identical to Thai, the two quirks worth nothing being that 20 is sao (not yii-sip) and 100 is an R-less loi. Speakers of Cantonese will find many quite familiar.

Lao has its own set of numerals, but these are used quite rarely.

0  
(soon)
1  
(neung)
2  
(song)
3  
(saam)
4  
(sii)
5  
(haa)
6  
(hok)
7  
(jet)
8  
(paet)
9  
(kao)
10 
(sip)
11 
(sip-et)
12 
(sip-song)
13 
(sip-saam)
14 
(sip-sii)
15 
(sip-haa)
16 
(sip-hok)
17 
(sip-jet)
18 
(sip-paet)
19 
(sip-kao)
20 
(sao)
21 
(sao-et)
22 
(sao-song)
23 
(sao-saam)
30 
(saam-sip)
40 
(sii-sip)
50 
(haa-sip)
60 
(hok-sip)
70 
(jet-sip)
80 
(paet-sip)
90 
(kao-sip)
100 
(hawy)
200 
(song hawy)
300 
(saam hawy)
1000 
(phan)
2000 
(song phan)
10,000 
(meun, sip phan)
100,000 
(saen, hawy phan)
1,000,000 
(laan)
1,000,000,000 
(teu, phan laan)
1,000,000,000,000 
(laan laan)
number (train, bus, etc.
(nam-boe (lehk))
half 
(kheung)
less 
(nawy-kwaa)
more 
(iik)

Time

now 
now (diow nee)
later 
later (...)
before 
before (...)
morning 
morning (dthawn sao)
afternoon 
afternoon (...)
evening 
evening (...)
night 
night (...)

Clock time

Duration

_____ minute(s) 
_____ minute(s) (na-thii)
_____ hour(s) 
_____ hour(s) (suua mohng)
_____ day(s) 
_____ day(s) (meuh)
_____ week(s) 
_____ week(s) (aathit)
_____ month(s) 
_____ month(s) (duean)
_____ year(s) 
_____ year(s) (bpii)

Days

today 
(meuh nii)
yesterday 
(meuh wan nii)
tomorrow 
(meuh euhn)
this week 
(aathit)
last week 
(thit laeow)
next week 
(thit nah)
Sunday 
(wan aathit)
Monday 
(wan jan)
Tuesday 
(wan angkaan)
Wednesday 
(wan phut)
Thursday 
(wan phahat)
Friday 
(wan suk)
Saturday 
(wan sao)

Months

Colors

red 
(sii daeng)
orange 
(sii som)
yellow 
(sii lueang)
green 
(sii khiao)
blue 
(sii faa)
purple 
(sii muang)
brown 
(sii nam taan)
gray 
(sii thao)
black 
(sii dam)
white 
(sii khao)
Pink 
(sii bua)

Transportation

Bus and train

How much is a ticket to _____? 
How much is a ticket to _____? (...)
One ticket to _____, please. 
One ticket to _____, please. (...)
Where does this train/bus go? 
Where does this train/bus go? (...)
Where is the train/bus to _____? 
Where is the train/bus to _____? (...)
Does this train/bus stop in _____? 
Does this train/bus stop in _____? (...)
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? 
When does the train/bus for _____ leave? (...)
When will this train/bus arrive in _____? 
When will this bus arrive in _____? (...)

Directions

How do I get to _____ ? 
How do I get to _____ ? (khoy bpay _____ baep dai?)
...the bus station? 
...the bus station? (....)
...the airport? 
...the airport? (....)
...downtown? 
...downtown? (...)
...the youth hostel? 
...the youth hostel? (...)
...the _____ hotel? 
...the _____ hotel? (...)
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? 
...the American/Canadian/Australian/British consulate? (...)
Where are there a lot of... 
Where are there a lot of... (___ lai yuu sai?)
...hotels? 
...hotels? (...)
...restaurants? 
...restaurants? (....haan aahan?)
...bars? 
...bars? (...)
...sites to see? 
...sites to see? (...)
Can you show me on the map? 
Can you show me on the map? (...)
street 
street (thanon)
alley 
(soi)
Turn left. 
(Liao saai.)
Turn right. 
(Liao kwaa.)
left 
(saai)
right 
(kwaa)
straight ahead 
(tarng narh)
towards the _____ 
towards the _____ (...)
past the _____ 
past the _____ (...)
before the _____ 
before the _____ (...)
Watch for the _____. 
Watch for the _____. (...)
intersection 
intersection (...)
north 
north (thit neua)
south 
south (...)
east 
east (...)
west 
west (...)
uphill 
uphill (...)
downhill 
downhill (...)

Taxi

Taxi! 
 ???????! (taak see)
Take me to _____, please. 
(Phaa Khoy bpay____,naeh.)
How much does it cost to get to _____? 
(bpay ___ tao dai?)
Take me there, please. 
Take me there, please. (...)
Stop here.
(Jawt yuu nee)

Lodging

Do you have any rooms available? 
Do you have any rooms available? (Jao mee hawng baw?)
How much is a room for one person/two people? 
How much is a room for one person/two people? (Hawng tao dai hai khon neung(1 person)/song khon(2 people)?)
Does the room come with... 
Does the room come with... (Hawng maa gap _____, baw?)
...bedsheets? 
...bedsheets? (...)
...a bathroom? 
(...hawng naam?)
...a telephone? 
(...tohlasup?)
...a TV? 
(...thiiwii/tohlathut?)
May I see the room first? 
May I see the room first? (Khoy berng hawng gawn dai bor?)
Do you have anything quieter? 
Do you have anything quieter? (Jao mee mit gwaa nee baw?)
...bigger? 
...bigger? (ngai gwaa?)
...cleaner? 
(...kiang gwaa?)
...cheaper? 
...cheaper? (...)
OK, I'll take it. 
OK, I'll take it. (Doy,Khoy see aow.)
I will stay for _____ night(s). 
I will stay for _____ night(s). (Koi see oue ____ keun.)
Can you suggest another hotel? 
Can you suggest another hotel? (...)
Do you have a safe? 
Do you have a safe? (...)
...lockers? 
...lockers? (...)
Is breakfast/supper included? 
Is breakfast/supper included? (...)
What time is breakfast/supper? 
What time is breakfast/supper? (...)
Please clean my room. 
Please clean my room. (Mien hong koi nah.)
Can you wake me at _____? | Can you wake me at _____? (Dthuen Khoy ____ moeng nah)
I want to check out. 
I want to check out. (...)

Money

Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? 
Do you accept American/Australian/Canadian dollars? (...)
Do you accept British pounds? 
Do you accept British pounds? (...)
Do you accept credit cards? 
Do you accept credit cards? (...)
Can you change money for me? 
Can you change money for me? (Jao bian nguen hay koy dai bor?)
Where can I get money changed? 
Where can I get money changed? (...)
Can you change a traveler's check for me? 
Can you change a traveler's check for me? (...)
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? 
Where can I get a traveler's check changed? (...)
What is the exchange rate? 
What is the exchange rate? (...)
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? 
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)? (...)

Eating

A table for one person/two people, please. 
A table for one person/two people, please. (Dtho hai kon neung/song kon, nah.)
Can I look at the menu, please? 
Can I look at the menu, please? (...)
Can I look in the kitchen? 
Can I look in the kitchen? (Khoy berng yuu nai heuan khua dai baw?)
Is there a house specialty? 
Is there a house specialty? (...)
Is there a local specialty? 
Is there a local specialty? (...)
I'm a vegetarian. 
(Khoy bpen khon jay/Khoy gin jay.)
I don't eat pork. 
I don't eat pork. (Khoy baw gin sein moo.)
I don't eat beef. 
I don't eat beef. (Khoy baw gin sein nua.)
I only eat kosher food. 
I only eat kosher food. (...)
Can you make it "lite", please? (less oil/butter/lard
Can you make it "lite", please? (Jao baw sai nam-manh lai dai baw?)
fixed-price meal 
fixed-price meal (...)
à la carte 
à la carte (...)
breakfast 
(khao dtawn saow)
lunch 
(khao dtawn suay)
tea (meal
tea (Saa)
supper 
supper (khao dtawn laeng)
I want _____. 
I want _____. (khoi yak_____.)
I want a dish containing _____. 
I want a dish containing _____. (...)
chicken 
(gai)
beef 
(neua)
fish 
(bpaa)
shrimp 
(goong)
crab 
(bpoo)
eggs 
(khai)
salad 
salad (phak salat)
(fresh) vegetables 
(fresh) vegetables (phaak)
(fresh) fruit 
(fresh) fruit (Maak Mai)
bread 
bread (khao jii)
rice noodles 
 ?????????? (foe)
wheat noodles 
 ?????? (ba mii)
rice 
 ???? (khao)
beans 
beans (...)
May I have a glass of _____? 
May I have a glass of _____? (...)
May I have a cup of _____? 
May I have a cup of _____? (...)
May I have a bottle of _____? 
May I have a bottle of _____? (...)
coffee 
 ???? (khaafeh)
hot tea 
 ?????? (saa hawn)
iced tea with milk 
 ?????? (saa nohm yen)
juice 
juice (nam mak mai)
water 
 ???????? (naam deum)
beer 
 ???? (bia/lao)
red/white wine 
red/white wine (...)
May I have some _____? 
May I have some _____? (...)
salt 
salt (gkua)
black pepper 
black pepper (...)
fish sauce 
 ?????? (naam bpaa)
Excuse me, waiter? (getting attention of server)
Excuse me, waiter? (...)
I'm finished. 
I'm finished. (Khoy Laew)
It was delicious. 
It was delicious. (Mun saep. / Saep lai lai.)
Please clear the plates. 
Please clear the plates. (...)
The check, please. 
The check, please. (...)

Bars

Do you serve alcohol? 
Do you serve alcohol? (Jao khaiy laoh baw?)
Is there table service? 
Is there table service? (...)
A beer/two beers, please. 
A beer/two beers, please. (...)
A glass of red/white wine, please. 
A glass of red/white wine, please. (...)
A pint, please. 
A pint, please. (...)
A bottle, please. 
A bottle, please. (...)
_____ (hard liquor) and _____ (mixer), please. 
_____ and _____, please. (...)
whiskey 
whiskey (...)
vodka 
vodka (...)
rum 
rum (...)
water 
(naam)
club soda 
club soda (...)
tonic water 
tonic water (...)
orange juice 
orange juice (naam maak gieng)
Coke (soda
Coke (naam coke)
Do you have any bar snacks? 
Do you have any bar snacks? (...)
One more, please. 
One more, please. (aow eek nae)
Another round, please. 
Another round, please. (...)
When is closing time? 
When is closing time? (Si bpit jak mohng?)

Shopping

Do you have this in my size? 
Do you have this in my size? (...)
How much is this? 
How much is this? (anee tor dai?)
That's too expensive. 
That's too expensive. (anun phaeng phawt)
Would you take _____? 
Would you take _____? (____ dai baw?)
expensive 
expensive (phaeng)
cheap 
cheap (baw phaeng)
I can't afford it. 
I can't afford it. (Khoi seu baw dai)
I don't want it. 
I don't want it. (Khoy baw yak ow)
You're cheating me. 
You're cheating me. (Jao Phit Khoy)
I'm not interested. 
I'm not interested. (Khoi baw sohn jai)
OK, I'll take it. 
OK, I'll take it. (Khoy si ow.)
Can I have a bag? 
Can I have a bag? (khoy ow thohng dai bor?)
Do you ship (overseas)? 
Do you ship (overseas)? (...)
I need... 
I need... (khoy dtong gaan...)
...toothpaste. 
...toothpaste. (bang phan)
...a toothbrush. 
???? (ya si phan)
...tampons. 
...tampons. (...)
...soap. 
(fep/saabuu)
...shampoo. 
...shampoo. (saapom)
...pain reliever. (e.g., aspirin or ibuprofen
...pain reliever. (...)
...cold medicine. 
...cold medicine. (...)
...stomach medicine. 
...stomach medicine. (yaa dee tawng)
...a razor. 
...a razor. (...)
...an umbrella. 
...an umbrella. (khanyu)
...sunblock lotion. 
...sunblock lotion. (...)
...a postcard. 
...a postcard. (...)
...postage stamps. 
...postage stamps. (...)
...batteries. 
... (taan)
...writing paper. 
...writing paper. (jiia)
...a pen. 
...a pen. (bik)
...English-language books. 
(bpuem phaasaa git)
...English-language magazines. 
...English-language magazines. (...)
...an English-language newspaper. 
...an English-language newspaper. (...)
...an English-English dictionary. 
...an English-English dictionary. (...)

Driving

I want to rent a car. 
I want to rent a car. (koy yuk soow loot)
Can I get insurance? 
Can I get insurance? (...)
stop (on a street sign
stop (yoot)
one way 
one way (...)
yield 
yield (...)
no parking 
no parking (...)
speed limit 
speed limit (...)
gas (petrol) station 
gas station (...)
petrol 
petrol (num-mun)
diesel 
diesel (num-mun ka suay)

Authority

I haven't done anything wrong. 
I haven't done anything wrong. (kow buh da het ee sung peete)
It was a misunderstanding. 
It was a misunderstanding. (...)
Where are you taking me? 
Where are you taking me? (...)
Am I under arrest? 
Am I under arrest? (...)
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. 
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen. (English: khawy maa ta angkit)
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. 
I need to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian embassy/consulate. (...)
I want to talk to a lawyer. 
I want to talk to a lawyer. (...)
Can I just pay a fine now? 
Can I just pay a fine now? (...)

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