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Few words to start speaking Lao language

Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Lao is the official language of the country. It is the native language of a bit more than half of the population, and it is the one taught at school and used in the administration. There are also about 100 local minority languages ​​spoken by ethnic groups.

In cities, you can meet English-speaking Laotians, especially within young people. But, as soon as you leave the tourist places, they are becoming more and more rare. Thus you can imagine that in the countryside, nobody understands English.

If you make the effort to pronounce some Laotian words such as "hello", "thank you" ... this will trigger sympathy from local people, which is perfect for starting a meeting. You will immediately have big smiles and the people will be much more welcoming.

Few rules about pronouncing

The letters "PH" are pronounced P followed by an aspirated H.

There is no conjugation, or real grammar so the construction of the sentences is quite simple. There is, however, a subtlety that complicates enormously the learning of Lao. It is an intonation language, so the same word can have more than 20 different meanings depending on how it is pronounced. Of course, our ears of Europeans are not trained to perceive them correctly.

The basic vocabulary to great and meet people

Hello - Sabaï Dee

How are you? - Sabaï Dee Bo?

Well, and you? - Sabaï Dee, tiao dae?

Yes - Doy

No - Bo

Good bye - La Kone

Thanks - Khop tchai

No thanks - Bo Khop Tchai

It doesn’t matter - Bo pen yang

Where are the toilets? - Hong nam you sai?

Toilets - Hong Nam

Tourist / Foreigner - Falang

A lot - Lai Lai

A little - Noy Neung

Yesterday - Muvanee

Today - Munee

Tomorrow - Mu un


How much does it cost? - Tao dae ?

That’s too expensive – Peng Phot


1 - nung, 2 - song, 3 - sam, 4 - si, 5 - ha, 6 - ock, 7 - tiaet, 8 - paet, 9 - kao, 10 - sip

11 - sip aet, 12 - sip song, 13 - sip sam, 20 - sao, 30 - sam sip, ...

100 - loy, 200 - song loy, 1000 - pan, 10 000 - sip pan


To eat - Keen Khao

To drink - Keen Nam

I’m hungry - You Kao

I’m thirsty - You Nam

Water - Nam

Ice - Nam Kone

No ice - Bo Sai Nam Kone

Spicy - Phaet

Not spicy - Bo Phaet

Fried rice - Khao Phad

Banana - Mak Kouaé

Tea / coffee - Nam sa / café

Cheers (raise your glass) - Niok

That’s very tasty - Saep Lai

The bill please - Chaek been


Go - Pai

Straight - Pai Seu

Left / Right - Sai / Khoua

Bicycle - Löd Tip

Bus - Löd Méé

Scooter - Löd Tchak

Boat - Heua

Hotel - Hong Haem

If you have any further questions when organizing your trip with ORLA TOURS travel agency, our experts Marion, Jeremy and Charly will be here to advise you.

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