Laos Feature

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Lao: A Few Key Phrases

The official language is Lao, part of the extensive Thai family of languages of Southeast Asia spoken from Vietnam in the east to India in the west. Spoken Lao is very similar to the northern Thai language, as well as local dialects in the Shan states in Myanmar and Sipsongbanna in China. Lao is tonal, meaning a word can have several meanings according to the tone in which it's spoken.

In tourist hotels the staff generally speaks some English. You can find a smattering of English-speakers in shops and restaurants. A few old-timers know some French.

Here are a few common and useful words:

Hello: sabai di (pronounced sa-bye dee)

Thank you: khop chai deu (pronounced cop jai dew; use khop cheu neu in northern Laos)

Yes: heu (pronounced like deux) or thia

No: bo

Where?: iu sai (pronounced you sai)?

How much?: to dai (pronounced taw dai)?

Zero: sun (pronounced soon)

One: neung

Two: song

Three: sam

Four: si

Five: ha

Six: hok

Seven: tiet (pronounced jee-yet)

Eight: pet

Nine: kao

Ten: sip

Twenty: sao (rhymes with cow; different from Thai "yee sip")

Hundred: neung loi

Thousand: neung phan

To have fun: muan

To eat: kin khao (pronounced kin cow)

To drink: kin nam

Water: nam

Rice: khao

Expensive: peng

Bus: lot me (pronounced lot may)

House: ban

Road: thanon

Village: ban

Island: don

River: mae nam (pronounced may nam)

Doctor: maw

Hospital: hong mo (pronounced hong maw)

Post Office: paisani

Hotel: hong hem

Toilet: hong nam

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