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What Language Do They Speak in Laos?

What Language Do They Speak in Laos

Laos, known officially as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a captivating country nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia. It shares borders with five nations: China to the north, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southeast, Thailand to the west, and Myanmar to the northwest. Amidst its lush landscapes and rich cultural tapestry, the languages spoken in Laos present a vibrant picture of its diverse heritage.

Key Takeaways
Official LanguageLao
Secondary LanguagesFrench, English
Indigenous LanguagesHmong, Khmu, and others
Language FamilyTai-Kadai
ScriptLao script

The Linguistic Landscape of Laos

Official Language: Lao

Lao, the official language, is the linchpin that unites the country’s diverse populace. It’s a language that is not only used in official communications but also in daily interactions among the people of Laos.

Lao Script

Lao ScriptDescription
OriginDerived from ancient Indian scripts
TypeAbugida script
Characters27 consonants and 28 vowels

The Lao script is an abugida, where each character represents a consonant-vowel sequence, but the vowel can be changed using diacritic marks. It’s a script that’s not only unique but also steeped in history, tracing its roots back to ancient Indian scripts.

Secondary Languages: French and English

Given its colonial past under French rule from the late 19th to the mid 20th century, French has left an indelible imprint on the linguistic landscape of Laos. It’s a language that is often used in government and education sectors.

English, on the other hand, is growing in popularity especially among the younger generation and is seen as a language of economic opportunity and globalization.

Indigenous Languages

Laos is a mosaic of cultures and ethnic groups, each with its own dialect or language. Some of the indigenous languages include:

  • Hmong
  • Khmu
  • Phuthai
  • Tai Dam
  • Tai Lu

These languages represent the rich cultural diversity of Laos and are an integral part of its linguistic heritage.

The Role of Language in Lao Society

Language in Laos is more than just a tool for communication; it’s a reflection of the country’s historical and cultural tapestry. Whether it’s the pervasive influence of Lao, the remnants of French colonial rule, or the myriad indigenous languages, each tells a story of Laos’ past, present, and possibly its future.

Language Education

Language education in Laos primarily focuses on Lao, with an increasing emphasis on English to prepare the younger generation for a globalized world. French, although less common, is still taught in some educational institutions as a secondary language.

Language and Cultural Identity

For the many ethnic groups residing in Laos, language is a strong marker of cultural identity. It’s through language that traditions, customs, and histories are passed down through generations, preserving the rich tapestry that makes Laos a unique nation in Southeast Asia.


Laos is a country where language tells a story. Through its official, secondary, and indigenous languages, we get a glimpse into the nation’s complex history and vibrant culture. As Laos continues to evolve, so too will its linguistic landscape, mirroring the ever-changing tapestry of this beautiful and intriguing country.