Lao script is completely different from Roman script. Whereas it is not usually considered difficult to learn, it would take more than 10 hours of classroom study just to learn to write with Lao letters and subscripts. Instead, then, we are use transliteration into English.

After reviewing a number of more technical and comprehensive Lao language learning books, we have taken the liberty of devising our own version of phonetic charts for consonants and vowels used in Lao words.

Again, this system was created to be as simple as possible (and risks being too simple), but it follows from our decision at the outset to make things in a short, basic course - basic.

We could not agree on features of this system, so we do not expect you to
fully accept it. In fact, we recommend that rather than arguing points of distinction and
representation, you add to our system or develop your own notations as you yourself hear and
understand the sounds and write words down—the “whatever works for you” idea.

As for the five (some say six) tones, we have opted for not showing or teaching them at
all. In the teaching process, we will naturally model tones in our pronunciation of Lao. You will hear them and notice differences, at least on occasion, and you may want to work out a code for indicating tonal qualities. But please try not to be bothered by them and understand that we will not give time away to mastery of tones.

A good reason for this is that the Lao people themselves would probably consider it a waste of our precious time here. You will soon find that the Lao graciously accept—and even reward—shoddy-but-earnest pronunciation from foreigners. We feel you will do better just to say the words as they are spelled, come close enough, and learn as many as you can.

In most cases, the context of your speaking will override misunderstandings from wrong tones.

For the full document describing the Phonetic spelling,
download this document:
transliteration.pdf (104KB)


Greetings &

Getting Around

At the Market
Around Home
Personal Information
Contact Us

VIS & Bruce Knox 2005 - This site was most recently updated on June 8 , 2006 by Bruce Knox