Laos, also known as Lao, is the official and dominant language in Laos. Migrations and conflicts have resulted in the current ethnic composition of Laos and the geographical expansion of its ethnic groups. So far, various ethnic groups in the country have documented 86 languages. French and English in Laos are called minority languages.
Lao: The official language of Laos
Lao is one of the tonal languages of the Tai Kadai language family from Southeast Asia. The main Lao dialects are Southern Lao, Vientiane Lao, Western Lao, Middle Lao, Northeast Lao, and Northern Lao. Vientiane Lao is a dialect commonly understood and on which the Lao dictionary is based. Some languages used in Laos and Thailand are closely related to Laos, such as Tai Daeng, Phu Thai, Tai Dam, and Nyaw. Lao and Thailand share a significant portion of their core vocabulary. Over time, Lao was influenced by the proximity of Pali, Thai, and Khmer. The Laotian script was developed in the 10th century on the Khmer script which has its roots in the Indian Brahmin script. The arrival of the script in Laos is attributed to Theravada Buddhists who wanted to spread Buddhism. Most Laotian dialects have six tones. Just over half of Laos ’population can speak Lao, and it is estimated that 14 million people worldwide can speak Lao. Lao is also common in the northeastern region of Thailand and in small communities in Cambodia, France, Australia, the United States and Canada. The Lao language helps people from many ethnic communities to communicate with each other and thus serves as a lingua franca in Laos.
Foreign languages spoken in Laos
Laos is the second largest population of the French-speaking area in Southeast Asia. The arrival of French explorers in Laos in the 19th century facilitated the spread of French. Laos officially became a French protectorate in the 1890s. French subsequently gained importance in the region, culminating between the 1910s and World War II. The situation of the French in independent Laos was uncertain, especially after a period of decline, but has now reached a significant minority position. Almost 35% of students in the country are taught in French, a language preferred by elite classes, those from higher professions, diplomats and the elderly. Some Laotian words are embedded in the French language, giving it a local flavor unique to Laos
English threatened the dominance of French as the preferred foreign language. English enters the system of many schools in Laos and is increasingly considered the language of global trade. The younger generation in Laos especially wants to adopt English.
Minority languages spoken in Laos
The different ethnic groups of Laos use more than 80 languages. The largest of these ethnic groups are the Khmu, who live in five provinces in the north. Khmu belongs to the Austro-Asian language family, and its dialects fall into the western or eastern Khmu category. The Hmong language is used by the Hmong community that inhabits the mountains of Laos, Thailand and Burma. The language is used in two groups, White Hmong and Green / Blue Hmong. Other minority languages of Laos include Arem, Hung, Khmer, Maleng, Pacoh, Lamet, Phai, Akha and Kim Mun.