Language


Today a guy at work told me that he sells mangoes at the market on the weekend. It’s pretty much a second job for him as the market store is open from 8am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. I tried to ask him where the mangoes came from, but he just told me they came for Laos. I couldn’t explain my question any better, but I would have liked to find out if he buys them directly from a farmer or another wholesaler. Given the small salaries paid here, especially to government employees, it’s common for people to have a second or even a third job. It’s good to know I have a reliable mango supply at my office.

The guy that speaks the best english is leaving my office in Vientiane to work in a project in Savanakett for a few months (5hrs drive south). This will give me a big incentive to try and improve my Lao language skills. I’ve started going to lessons twice a week and have started using an excellent Lao Language website. The advantages of learning Lao will be that I can speak to my Lao aunty, talk code with my girlfriend upon returning to Australia, and pick up Thai quickly (which is very similar to Lao).

I’ve just learnt that the Lao word for chop/cut is f**k. You hear it being said a lot in Lao kitchens.

Lao is a tonal language. According to my Lao teacher there are 6 different tones. Using the incorrect tone may change the meaning of the word. Here are some examples:

I like to ride horses OR I like horse sh**

tired OR pubic hair

I, Me, Myself OR p*nis

You are my friend OR You are my pig

The worse mistakes by volunteers so far have been:

– When asking for the bill at an Indian restaurant to a Lady-boy waitress, a volunteer was told, “Do you realise that you just asked me for s**?”

– When a volunteer tried to explain the meaning of his name was derived from our closest star, “You have said a very bad word. It means the inside of the pu***”.