What is the correct pronunciation of Laos

How do you say "Laos"

For years travelers have been discussing - and sometimes arguing - how to say "Laos".

But why the confusion about Laos pronunciation? After all, the word only consists of four letters. In this case, history, colonialism, and linguistics have come together to create a tangled situation.

After receiving contradicting answers for years, including on my third visit to Laos, I decided to get to the bottom of the name of the mountainous interior of Southeast Asia.

How to pronounce Laos

  • Laos (rhymes with the blouse; the final "s" sounds) - correct
  • Lao (rhymes with cow; the finale "s" is silent) - widespread but wrong
  • All other pronunciations, including "lay-ose", are incorrect.

I examined 10 Laotians (in Luang Prabang, Luang Namtha and Vientiane) how they prefer the name of their country. All replied that they want foreigners to say the last "s" but then added that they took no offense when it was off the word.

The correct way to say "Laos" is the same as "louse" (rhymes with blouse).

Although travelers who have not yet visited the country pronounce the "s" at the end of Laos, many long-term travelers traveling through Southeast Asia tend to keep the "s" silent and use the pronunciation like "Lao" (rhymes himself on cow).

Really added confusion is that some Laotians I surveyed were so used to travelers pronouncing their country as "Lao" that they used "Lao" instead of "Laos" to make sure Westerners understood them better!

When to use "Lao"

There is a right time not to pronounce the last "s" in Laos: when referring to the language or something related to Laos, even a person. Delete the last "s" in these cases:

  • "Lao" can be used as an interchangeable word for "Laotian" - a person from Laos.
  • The official language of Laos is known as Lao.
  • Traditional folk music from Lao could be described as Laotian music.
  • Laotian silk, Laotian art, Laotian films all come from Laos.

The official name of the country

In addition, the English version of the official name Laos is the "Lao People's Democratic Republic" or Lao PDR for short.

In Lao, the official language, the country's official name is Muang Lao or Pathet Lao; both literally translate to "Lao Country".

In all of these cases, the correct pronunciation is obviously not the final "s".

Why is the Laos pronunciation controversial?

Laos was divided into three kingdoms, with the residents calling themselves "Laotians" until the French united the three in 1893. The French added an "s" to spell the plural name of the country and began to refer to the collective as "Laos".

As with many multilingual words in French, the "s" below was not pronounced, creating a source of confusion.

Laos gained independence and became a constitutional monarchy in 1953. But despite the official language of Laos, only about half of all Laotians speak it. The many ethnic minorities that are spread across the country speak their own dialects and languages. French is still widely spoken and taught in schools.

With so many arguments (the official name of the country, the name of the country in Lao language and French pronunciation) one would assume that the way to say Laos was "Lao". But the people who live there obviously know best, and to make their desires come true, travelers to the country should say "Laos".