As a full time language student (3 hours in classroom + daily interactions), I need to process a bit of what I'm learning... so the nerds among those who read this blog will enjoy this post :)
I like paa saa lao (language lao)... a lot. It's a fascinating language, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. The ability to communicate to another people group really is priceless. Language teaches you TONS about culture, too. It's unbelievable how the two are intertwined. And the moments of successful communication are so so so rewarding and exciting. Of course, I am at the very beginning of long journey of learning, but I thought I'd share some interesting aspects of the Lao language with you- from a Western/English speaking perspective.
There are six tones . . . so you better be careful to say the right tone, or you may say the wrong word :) You also have to discern between short and long vowels. Here are some similar sounds I have to be careful with!
--> kai = near, far, chicken, open, fever, egg
--> koowa= bridge, more than, kitchen, right
--> ma= to come, dog, horse
--> suu= name, to buy, to go straight
--> sinh = meat classifier, or traditional lao skirt
--> ko thoot= excuse me, or may I please pass gas
--> mu= friend, or pig
--> bo= no, or question word
--> dai = can, or past tense marker
--> mac = fruit classifier, or to like verb
No need for verb conjugations... HALLELUJAH! For past, simply state the time (last week, yesterday, etc.) and then put dai in front of the verb. For future, you simply add si (like the word "will") in front of the verb. For present continuous, simply add kamlang before the verb (which is the equivalent of "ing" in English).
No feminine or masculine items (like Spanish or French). No plurals. YEE-HAW!!
And many words in Lao have multiple English meanings. Koi means I, me, my, mine, etc. Lao means he, him, his, she, her, hers. Tu means any type of cabinet or item that holds something- SO many English equivalents- like dresser, bookshelf, and so on.
Classifiers really simplify the learning and understanding process. There are SO many- but here are a few for you. Rooms or buildings often have the classifier hong + the specific purpose of room (ex: hong non= room sleep... yep, the bedroom!). Mac is the fruit classifier, pah is the classifier for materials (ex: pah sed muu = material to dry hands = handtowel), anything to do with light/fire has the word fai in its name, con is for people, han is any type of shop, lodt is the classifier for vehicles, nam is anything to do with water... can you guess what hong nam is?
Some literal translations that make me smile:
no stand no sit = to squat
heart good = kind/nice
medicine teeth = toothpaste
cabinet cold = fridge
The word for keys is luuk ka jee (luuk = children) and the word for lock is me ka jee (me = mother). Isn't that great?! So the lock is the mother of her children, the keys. LOVE it.
I am now reading and writing Lao as well- although quite slowly and with many mistakes. Here is a picture of my work from class today :)
I can't get over how in one month, I can now attach meaning to what used to be nonsense squiggly lines. Wow, I love learning. I confess, I'm a nerd!
I appreciate your thoughts for continued desire to learn, ability to hear and speak tones, boldness to communicate and practice, and a willingness to laugh at myself! I want to work at this with all my heart, for Him.