• consonants • vowelstone chartreading sentences

Reading Lao is similar to reading English in that letters represent phonetic sounds and sentences are read from left to right. If you can already read Thai, Lao is very easy to learn because the original Sanskrit/Pali spellings have been simplified and words are spelled phonetically.

The Lao alphabet has 26 consonants. Each consonant has a word associated with it to distinguish between a few sounds which have more than one letter, such as "s" and "h" which have two letters each. These words are used when saying the name of the letter. The associated words are names of animals or common objects and are the first thing Lao children study when learning to read.

The name of the letter is pronounced as a syllable ending with aw (gaw, kaw, etc) followed by the associated word. With high class consonants the aw syllable has a rising tone but the associated word may not have a rising tone because of tone markers included in the spelling. The relationship between consonants and tones is explained on the Tone Chart page.

letter
sound
name of letter
word in Lao
meaning
g
k
k
ng
j
s
s
ny
d
t
th
th
n
b
p
ph
f
ph
f
m
y
l
w
h
aw
h


NOTE ON "R"
- There is also a letter "r" which looks like the letter haw heuan but smaller. "R" doesn't exist as a sound in the Lao language and this letter is used only when words from other languages (Thai, Sanskrit, English) are written in Lao.

COMBINATIONS WITH "H" (HAW HAN)

Some words are spelled with "h" (haw han) as the first letter of the word. Haw han is a high class consonant, so the word then follows tone rules for high class consonants.






The "n", "m" and first "l" have special keys on the keyboard for the combination symbols. The others are typed with two letters.

• the Lao alphabet: consonants
the Lao alphabet: vowels
tone chart
reading sentences