There is often confusion among some foreigners in Laos about how to spell the name of the country known today by its official name, the Laotian People’s Democratic Republic. In particular, there is confusion about whether to refer to the country as ‘Lao’ or ‘Laos’ when writing or speaking in English. Historically it has been common for English writers to refer to the country as Laos when not using the country’s official title (Laotian People’s Democratic Republic or LPDR). One source of the confusion appears to be that when travellers come to Laos they discover that the final ’s’ is not pronounced in the Laotian language.

Indeed, there are no words at all in Lao which have a final ’s’. Some people, therefore, seem to think that it is more correct to write ‘Lao’ rather than the ‘Laos’. Of course, there are many countries whose names are pronounced quite differently in English, or indeed are completely different words in the home language. This process of changing the pronunciation of a borrowed word to conform to the conventions of the borrowing language is called ‘indigenisation.’ Laos with an ’s’ was one solution in English for the country’s name. It could have been ‘Lao’, but it may well have been ‘Lao-land’, by literal translation from the Lao. This happened with Thailand when ‘Prathet Thai’ was translated as ‘Thai-land’. Of course, ‘Lao’ is perfectly correct in English when used as an adjective. For example, a Lao person, the Lao language, a Lao poem, etc.

In English, when describing this Asian nation, the correct pronunciation is ‘Laos’ with a voiced ‘s’. The old saying (in English) goes: “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, but only if you are speaking Italian should you say ‘Roma’ or ‘Italia’. Similarly, in Laos, only if you are speaking the native language do you refer to the country as Lao.

All our trips are designed to offer your students a real insight into the distinct Laotian culture in a way that will deepen your students’ respect for cultures other than their own.

Please Note: Due to its small size, Laos can be enjoyed in as little as 5-7 days. It, therefore, makes an ideal destination to visited in conjunction with a trip to Thailand, Vietnam and/or Cambodia. Please contact our office for a range of multi-country itineraries.