Learning languages has never been more fun, but as things stand, there is no Lao on Duolingo. Unfortunately, the little brother of Southeast Asia has found itself marginalized by the language learning app giant. Today we’re going to look at why that might be and what alternatives you could use.
Why Should You Learn Lao?
The country of Laos is steeped in history. In many ways, the ancient history is just as fascinating as the modern history. Fossils have been found dating back 50,000 years, painting a fluid picture of human migration you don’t see in many other places in the world.
The amount of kingdoms that have dominated Laos at one time or another is astounding and includes the Funan, Champa, Chenla, Khmer, Dvaravati, Lan Xang, and Siam, each leaving its mark on the region. Any student of archaeology or history needs to visit the country and learn the language.
Business And Economics
Much is made of China’s economic miracle, but little is said of how this has affected Lao’s economy. As discussed in a previous blog post transportation in Lao, there are several giant infrastructure projects(with the support of the Chinese government) bidding to bring this once reclusive jungle kingdom into the 21st century.
The new railway line is expected to double tourists from China from 800,000 to 1.6million. Just think how many investment opportunities there are when the amount of tourists is going to grow so exponentially.
The country has seen its economy grow 6-7 % per year for the last decade, an amazing achievement even by western standards. According to the Bangkok Post, yearly Lao exports to China are valued at $1.7 billion, and that number is expected to increase by 20% year on year.
To learn Thai is remarkably similar to learning Lao (something akin to the relationship between Dutch and German). When you learn Lao, you’re not just learning one language; you’re learning Thai as well as Shan.
Lao is also a tonal language much the same as Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. Although the Lao tones are different, it allows you to get used to a language that otherwise seems daunting. This is particularly prescient for any investors looking to expand into the booming Asian market. Speaking 1 or multiple languages is vital.
The Lao People
The Colonial French had a saying: “The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch the rice grow, the Lao listen to the rice grow.”
This is another way of saying that Lao people are more spiritual and laid back(something that’d make sense given its relationship with Theravada Buddhism). Career and capitalism come very much second to family and community. The Lao people didn’t have to break their backs and fight disputes with neighbors because of the country’s sheer size in relation to its population. 237,955 km² with a population of 7.276 million.
Compare that with Vietnam that has a size of 331,212 km² and a population of 97.34 million.
Why Is There No Lao On Duolingo?
- Duolingo would have to input the Lao script, which is a massive undertaking. Google’s machine learning algorithm has a version of the Lao alphabet, but I’ve found it contains some bugs when I’ve personally used it.
- Its neighbors, particularly China, dwarf Lao. Interestingly, there’s also no Thai on Duolingo either, which is surprising since Thailand has a population of 70million.
- Online courses are expensive to make, and finding content creators in Laos is difficult, especially from a headquarters in Pennsylvania. Note: This is why we feel Ling has done such an excellent job with Lao because our headquarters is just over the border in Chiang Mai.
- In recent years Duolingo has focused on the following two languages: Navajo and Hawaiian because they are currently going extinct. Something more widely spoken like Lao is not at the front of their mind yet.
What Are The Alternatives To Duolingo?
For me, Youtube is always a good way to learn languages, especially if the content is high quality and the delivery style is good. The best Youtube content on Lao is from Vanida Wp at: https://www.youtube.com/c/VanidaWP/videos
Whenever I’m learning a language, I always take a multi-faceted approach which is where these 2 Simya Solutions products come in.
Simply Learn is a phrasebook and flashcard app that supports multiple languages(the below is an image from the Thai phrasebook) and is perfect for building vocabulary. It is a supplementary product to the Ling app but is still great for hammering home those crucial keywords fundamental to learning a language thoroughly.
Learn Lao With Ling
Ling has a complete course on the Lao language, including writing practice to learn the script, basic grammar that won’t overwhelm you, and tips on how to read Lao.
There are 50 units with four lessons in each unit. Not forgetting our Chatbot feature that allows you to practice your speaking with an A.I companion
For English speakers like me, you can learn from your native language, or if you want a real challenge, you can learn an L3 from an L2. There are over 60 other languages.
The best thing about Ling is the gamification elements of the platform. In the past, I tried audio CDs, weekly lessons with a tutor, and news articles, and I couldn’t make the gains stick. There is something different about learning when you’re comparing yourself to other people, as well as your past self.
Ling is the only player in town in terms of quality language learning apps currently on the market. We also have a weekly updated Lao blog that covers everything from Lao names and nicknames to happy birthday in Lao
Come over, join us on the website and start learning Lao today.