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Lao language used inconsistently, incorrectly by media

The media is struggling to find the right terms for a number of words used in daily broadcasting and publication and is calling for the establishment of an official body to study and approve correct usage.

Recognising the problem, Lao language experts, editors and reporters as well as personnel in charge of speech writing for leading officials attended a seminar on Friday organised by the Prime Minister's Office.

In his opening remarks, Minister to the Prime Minister's Office and Government Spokesman Professor Dr Chaleun Yiapaoher said that a number of words were not being used uniformly by reporters and broadcasters. Some words are being used incorrectly or are not fully correct.

Worse, some broadcasters and people who live in border areas are using words that belong to the languages of neighbouring countries.

The spokesman stressed the critical need for the correct use of Lao words in order to preserve the Lao language, saying that language is a symbol of Laos and the Party and state have attached great importance to preserving it.

“The Lao People's Revolutionary Party has underscored the importance of the Lao language by saying ‘to lose the language is to lose the nation',” Dr Chaleun said, adding that incorrect use indicates the risk of the loss of Lao words if no action is taken to address the issue. Director of the Cultural Research Institute under the National Social Science Institute, Mr Somseng Xayavong, told the seminar that he calculated that more than 90 percent of Lao words were correctly used, while the remainder were used incorrectly.

Addressing the seminar, both Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Letters of the National University of Laos, Mr Aloun Silattanakoun, and Mr Somseng agreed that there was no common ground in some cases regarding Lao words and their meaning, leading to the misuse of certain words.

They advised creating a national committee in charge of carrying out a study and officially approving some Lao words, especially newly-created words whose meaning is unclear.

Lao language experts said it would be necessary to allocate sufficient budget for these tasks, saying that Lao language experts had previously suffered from funding shortages for such work.

Media editors said three different dictionaries were being used, but the meaning of some of the same words in each dictionary differed and caused confusion. They said that only an officially-approved standardised dictionary should be used as a source of reference.

An additional problem is the fact that because Laos was formerly under French rule some French words are still being used. At the same time the English language is increasingly widespread and television presenters and reporters are sometimes confused about which words to use, meaning that they mix them up in some cases.

Dr Chaleun pledged to report on the outcome of the seminar - the first of its kind - to Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, who could consider the proposals made, including the establishment of a national committee to study Lao words and the funding needed for this work.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update March 20, 2017)

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