Lao is Laos’ national language, a tonal language closely linked to Thai. Most Lao understand Thai thanks to the omnipresent Thai broadcast media, and some have borrowed some Thai terms for tourist usage, such as farang (“Westerner”). This does not apply to Asians from other countries).
However, knowing a few fundamental Lao phrases is worthwhile. The Lao people are clearly appreciative of your efforts, even if they are little. French, a colonial relic, still appears on a few signs and is understood by a few individuals since it was formerly a required school subject. However, English has become more prevalent in recent years, with many younger people learning the language. As a consequence, most teenagers will be able to communicate in basic English, but their competence will be limited.
As part of their curricular obligations, schoolchildren in tourist locations will sometimes practice their English with you. They may ask you to sign a form or pose for a picture with you after a chat as evidence that the interaction had occurred. These discussions may be a wonderful way to get local recommendations for your next sightseeing excursion.
The Lao script may be converted to the Latin alphabet in two ways: French-style spellings like Houeisay, or English-style spellings like Huay Xai. While official papers seem to favor the French form, English spellings are becoming increasingly prevalent. Wikivoyage makes use of the latter. Here are two simple pronunciation hints: The letter x is usually interpreted as a “s” in Vientiane, which is pronounced “Wieng Chan.”