What language is this?

Here’s another challenge for you – can you identify the following language and/or translate this phrase into English?

kalunáa baw sai pa̖a dàek

Some clues: this is a real language and is normally written with its own unique alphabet. The accent marks indicate tones. The phrase is something you might say in a restaurant.

This entry was posted in Language, Quiz questions.

11 Responses to What language is this?

  1. TJ says:

    is it a language around oceania? or south asia?

  2. Benjamin says:

    One try with google told me, that the language is Laotian. So TJ you’re right, it’s south Asian.

    The translation however is a bit more difficult since I don’t speak a single word Laotian.
    I’ll try it anyway, consulting google, of course. 😉

    Let’s start:
    Kalunaa = Please
    baw = not
    sai = ? the search results gave me the feeling that it has something to do with either “use” or another negative word, maybe in combination with “baw”
    paa daek = some sort of fish sauce

    These sometimes vague results and the fact that I’ve googled some articles concerning the strange/disgusting fish sauce they use in Laos I would say, that the sentence translates the following: No fish sauce, please!

  3. Zachary R. says:

    Yeah, I googled it before and noticed it was Lao also.
    I also found this: Kalunaa baw sai naam paa: Please don’t use fish sauce.

    While naam paa (or nam paa) is a thin sauce made of anchovies and imported from Thailand; Paa Daek is a thick mud like, unpasteurized fermented fish sauce essential to Lao cooking.

    So Ben basically had it, it’s: Please don’t use (Paa Daek) fish sauce.

  4. Simon says:

    Well done Benjamin and Zachary! The language is Lao/Laotian and it means “Please don’t use raw fish sauce”.

    In the Lao alphabet the phrase is:

  5. TJ says:

    oh gosh!!
    ~sprays air freshner around the blog~

  6. Joseph Staleknight says:

    Funny, TJ.

    I really like these kinds of challenges, Simon, because they exercise my mind in language.

  7. Benjamin and Zachary, shame on you! I, if I must say, didn’t have to Google for a translation. *hrumph* Granted, Issan/Lao is my wife’s native language 😛

    I do have to say that “Kalunaa” is rather formal, and in most restaurants outside of a top 5 five star hotel (BTW…are their any 5 star hotels in Lao PDR?) it would sound rather pretentious or downright silly. More appropriate words to use would be kaw (with a rising tone) as in kaw baw sai paa deak [lit. please no put [in] fermented fish paste] or yaa (with a mid tone) as in yaa sai paa deak [Don’t put in any fish paste].

    Usually these statements are followed with porwaa man gin keu saaksop nao [because it smells like a rotting corpse]!

  8. Zachary R. says:

    I agree Lleij, google’ing it wasn’t the best thing to do, which is why I waited for someone else to post here first :P. So is it paa deak, or paa daek? Out of curiousity

  9. Hi Zachary. Actually the best transliteration would be closer to “paa daaek.” Sorry, as I was typing I was translating from Lao to Thai to English so I’m not surprised a switched a vowel or two.

    Actually, in Thai “daaek” is a rather vulgar word for “to eat/consume.” It’s considered quite rude. Most Thais use the word “plaa raa” to refer to “paa daaek”. It quite interesting that many words considered quite normal in Laotian are considered very vulgar or even obscene in Thai, but that’s colonialism for you…:)

  10. Malinda Muller says:

    Hello all, I’ve been asked for a source [other than Google?] where the patron can actually enter a phrase and get identification of the origin, in other words, what language the phrase is in! I’m having a tough time finding a translation service on line that actually identifies the origin of the word[s] vs. needing a translation of words where the requstor already knows the origin and wishes a simple translation into a different language. Any recommendations?

    Thank you!
    Malinda Muller

  11. Simon says:

    You can find language identifier websites and programs here, here, here, here and here.

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