Announcing the Lao T-Shirt Experiment

I don't think I've ever been so excited about a new t-shirt.

It's awesome.

My new favorite Lao shirt!
Look at my new favorite shirt!

So I have a sister named Cami. She is one of my three favorite sisters. She's one of those creative types that does vinyl lettering on walls and silk screening on t-shirts. A few weeks ago I asked her to make me a shirt with some Lao writing on it.

My idea was to wear the shirt in public, and hopefully start some conversations in Lao. (Okay, it's not really my idea. I modified Benny Lewis' idea.)

Translated, the shirt says "Hello! I am learning Lao. Please speak with me."

So far, I've worn it in public three times. I don't have any new Lao friends yet.

I was pretty nervous the first time I wore it. I wore the shirt on my weekly trip to the grocery store. Every time I passed an Asian person in the store, I wondered if they were Lao, and if they would read my shirt.

Apparently Lao people don't shop at the same grocery store I do.

In fact, the three times I've worn the shirt this month, only white people have asked me about it.

I've had someone ask me if the writing was Hmong. (Hmong uses the English alphabet.)

Three times people have asked what my shirt says. I have fun with that question. My reply is "Oh this? It says 'Sabaidii! Khoi hian Pasalao. Galuna vow gap khoi.'"

I think, though, that I'm going to need to find some other places in Sacramento where Lao people are more likely to be. I'll be sure to write about my first actual Lao conversation started by my shirt.


phinphana ward 18 May 2015

Lao people usually shop at Thai or lao grocery and or if there is 99 ranch market I assumed. If you know where is the Lao community or area like market or temple?

I hope you find ones that not shy. Even you met some I don't think Lao people like to identify themselves and strike a conversation.

Good luck


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Kent 1 June 2015

There's a 99 Ranch Market about 2 miles from my house. I'll have to check them out. Thanks!

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David 29 May 2015

I think it's pretty awesome that you're learning Lao. I totally agree about the lack of resources to learn the language. Hopefully with more awareness and knowledge about Laos this will change over time. The digital age will definitely aid in that. I think that the t-shirt idea is fantastic as well. Clever as well as humorous.

I'm also a polyglot enthusiast and of mixed asian decent (Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao and Thai). I actually used to live in Sacramento, CA and figured I'd help you out with your experiment by pointing you to some areas where there definitely are Lao speaking people.

Here are a couple restaurants and locations to hit:

A bit past Del Paso Heights

West part of South Sac (by the old airport)

Off of Fruitridge in South Sac

The Lao temples in Sacramento (3 listed in that list of temples)

Good luck!

- David

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Kent 1 June 2015

Thanks, David. Looks like I have some Lao food waiting for me here in Sac.

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To, 9 January 2019

Hi Kent. awesome. Any further experiences? I started learning lao and will make a t-shirt like yours. I will wear it in Laos. : )

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Kent 20 March 2019

Hey To. I haven't done much with Lao lately, but I'm thinking about taking it up again soon. I actually wore that shirt in public yesterday and had a few people to talk to me about it.

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