There's much more to the study of Lao language than simply learning the alphabet and children's stories. At SEASSI, we've developed Lao teaching materials which are interesting and relevant to you and your life as a Lao American, and which incorporate vivid insights and expressions of what it means to be Lao in Laos today, and also in Northeast Thailand and North America.
The materials include original video recorded in Laos and the US (interviews with a variety of individuals), books and photos acquired in Laos, and a wide variety of commercially produced video sources from Laos and the US (TV broadcasts, informational videos, karaoke videos).
The Lao curriculum at SEASSI will cover the themes described below (and others as well), usually on a "topic per week" or "modular" basis. Of course, we'll start you off learning the basics of the alphabet and memorizing important "sight words" right from day one if you have no previous knowledge of reading and writing Lao. You'll also get a chance to explore specific topics that interest you personally in your independent study project, which you'll carry out over the course of the summer and which will count for 30% of your total grade.
To see multiple examples from (and purchase, as a file download) the Lao Heritage textbook we use at SEASSI, look here.
What is the basic philosophy in Lao Buddhism, expressed in everyday language? How do you need to talk to monks? What's the story of the life of the Buddha? You'll learn how to think about, verbally express and read about all of these questions, in Lao.
Here is a link to a video of a SEASSI Lao classroom activity during Week Two of the program. Here, students read their own words in a cartoon version of the life of the Buddha, which they had filled in missing text portions of (in Lao) in a previous activity, after watching a movie on the life of the Buddha. In this activity, students prepare, in pairs, a performance of various parts of the story as a dialog in Lao, and then perform it in front of their classmates.
What are the important moments in Lao history? What are the key geographical sites on which these events occurred? What does all of this tell us when we try to answer the questions, "who is Lao?" and "what is Laos?" Images and interviews from across Laos and present day Thailand, and the work of modern historians, will give us the tools for addressing these issues. Obviously, you'll need to learn some new vocabulary and ways of speaking Lao to intelligently discuss and read about these themes!
How is information communicated to a mass audience in present day Laos via the news (on TV and in print), or on signs? How does the "language of news," and advertising, differ from everyday spoken Lao, or narrative written Lao? We'll use plenty of colorful, lively sources collected in Laos to familiarize you with all of these styles of communication.
How have the Lao people dealt with new concepts and types of political organization introduced to them (and often forced on them) by the Thai, Vietnamese, French, or Americans? How have these outside influences contributed to the entity that is Laos today? Do NGOs and "development projects" in Laos today really make a difference? There are no easy answers to these questions, but together we'll work to address them, and we'll give you the tools--written and spoken--for expressing your opinions about these matters in Lao.