Los Los… Ray Ray

Most Radio Free Asia broadcasts include at least one interview. That means that by listening to RFA, you not only learn to understand the news, but you get exposed to dialogue as well. 🙂

The bad news – the interview is usually over the telephone, which has a lot of static.

The good news – if you can learn to understand the low quality audio of these telephone conversations, you’ll probably be able to easily understand Tibetan low talkers, Tibetan mumblers, Amdo Yaks, and speakers of slightly different dialects.

…OK, maybe just different accents

In English dialogue, while one party is talking, the other occasionally acknowledges what s/he is hearing with quick comments of “yep”, “I see”, “yeah”, and “uh-huh”.

For example, we do this on the cell phone to let the other know that our call hasn’t been dropped. And in person to pretend to pay attention…

One quickly notices when listening to RFA that there are a small set of Tibetan phrases that do the same thing. The more terse Tibetan will occasionally say los or even just a lazy lo to achieve an “uh-huh”. The more wordy will double it to lo, los or los, los – just like we’d say “yes, yes” (rising pitch, falling pitch).

If you’re able to locate los in a Tibetan to English dictionary (and it is in Diamond Way’s) you’ll see that it means “true”, “certainly”, or “indeed”.

In other words, “…yep…”

Another common word to hear, used in the same manner, is a form of “to be”, pronounced ray. It appears to be somewhat interchangeable with los except it usually appears in multiples, like ray, ray or even by one particularly energetic female announcer ray, ray, ray, ray!

I’m just a newbie but it also seems that instead of just meaning “I hear you” it perhaps also conveys, “I hear you, and I agree”.

In other words, “…yep..”

These phrases are repeated so often that – as ridiculous as it sounds – I find myself literally wanting to say los, los or ray, ray if someone happens to launch into a long story shortly after I’ve finished listening for the day.

RFA or OCD? 😕