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The modern Vietnamese alphabet…

…was developed by Portuguese and French missionaries.

Years ago, when I worked for a large financial institution, one of the projects I worked on was producing signage and ads in Vietnamese. An in-house translator would take our existing English-language materials, produce a handwritten translation, and I would typeset and layout a Vietnamese version.

Unfortunately, back in the early ’90s, font and software support for graphic design in Vietnamese seemed limited to Vietnam. This posed a problem for me since written Vietnamese contained letters like:

ắ ặ ề ố ơ ữ

For every instance of these characters in our layouts (and there were A LOT) I had to draw in the diacritical marks. It was a total pain.

Fortunately, we now have Unicode support in our computer operating systems, fonts, and software (in this case, Web browsers). And, because we do, I can identify last week’s Vietnamese takeout as Chả Giò Chay (Vegetarian Spring Roll), Bún Bò Nướng Xả (Lemongrass Beef Noodle Salad), and Báhn Mì Xả Xíu (Barbecue Pork Sandwich).

Now if there were only a way to get the browser to pronounce Vietnamese.

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