January 20, 2020

Laos once considered the letter R a Western interloper. The Internet helped bring it back.

By:  Saqib Rahim, Washington Post, January 20, 2020

SAVANNAKHET, Laos — Listen closely in Laos and you can hear a linguistic renaissance. It sounds a lot like the letter R.

Forty-five years ago, Laos's communist government officially dropped the "R" sound from the Lao alphabet, calling it a symbol of foreign influence.

But the widening reach of the Internet in one of Southeast Asia's most insular nations has helped the once-scorned R filter back in small — but growing — ways.

It’s on the Lao-language sign for the new Crowne Plaza hotel in the Laotian capital, Vientiane. And at the KindyRoo day care in an upscale part of town. It’s reappeared in some Lao-language grammar books to pronounce words such as “radar,” where the “R” sound in Lao is rendered as “raw” or “roh” with a slight roll. And it’s how 32-year-old Ladda Bella can pronounce the “R” in “Harry Potter” with ease.

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