I'm sorry for putting up such a specific question here but any help will be really appreciated.

Akha is the language spoken by the Akha people of southern China (Yunnan Province), eastern Burma (Shan State), northern Laos, and northern Thailand. Linguists consider Akha to be a dialect of the Hani language.

I'm translating a Korean short story into English. The text contains a few Akha words or expressions. The problem is if I follow the Korean Romanization the result looks nothing close to what little I have seen of the original Akha language.

For example, the following is the romanization of the original Korean transcription of the Akha phrases.

  1. My friend, hello. - Dosha, domialla. (Korean transcription 도샤, 도미알라.)
  2. My son, good bye. - Ari, domialla. (Korean transcription 아리, 도미알라.)
  3. I'm fine. - Shyejei mangneu. (Korean transcription 셰제이 망느.)

The only Akha words I could find on the internet were the ones for 'friend' (chawv) and son (ahv leeh), which as you can see look very different from the romanized versions.

Any linguist here who can help me out with the original Akha wording?

  • See if this helps. Using final consonants to indicate tone may not be the best approach for an English translation. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hani_language#Writing_systems Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 10:17
  • If Akha is not a written language then romanize is not the right word. Romanization is the process of writing in Latin script a word from a language written in another script. You want to transcribe it, so you want something at least informally phonetic. You should look to see if linguists have a practical orthography for the language. If they do you may fight it to be suitable but if it uses arcane diacritics then you may find it unsuitable. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 2:22
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    @hippietrail I think the problem is more the other way around... there are a number of different orthographies including several Roman-based ones. But while there are printed dictionaries of Akha, there doesn't seem to be one on-line. I suggest seeing if a nearby university library has a dictionary. Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 10:58
  • One problem might be deciding which Akha words the hangul transcriptions are for if you don't actually know Akha. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 7:01

1 Answer 1


I worked many years to make a romanized script for Akha that solved several problems with existing scripts. The script could be considered a bit longer but is very exacting. It is also congruent with most sounds in UK English - spellings etc. So it makes Akha easier for a non Akha to learn, and if an Akha learns it they will not get real frustrated if they want to learn english later and find it all in conflict, spellings, sounds etc. There are a number of books in this script on our site http://www.akha.org and a whole lot more that I should be transcribing but haven't due to shortage of time.

  • I should mention that this was done as directed by the guidance of numerous Akha that I worked with who were not "missionary Akha" either catholic or protestant in persuasion but just interested in a useful script. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 2:28
  • Marking tone was done with letters not needed for the Akha alphabet and were used because they were fast to type, did not require the upper case key to be used or any special diacritical mark be made up for the keyboard. Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 4:42

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