Romanization or Romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of writing from a different writing system to the Roman (Latin) script, or a system for doing so. Methods of romanization include transliteration, for representing written text, and transcription, for representing the spoken word, and combinations of both. (Wikipedia)
Clearly standardised and agreed Romanisation is useful especially to the government in managing data in a foreign language (i.e. English) and sharing them with organisations and people who do not read the local script.
There are 2 internationally recognised Romanisation systems available for Lao - BGN/PCGN 1966 and ALA-LC
However, none of these systems have been widely used by both the government and public due to lack of a national standard. It is observed that BGN/PCGN has been used although not in an approriate form. For example, there are a variety of the Romanised names of 18 provinces in Lao PDR, which are being used by the government and public.
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In such a situation, a single Lao name can be romanised to multiple different spellings in the Roman script, which leads to difficulties in data collection, management and analysis based on geographic or administrative objects. The "Karaoke" styles are particularly challenging since there are so many variations from person to person.
Informal and unstandardised ways of Romanisation that originally came from karaoke machines. The Lao "Karaoke" styles are heavily influenced by Thai (especially the Isan dialect). These styles include various features mixed with the French and Vietnamese languages for historical reasons as well as English due to its growing influence. The "Karaoke" styles are popular among the young generation that opted for the English keypad on their mobile phones to use social media.
Against this complexity, there should be only one unique Romanisation system and a unique Lao name should be romanised to one unque romanised name.
Considering that the Lao public is familiar with the Thai language, the Romanisation of Thai was also studied for its potential adoption to Lao.
However, it was expected to cause too drastic changes in the current province and district names and thus discarded.
e.g. ບໍ່ແກ້ວ - Bokaew (Thai), Bokeo (MoH 2020) / ຊຽງເງິນ - Siangngoen (Thai), Xiangngeun (MoH 2020)
MoH 2020 revised several features of BGN/PCGN 1966 to adress the problems that have prevented its popular use. The revisions were made by the careful consideration of the Lao scripts and phonetics, IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and research on the current use of different methods as well as foreign examples.
MoH 2020 was not developed to be the national Romanisation system for the Lao government. The priority was to mitigate the situation for MoH and its partners and find the most reasonable standard possible to replace very problematic "Karaoke" names. In the long term, it is recommended for the government to develop the national policy so that every government entity uses the one standard.