SUNDAY, April 21, 2024

Thai graphic designer creates font for immigrants to learn English

Thai graphic designer creates font for immigrants to learn English

A fluent English speaker, Thai graphic designer Chalermpol Jittagasem is well aware of how difficult it can be for a migrant to adapt and blend into a foreign country.

To assist migrants like himself in breaking through the language barrier and conquer the accent, he has used his expertise in graphic arts to create a unique font family that helps immigrants improve their English-language pronunciation.

"When I first came to America to study at the University of California Berkeley, my English pronunciation was frequently mocked. I've seen so many Asian Americans subjected to truly cruel shaming for speaking English with a strong accent and incorrect pronunciation, even though they, like me, are living in in most diverse state in the US. It was so frustrating that I felt compelled to take action. That's how I came up with the idea of creating a new font family to assist people learning English as a second language," he explains.

Dubbed Vaja, which means speech in Thai, the font is a sans-serif typeface based on Gothic Sans but infused with a ‘Geometric Sans' personality, giving it a clean and contemporary feel.

As learning to pronounce words correctly is difficult for non-native speakers because English has a different intonation from their mother tongue, he said the font focuses on pronunciation improvement for English learners.

Thai graphic designer creates font for immigrants to learn English

Meanwhile, to assist learners in accurately pronouncing words, the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) characters, a standardised system of phonetic notation that represents the sounds of human speech by using a unique symbol for each distinct sound and encompassing vowels, are added to the written form.

“Using this font family, which includes IPA symbols, will make it easier for non-native English speakers to accurately transcribe and pronounce words in English,” he said, adding that the font family design features three styles – “thin”, “bold”, and “oblique”.

These are used in a pronunciation technique known as “respelling”, with each font style representing different ways of stressing syllables, which help in identifying where these are stressed in English words.

Thin is a regular sound, oblique is a puffy sound, and bold is a stressed sound,” he explained. “It’s a technique commonly used in dictionaries, but the font family design distinguishes each syllable and makes it easier for users to read the small text in dictionaries," he said.

For now, there is no fee or service charge for using these pronunciation techniques; users can learn them by using online dictionaries or dictionary apps.

The font family is not yet ready for download, but users who are interested in trying it can access the font specimen at https://

Thai graphic designer creates font for immigrants to learn English

An alumnus of Burapha University from Angthong, Central Thailand, Chalermpol is now a successful and in-demand visual artist in San Francisco and regarded as one of Thailand's most innovative graphic designers of his generation, as well as a master of his craft.

He received a graphic designer award from the Society of Typographic Arts for being one of the 100 best examples of typographic excellence produced worldwide in 2023.

He was the first Thai native to work on a graphic design team for Raley's, a well-known California supermarket chain and was recognised as the chief designer of the successful humanitarian campaigns "Partnering to Relieve Hunger" and "Partnering to Feed Families". He also worked as a leading designer for a prominent American national advocacy organisation Breast Cancer Action, overseeing their annual report from 2021-2023 and strategic plan for 2022-2027.