From Russia(n) With Love?

Dr Ken Lunde
5 min readMar 10, 2021

By Dr Ken Lunde, Janitor, Spirits of Christmas Past

The sole purpose of this article is to describe how I was put onto a CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)—meaning East Asian languages and the scripts that they use—career path. My study of Russian played a significant role in this, hence the somewhat catchy title of this article.


Greater-metropolitan Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, which now boasts five roundabouts, is where I was raised by my parents, who happen to be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this August in greater-metropolitan Hot Springs, South Dakota. In order to properly celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event, I hauled a 6L bottle of Vintage 2005 Cliff Lede wine to Hot Springs in my Tesla Model 3 last August.

While attending high school in the early 1980s, I decided to study a foreign language. With a population under 4,000 at the time—a figure that doesn’t include the cows—the foreign language offerings were French, French, and French. For reasons beyond my control, I chose French. My older brother, Kern, on the other hand, studied Russian via a correspondence course during high school. One could say that it served as inspiration of sorts.

Although I studied French in high school, it was really my studies of Russian, courtesy of the United States Army Reserves, that eventually put me on the CJK path. I joined the United States Army Reserves at the very beginning of my Senior year of high school, and immediately after graduating high school in 1983, I entered United States Army Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, which was followed by Interrogator School at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. Interestingly, my first day of Basic Training happened to be my 18th birthday: 1983-08-12. The third part of my training, which was associated with my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty), Human Intelligence Collector (aka Interrogator), was to learn Russian.

The scanned photo below is the only evidence in existence that proves that I got a “perm” just prior to entering United States Army Basic Training in August of 1983:

Selfie Circa 1983


California would eventually become my home. I attended the 47-Week Russian Basic Course at DLI-FLC (Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center) in Monterey, California for almost all of 1984. It was a great learning experience, and helped to set the stage for what turned into an incredibly-lucrative career of 28+ years. One of my classmates memorialized our 47-week adventure into learning a foreign language by creating the following artwork that I still treasure to this day:

DLI-FLC Russian Basic Course: 1984-01-09 through 1984-12-06

For what it’s worth, I permanently moved to California in mid-1991, and have lived there ever since.

Immediately after finishing my Russian studies at DLI-FLC, I entered The University of Wisconsin-Madison (aka UW-Madison) in January of 1985, and my first intention was to declare Russian as my major. After learning that I’d need to take a half-dozen literature classes, I changed my plan, and instead declared linguistics as my major. An undergraduate degree in linguistics required studying one year of a non–Indo-European language, and somehow I narrowed my choices down to Arabic and Japanese. I spent a good chunk of the Summer of 1985 figuring out which language to study during the upcoming school year. I ultimately — and obviously — chose Japanese. Why? I was able to recognize the patterns for Arabic very quickly, but not so for Japanese. For Arabic, I figured that once I got beyond the writing system, it’d be mainly a memorization exercise. I therefore decided to challenge Japanese. After all, it was to be only one year.

Events that transpired five years later in the Middle East (aka Desert Shield followed by Desert Storm) make me extraordinarily grateful that I came to the decision to study Japanese, otherwise my being in the US Army Reserves, combined with Arabic language skills, would have instantly translated into a lot of sand in my boots, both literally and figuratively.


Learning Japanese was very enjoyable, so much so that I continued beyond the first year, which included taking the second year intensively during the Summer of 1986. I also enrolled in the recently-discontinued Technical Japanese program at UW-Madison, and eventually worked closely with Professors Edward E. Daub (RIP), R. Byron Bird (RIP), and Nobuo Inoue (RIP) to typeset Basic Technical Japanese in the very late 1980s using an Apple Macintosh SE computer and an Apple LaserWriter II NTX-J printer. Those were fond memories for sure.

Basic Technical Japanese (The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990)

It was during this period that I developed a very strong interest in Japanese character sets and encodings. I was hired by Adobe in mid-1991, and the rest, shall we say, is history (pun intended).

The following YouTube interview by Hyewon Han (Sandoll) took place on 2019-09-07 during ATypI Tokyo 2019, and conveys much of what is written above:

About the Author

Dr Ken Lunde worked at Adobe for over twenty-eight years — from 1991-07-01 to 2019-10-18 — specializing in CJKV Type Development, meaning that he architected and developed fonts for East Asian typefaces, along with the standards and specifications on which they are based. He architected and developed the Adobe-branded “Source Han” (Source Han Sans, Source Han Serif, and Source Han Mono) and Google-branded “Noto CJK” (Noto Sans CJK and Noto Serif CJK) open source Pan-CJK typeface families that were released in 2014, 2017, and 2019, is the author of CJKV Information Processing Second Edition (O’Reilly Media, 2009), and published over 300 articles on Adobe’s now-static CJK Type Blog. Ken earned BA (1987), MA (1988), and PhD (1994) degrees in linguistics from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, served as Adobe’s representative to the Unicode Consortium since 2006, was Adobe’s primary representative from 2015 until 2019, serves as Unicode’s IVD (Ideographic Variation Database) Registrar, attends UTC and IRG meetings, participates in the Unicode Editorial Committee, became an individual Unicode Life Member in 2018, received the 2018 Unicode Bulldog Award, was a Unicode Technical Director from 2018 to 2020, became a Vice-Chair of the Emoji Subcommittee in 2019, published UTN #43 (Unihan Database Property “kStrange”) in 2020, and became the Chair of the CJK & Unihan Group in 2021. He and his wife, Hitomi, are proud owners of a His & Hers pair of acceleration-boosted 2018 LR AWD Tesla Model 3 EVs.



Dr Ken Lunde

Chair, CJK & Unihan Working Group—Almaden Valley—San José—CA—USA—NW Hemisphere—Terra—Sol—Orion-Cygnus Arm—Milky Way—Local Group—Laniakea Supercluster