Choosing the Right Font for your Multilingual Project Doesn't Have to Be Hard

Choosing the right font for any project is certainly important, but it doesn't have to be hard. The font you choose for a document or project can impact the piece’s readability and overall tone. While you wouldn’t expect an important legal document to be printed in a whimsical calligraphy style font, you also wouldn’t expect a lighthearted children’s book to appear in boxy, bold, capitalized lettering. When you add in the fact that a document will be translated into another (or several other) languages, the font you choose becomes even more important, and the reasons for choosing it even more complex.

When designing the layout for your translated document, you will want it to have roughly the same, if not identical, formatting when compared to the source files. You want both the tone and style of your document to be consistent, so choosing a font for your source file that will work well in the language you’ll be translating it into can really save a lot of headache down the line when formatting your translated projects. Here are a few key things to keep in mind when choosing a font:

  1. Determine which languages you’ll be translating into, and choose a font that will work in each one, or at least one that has a similar counterpart in your target languages. If one or more of your target languages uses non-Latin characters (Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, etc.), for example, you will have a more limited selection of font choices. If your original font will not support these characters, you will have to replace it with a font that does when translating. Depending on the font choices, this could make a big difference in the overall look and feel of the source and target texts.
  2. Size does matter. Keep in mind that text can often expand in a translated file. What may only take 5 words to convey in English could take 9 in Spanish. If your font is small to begin with and your text box is also small, you run the risk of either not being able to fit all of the text in the target file’s text box without making it minute, and potentially illegible. When designing your source document, choose a font size that will also work if it needs to be reduced to a slightly smaller size without impacting the overall readability and layout of the page.
  3. If you are using multiple font types within the same document, use fonts that work well together, no matter the language. Fonts should work well together, complementing each other throughout.
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you aren’t sure if something will work in the target language, your translation agency can most likely provide a desktop publishing option to ensure your project is properly formatted for both source and target texts.