Multi-lingual / multi-script typefaces

Paul PongePaul Ponge Posts: 6
edited February 2015 in Technique and Theory
Hi there,

I'm working on a book that will include texts in eighteen different languages. Here's a breakdown:

Latin script:

Cyrillic script:

Other scripts:
Greek (modern)
Chinese (Mandarin)

Is there a single typeface that can handle all of these languages/scripts? Helvetica World, perhaps? (Merely finding a typeface that includes Vietnamese diacritics seems difficult – but perhaps I'm looking in the wrong places.)

If not, does anyone have any thoughts as to how they'd approach this? Perhaps one typeface for Latin and Cyrillic and something comparable in terms of colour and spirit for the other scripts?

Any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated.



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    The Noto font project aims to cover all of the world's languages and scripts

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    I'd probably go with Gentium as your primary Latin / Cyrillic / Greek typeface (including Vietnamese) and then pick something different for Chinese, Persian and Arabic. Something from Rosetta would cover Persian and Arabic. For Chinese, maybe something from Founder? I don't know Chinese foundries too well.
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    Albert_Jan_Pool Albert_Jan_Pool Posts: 79
    edited February 2015
    URW’s Nimbus Roman Global seems to provide what you are looking for except for Arabic.
    Nimbus Sans Global does a similar job, including arabic.
    URW is constantly expanding the range of supported scripts and languages for these typeface families. Maybe writing them an email could provide you with an answer on the status of Arabic for Nimbus Roman Global.
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    Andron: everything except Mandarin, Persian, Arabic.

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    DaltonMaag Aktiv Grotesk is very comprehensive now.

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    As someone who works daily with books that involve as many as four or five scripts (and their weights and italics and small caps, where applicable), I can tell you that using fonts in which multiple scripts have been loaded can create more problems than they solve, and take more time than when the fonts are individual. This is especially true when one of the scripts is right-to-left and another is left-to-right.

    A very long glyph palette can be clumsy and tiring to use, and switching text direction and keyboard layout is more time consuming than switching fonts. This is especially true when the scripts are combined within single paragraphs. 

    If the work at hand is typesetting, say, food contents labels, working with a clumsy overloaded font is a chore you can live with, but with more extensive work, such as a book, it can be a curse. Having a Latin set along with another script is often a necessity, but you needn't use it as your primary Latin. In a structured document, in which good use is made of paragraph and character style sheets, switching fonts is no problem at all, and keeping the fonts separate makes editing much easier and faster.

    Moreover, I find that most makers of multi-script fonts make decisions regarding relative character height based on ignorance or convenience (e.g., hinting zones), not on what more knowledgeable people might consider best typographic practices, and so the purported advantage of equal weights by size (which is not always desirable) becomes a false one in the end.

    Paul, there are quite a few good fonts that can handle your entire list of Latin languages, and even some that include all the Cyrillic variants and the Greek. That would limit your shopping to the last three scripts on your list, or even just two.

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    Thanks for these helpful responses. I would go for Nimbus Roman Global (I gather it's based on Times, which suits the pragmatic aesthetic we're going for) but there's no way I'll be able to convince the client to spend €2000 on a typeface.

    Andron is beautiful, but probably too "sophisticated" for this book (if that makes sense).

    Is there some kind of typographic database that would allow refine a font search by supported languages?


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    The search function on MyFonts offers such filters, see e.g. http://www.myfonts.com/search/charset:cyr+charset:viet/fonts/
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    > Andron is … too "sophisticated"

    this is the first time I hear that –
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