Keeping languages alive – thinking global

As in my last post mentioned communicating effectively on a global scale is certainly difficult. The idea that people with different experiences, genders, goals, and ages – often from diverse cultural, linguistic, and ethnic heritages – using varied thought processes and communication styles, can actually understand one another is an accomplishment indeed. But there are obstacles in the world of typography as well, preventing the undisturbed exchange of information.

But some collaboration in the field of design and precisely speaking, a five-year collaboration between Monotype and Google, has brought to the world important innovations all people can create benefits from.
The goal of the Google Noto project, as earlier mentioned was to develop a typeface family that encompasses all languages with a harmonious look, while digitally preserving rarely used languages, to help enable global communication across borders, languages, cultures.

The term “Noto” is shortened for the expression “no more tofu” with tofu referring to the blank boxes that appear when a computer or website isn’t able to display text, what happens oft when watching movies with subtitles in a language with special characters. These boxes appear because the font that supports that text is not available to the computer, causing confusion and a breakdown in communication. Google Noto now covers more than 800 languages and 100 writing scripts, which includes letters in multiple serif and sans serif styles across up to eight weights, as well as numbers, emoji, symbols, and musical notations.

“Even though we prioritize widely used languages, we still want to support other languages, even if no people are speaking them. There are some characters you can only see on stones. If you don’t move them to the web, over time those stones will become sand and we’ll never be able to recover those drawings or that writing.” – Xiangye Xiao, product manager, Google.

Today, when people are self – publishing in Native languages, both in print and online, these problems have a deeper meaning. Consistent usage of Unicode characters is vital for internet searches and databases; in Kwak’wala, for example, an indigenous language spoken in Western Canada, the same underline accent character is used across the board. That is why it is absurd when current limitations in computer technology dictate how a writing system should or should not look.

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