Best Fonts for CJK Website Translation

Standard Unicode fonts are a very common solution when dealing with publishing of global content. They are well displayed in a wide variety of browsers, both newer and older, and operating systems (Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X). Unicode font families is what we call “safe” fonts. For example, Times, Courier and Helvetica.

But as your business expands, you will find that Unicode font families are not enough in non-Roman languages. These languages may have specific fonts that are commonly used by local websites and will make your website look its best for your users. For instance, specific Japanese fonts look much better for Japanese users than Unicode fonts.

Most Popular Fonts in CJK

The aim of content localization is to ensure web/app legibility and usability for your audiences. In this case we will focus on a fast-growing region like South-East Asia. Below you will find a list of fonts that are widely used in CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean)-speaking regions.

Chinese fonts

SimSun is the most popular Chinese font. But, it is not a stylish one and users might be a bit bored of seeing it ao websites, just as it happens with Helvetica.
Microsoft YaHei is a good option instead. It’s a pretty modern font that looks clean in a wide variety of sizes.
Kaiti and FangSong are more stylish fonts. Both of them are slightly scripty. They should be displayed in 14px or bigger to give its best. Kaiti has a wider spacing than FangSong and it has a bit more shapely strokes.

Japanese fonts

Some standard Japanese fonts are Meiryo, Mincho, Kaku Gothic and Maru Gothic. Japanese native speakers expect to find them in local websites. On the other hand, there are some cool decorative fonts that might be of your interest too, just like Anzumoji.

Meiryo is a clear type font designed to be highly readable both at big and small sizes.
Kaku Gothic is a very popular sans serif font. It is highly readable in small sizes too.
Mincho is a commonly used font in Japanese and Chinese. It has wider horizontal strokes than vertical ones.
Maru Gothic is similar to Kaku Gothic but has rounded corners.
Anzumoji is a handwritten kawaii font that looks great on websites.

Korean fonts

Hangeul is the phonetic alphabet from Korea. It only has 24 basic letters which build syllabic blocks in a very particular manner. That is, the letters have many combinations, placements, positions and sizes within each block. Then, every possible combination must be considered when designing Hangeul fonts. As a result, Hangeul fonts must have a minimum of 11.172 Unicode characters, which means a high complexity.

Therefore, there is not a wide variety of Hanguel fonts. The most well-known are:
• Nanum Gothic
• Nanum Gothic Light
• Nanum Myeongio

Noto Sans CJK: A free solution

Noto Sans CJK is a Google font designed to serve Chinese, Japanese, and Hangeul (Korean) speaking regions. It is a sans serif font with a modern style but it also preserves traditional shapes.

Along with Source Han Sans font, Noto Sans CJK is particularly interesting because it’s the first open source pan-CJK font family. It has been designed to suit many user interfaces and screen sizes.

Translators and Designers Need to Work Together

All in all, translating and localizing a website to a new language requires both linguistic and design knowledge. Designers must ensure the right use of fonts to guarantee a readable website and a localized layout for a better experience. And translators must be aware of speakers’ behavior and expectations in order to provide a translated version that sounds and looks natural in the target language.

About Victoria Sfriso

I’m a native Spanish writer and translator living in Spain, with cultural knowledge and life experience in Latin America, France, Italy. I translate into Spanish and Catalan from Italian, French, and English. I find it fulfilling to learn new languages and new cultures. I specialize primarily in tourism, medical, and literary translations. I enjoy being a freelance translator.