Let's Talk Type
Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Are you translating a publication into Welsh? Maybe a website? A poster? A book? Want to make sure it’s top notch? Don’t let typography trip you up.
You’re in luck. Welsh uses mostly the same letters as English. Yes, there are a few extras in Welsh – like ch and dd. These are their own letters, have their own special place in the Welsh alphabet. But there’s no issue typing these out in any font that you can use for English.
But Welsh does have some special characters. The most common of these is something we call the little roof – circumflex if you want to be technical. This:
The circumflex can be used on top of any of the Welsh vowels. What this means for you is that the fonts you choose for your publication have to be able to do this …
(You can see where it gets its pet name from.) Most fonts can do this, but watch out, not all can. And note that I said – ALL the vowels. In Welsh this means also w and y. (If you ever thought Welsh had no vowels, in fact it has seven!) So your fonts have to be able to do this …
And for that matter this…
If most fonts can do â ê î ô and û, alas most fonts cannot do ŵ or ŷ. If you’re publishing in Welsh, you must take care that your fonts can put a little roof on all the vowels. Otherwise you might end up with something like this:
Or even this:
Ideally you’d think about this at the very initial web design stage. If you’re designing a website from scratch knowing you’ll want it translated into Welsh, please do take this into account and make sure the fonts you choose fully support Welsh. But practically, we know that the decision to translate a website or other publication into Welsh often comes after the English version has been produced. In such cases, you may need to use a workaround. You might be able to find a font that includes these special characters that is similar enough to your selected font so that it’s not noticeable, such as in this example:
The main text is in Baskerville Old Face, the ŵ’s and ŷ in Cambria. The font size has been adjusted for the ŵ’s and ŷ to bring them into line with the Baskerville. But this isn’t a perfect fix - they are similar fonts, but not identical. You may be able to find a closer fit, but it will cost you time and effort.
It is also clear that this fix is easier with ordinary-looking fonts. Not so easy with fancy fonts. The main lesson here: consider the translation right at the start of the planning phase. Make sure you use fonts that support Welsh, or you risk running into difficulty and cost later on. And at the very least, have your publication proofread. A good translator will always proofread a translation before sending it back to the client. (Make sure you have a good translator!) But uploading to a website or typesetting a publication is a post-translation process during which errors can occur that are out of the hands of the translator. So do give yourself peace of mind and have the work proofread.
The good news? Plenty of fonts do support Welsh, in particular the characters â ê î ô and û. You may find it more difficult to find fonts that support ŵ and ŷ, in particular fancy fonts. But there are plenty out there. Just be sure to check. Here is a handy list of some common fonts that do and do not fully support Welsh. Scroll to the bottom if you'd prefer to download these as a pdf.
Download this list in pdf form: