We often get the question of why DTP for Asian languages are charged more compared to Western DTP and how it is considered more work. For this explanation, we will use English as the source text to be translated into Asian languages.


Font Compatibility
English is a single-byte language typesetting and Asian (i.e. Simplified Chinese) is a double-byte language typesetting. For Japanese, Korean, Thai (and Simplified Chinese and Tradition Chinese occasionally) we need to use 2 font families - the source English font for English alphanumerics, and an Asian font for the non-English characters. These fonts need to be applied manually.

First, we need to:

  1. Match serif/san serif style of the source English
  2. Match the bold/semi-bold/italic of the source English so that the Asian characters are of matching weight
  3. Match the font sizes to the English source size (normally there is NO exact match, i.e: font size of 9pt in the English will not be 9pt in the Asian)
  4. Ensure that the correct language font is used (e.g. a Japanese font should NEVER be used for Korean; Chinese Simplified font should NEVER be used for Chinese Traditional)

Then we can create paragraph styles and apply, and then manually assign the English fonts to the English characters.

After this we check:

  1. Kerning (spacing between the characters) - very often, English words will be too expanded, or the Asian characters may be too condensed, so we need to manually move some characters up/down to fix this.

  2. Line breaks – For Thai, certain software like InDesign does not add the correct line breaks (especially for transliterated loanwords). We need to check every line and fix manually.

    For Japanese, we check that the katakana words are broken at appropriate places across the lines, and we check that no "forbidden" characters occur at the beginning of a line (e.g. lines should not start with っ, ー, ュ, の etc). We also try to keep kanji characters that make up a word together wherever possible as well.

    For Korean, we check that the postpositions (characters added at the end of nouns and pronouns) have not moved to the next line (this often happens when the "phrase" is an English word or number), and that words have not been incorrectly broken across lines.

    For all languages, we check that there are no orphans in the last lines of paragraphs, and that numerals and measurements are not split over lines.

  3. Adjust leading - Asian characters are slightly taller than English characters, so line-spacing within paragraphs often needs to be adjusted.

  4. Spacing - Japanese and Thai are fairly expansive, so we need to adjust spaces between paragraphs/header/sub-headers, etc. so that all the text fits nicely and the layout looks good.

  5. Line breaks in headers/sub-headers - we try to break these lines in a way that is both sensible (with regards to where the text is broken) and attractive (looks good in the layout).

  6. Page sizing – In the US for example, documents are in Letter size. In Asia, it is in A4 size. So we need to change all Letter page size to A4, and this affects the layout. For some companies, we need to follow their style guide with regards to margin heights, etc..

  7. Style - This applies especially to the use of spaces between the Asian and the English characters. The use/non-use of spaces must be consistent throughout the file.

  8. Punctuation - We need to check that all punctuation (exclamation marks, colons, commas, periods) are double-byte, or that a single space is used before/after any single-byte punctuation. For example, we use single-byte brackets around text that is English only, double-byte around texts that contain either all Asian, or a mix of characters). This should ideally all be fixed at the Translation/Editing/Proofing phase, but often one or two errors slip through to the DTP phase.



Some software/tools do not support double-byte languages, therefore localisation agencies need to invest in multilingual versions to support these projects.


We hope the above gives clarity on why Asian DTP is far more time-consuming and thus more expensive than the Western languages.