Youtube is full of “life hack” videos that show simple, unexpected solutions to problems you didn’t know you had. Need to speed-cool a beverage? Wrap a wet paper towel around it and put it in the freezer. Not particularly coordinated? Use a clothespin to hold the nail while you hammer it. The list goes on and on, but the principle is always the same: sometimes all it takes to solve complicated problems is to look at them in a different way.
One of the problems authors and publishers have when creating books in local languages is being able to represent a language’s “special characters.”
Not only that, but the similarity of certain letter forms in the Roman alphabet can make it very challenging for the beginning readers these books are intended to serve.
It’s a complicated problem: How do we create effective, easily legible reading materials in languages that are very different from our own?
On SIL LEAD executive director Paul Frank’s trip to a conference in Abidjan last month, he shared about one of SIL International’s free resources for local languages, the Andika Unicode font. Andika is designed especially to facilitate learning to read, with a focus on clear, easy-to-perceive letter forms that will not be readily confused with one another. When letters are visually distinct, beginner readers can more easily distinguish them. This simplifies their learning process. Andika also includes wide range of letter forms, which makes it extremely helpful when writing books in languages that use more than just the basic Roman alphabet.
At the Abidjan conference, Lawrence, a Kenyan book publisher, told Paul he immediately relayed the information about Andika from Paul’s PowerPoint to his team back home. They downloaded the font and it met their needs. By the end of the afternoon, Lawrence was able to tell Paul that "We downloaded the Andika font. It solved all our problems!"
Lawrence and his team in Kenya are uniquely positioned to deal with the complicated challenges of writing their own stories in their own language. And with the right tools at their disposal, they are able to simplify the problem for a more powerful, lasting impact.
Click HERE learn more about how the Andika font helps beginner readers, people with dyslexia, and anyone searching for a simple solution to one of the more complex problems of communication.