Comparison of languages

alexfjelldal's picture

Hi
Does anyone know of a comparison of languages in terms of how much space they occupy in text? I once designed a bilingual annual report, with both norwegian and english text. The english part was an unabbreviated translation of the norwegian version.

When i started the project, i figured the norwegian version would need more space. It turned out the opposite was true.

An index for different languages would sure be useful, especially when planning larger projects. it could look like this (i set english=100)

German = 112
English = 100
Norwegian = 93

Of course, this wouldn't apply for poetry etc, and i guess there would be differences between e.g. fiction and scientific litterature.

alex

tomdonahue's picture

The english part was an unabbreviated translation of the norwegian version.
When i started the project, i figured the norwegian version would need more space. It turned out the opposite was true.

This is generally true. The source language is the most compact, as it is using native words for native ideas.

There is a table of lengths for translations from English here. (Note that the Asian languages at the bottom seem very compact, but in fact they are longer on the page.)

Linda Cunningham's picture

I'm sure glad they included Klingon in that list -- I can't tell you how many clients I get wanting a length comparison for it. ;-)

(Neat page, Tom, and one I've bookmarked for future use.)

pattyfab's picture

ROFL!

Interesting about the Irish - always knew there was a lot of blarney there.

will powers's picture

Maxim Zhukov produced some years ago two editions of a book dealing with multilingual typography. I have found them helpful. There is comparative data about relative lengths of languages as well as commentary about special considerations for each language under consideration. I do not know if Norwegian is included [the book's at home; I'm at work].

The book is "Typography: Polyglot" (1991, Cooper Union), written with George Sadek. The second edition is "Typographia Polyglotta" (1997, ATypI / Cooper Union). It may be tough to find this many years on.

powers

hrant's picture

Zhukov & Sadek's book is indeed extemely useful. But you also need to
account for the direction of translation, which typically adds ~15%.

hhp

Syndicate content Syndicate content