Font size - important or not for reading in a foreign language

Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Thursday, December 11, 2003, 20:48 GMT
I believe that font size is an important factor for the usefulness of a written resource for language learners, especially in the beginning when most words look unfamiliar to the eye and have to be perceived letter by letter.

Also the simple comfort of holding a nice object in one's hands may be very important for the learner who is challenged with reading in a foreign language. I think that we shouldn't take such things for granted like the shape and font-size of written language-learning resources.

When I read a book in German, I am much more sensitive to the size of the font than when I read in English. This is because I am a much more skillful English reader than a German reader. And if I was to read in a completely new language, I would be even more concerned with the font than in the case of German, with which I am quite familiar.

I ask all of you, do you care about the font size of written texts when you read in a foreign language more than when you read in your native language?
mjd   Thursday, December 11, 2003, 21:59 GMT
I think you're right. In the beginning, when one is learning, it's not a good idea to have a really small font.
Jim   Thursday, December 11, 2003, 23:55 GMT
That's a very interesting point you've raised. I think you're on to something. I'd agree that font size is important. Print which is too small is harder to read.

Also I think the style of the characters is very important especially when you're dealing with a new alphabet (or other type of character set). There are Chinese characters, for example, which I'd recognise when printed but might not be able to distinguish in certain hand-written forms.
Jacob   Friday, December 12, 2003, 01:35 GMT
Good observation, Michal. In my Supermemo, I have the font size for my Russian collection at 14 point, where all my roman-alphabet materials are in Times 12pt. At first I thought the bigger letters looked a little silly (childish) but there was no denying that it alleviated a lot of the strain of reading.
Clark   Friday, December 12, 2003, 01:41 GMT
Hm, well, I do not know. I guess that I do not really have a problem reading any language that I know in a small font. However, with Russian, a bigger font is better I would agree. And then with other languages like Armenian, Hebrew and Georgian, I would definately agree that a larger font is better.
Jacob   Friday, December 12, 2003, 01:43 GMT
I'm really looking forward to someday when I have the time to put together a really good Georgian collection. The world's most beautiful alphabet?
Clark   Friday, December 12, 2003, 04:27 GMT
Indeed! A lot of people have told me that Elvish (Tolkien's language) looks so much like Arabic, but I always thought that Georgian and Elvish look very similar.
Tremmert   Saturday, December 13, 2003, 12:36 GMT
That's another advantage of the Internet: not only can you find readnig materials in almost any language you can think of (and a few you can't), you can also adjust the size unlike a printed book.

Darn. Power failure.
Cly   Saturday, December 13, 2003, 19:55 GMT
On my screen, I dislike all font below 14 points. I hate the tiny fonts in some websites.
I can magnify the font size of Antimoon with Firebird but not with IE.
Michal Ryszard Wojcik   Sunday, December 14, 2003, 16:58 GMT
Indeed, it is sometimes very annoying when web pages force small font size on the readers. I believe that font size should be left up to the reader.

Cly, can't you really modify the font size of Antimoon? This sounds surprising to me.

Anyway, I think that font size, font shape, and the shape and weight of the book one is attempting to read in a foreign language - are all important factors for the usefulness of the book as a learning resource.

I even think that I owe my success with deciphering Norwegian so quickly (basically about one month) to the special layout of the Norwegian catalog that was my first Norwegian learning resource. If I had not gotten hold of this special catalog, I would have probably found it much harder to learn Norwegian in the beginning.

I later received a number of Norwegian catalogs but none of them would be suitable as a first-contact learning resource because of their small font size and other graphical factors. My point is that at the very beginning of a learning a new language, it may be crucial to get hold of really nice learning materials.

I have published three scanned images of the Norwegian catalogs so you can better see my point:

The first image is the famous catalog that I remember so fondly and that perhaps is the key to my success with Norwegian. The other two are not suitable for being learning resources for beginners.

I wonder if there are other people who also find it convenient to go for bigger fonts when learning a foreign language.