Have you ever noticed a blank box appearing within your phone or web-browser where a text character should be? This square in coder lingo is called a .notdef or ‘not defined’, but most everyone else just calls it ‘tofu’ because they resemble blocks of bean curd.

Whilst choosing to subtitle your video in just English and French may never be an issue, if you start including Chinese or Japanese you may hit a major obstacle: a bunch of boxes for subtitle text.

Why?  A lot of speciality fonts (usually those that look better and read better) only support a handful of languages and don’t offer much compatibility across a broader spectrum of languages.  Latin and Arabic are just too different.

To that end, if your subtitling project is multilingual, unless you want to end up with a bunch of boxes for subtitle text (□□□), you need to consider the best free subtitle font for multiple languages.

Why Do You Need a Universal Font?

If you plan to subtitle your video into several dozen languages, you should consider finding a font that will cover the script for every language you plan to subtitle.


For one, using a single typographical family for all the languages you plan to subtitle will give your work a harmonious look and feel.

Additionally, not all fonts will work for all languages. Generally speaking, you need to buy or download a font for subtitling of Latin scripts like Spanish and French. Then you would need to buy or download a different font for Arabic scripts, and yet another for Japanese and Chinese.  The result is not only the purchase and downloading of a lot of different fonts, but a mishmash of styles.

Best Free Subtitle Font for Multiple Languages

Finding a single font for a multi-language subtitling project isn’t easy though. People read and write in hundreds of languages.  Many less common languages haven’t yet been approved by Unicode, which means they aren’t supported by most fonts and will end up as little rectangular tofu boxes if you use them.  For example, Unicode only recently approved Tibetan and Armenian. Many more wait approval.

However, there is one solution: Google Noto.

Monotype worked with Google to create Google Noto to rid the digital world of 'tofu'.

Five years in the making, Google Noto is a truly universal typeface covering more than 800 languages and 100 written scripts.  Available in multiple sans and serif fonts for most languages, each language comes with a huge amount of styles up to eight weights.  It even supports numbers, symbols, emojis, and musical notations.

Google Noto takes its name from its goal of seeing ‘no more tofuand will eliminate the need to purchase multiple fonts.  Moreover, using this single typographical family for all the languages you plan to subtitle, will give your work a harmonious look and feel.  This can be especially useful if you plan to subtitle multiple languages at once.

How Do I Install Google Noto Fonts?

Google Noto is available to download from the Google Noto Fonts website and can be installed on Windows, macOS and Linux.  

You can choose to download the full package (about 1.1GB), which covers everything, or you can download the specific font packages for the languages that you intend to use.  You can easily search for your font by typing the required language, region or font name into the search box.

Install Google Noto on Windows:

  • Dowload the required font package (.zip)
  • Uncompress the package
  • Search for 'fonts' in the Start Menu or go to Start → Control Panel → Appearance and Personalization → Fonts
  • Select all fonts and drag them into the Fonts folder

Install Google Noto on MacOS:

  • Download the font package (.zip)
  • Double click on the package to uncompress it
  • Open Font Book (Go to Finder → Applications → Font Book)
  • Select all of the font files and drag them to the Font column (i.e., the second column) of Font Book

What other subtitle fonts do you use?  Drop a line to the team at Happy Scribe to let us know.