Should I use different colours for different languages? Do viewers find it easier to read if the two languages are in different colours, or do they find it an insult to their intelligence?

Background: I'm giving a talk at RubyKaigi, and I've got English and Japanese text on the same slide. Today, I came across someone using different colours for different languages for a past RubyKaigi talk.

1 Answer 1


As a non-native English speaker, I wouldn't be offended at all.

Typically for written forms that are drastically different(e.g. English vs Japanese) I don't think there's a need to put them in different colors. The whole point of using different colors is to easily identify the difference. I remember when I first studied English, when my teacher listed British written form side by side with the American written form, she'd put them in different colors. In which case, I think colors made sense.

If you must use a different color for Japanese, be sure to do some research on the color symbolisms in the Japanese culture. I have a hunch that you shouldn't use the color red. Even though red is a festival color in most Asian cultures, but it's rarely used for text.

For example, in China, writing people's names in red is almost taboo. This is because in the ancient time, the warden would write the names of the prisoners who are to be executed.

  • Interesting, that last bit. I have a client (bilingual in English and Chinese, reads deeply in Classical Chinese) whose chop is always rendered in red. I used it as an end-of-chapter marker when I typeset his translation of Sun Tzu. Jul 10, 2011 at 5:08
  • @Alan what do you mean by "Chop?" Are you talking about the ink seal of his name? Yes, those are always in red.
    – Jin
    Jul 10, 2011 at 6:36
  • Yes, that's the item. I had always seen them in red (and always heard them referred to as "chop" -- also the term this author uses -- in English), which is why your last comment surprised me. Historical snippets like that fascinate me. :-) Jul 10, 2011 at 6:41

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