Typography Workshop on Multililingualism

没有鱼,虾也好 | No fish, prawn also can | Ikan tak ada, udang pun boleh

Sept 21st 2013
Shu@Chai Diam Ma

A workshop organised by TypoKaki about multilingualism and how it could be manifested through written text and type design. This workshop is organised in conjunction with Liew Kwai Fei’s Solo Exhibition.

Any Hokkien speaker in Penang is no stranger to this proverb: “没有鱼,虾也好“ (without fish, prawn will do), which offers a lesson that one is ought to adapt to different situations in the absence of familiar choices. Same applies to language. We speak a language we know best. But if the listener is illiterate in our native tongue, we would switch to another language. This unique linguistic flexibility showcases Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage deeply rooted in multilingualism.

Just how many tongues do we speak? The majority of Malaysians are fluent in more than one language, if not more. Even if one does not master any particular language, knowing different languages fosters a more creative approach towards communication – simply eavesdrop on a conversation between two Malaysians and you will not be disappointed by their ability to mix different codes within an utterance. We have flexible tongues!

In Penang, the layering of languages boasts a long history of multilingualism. From the old painted signage to the new green road-sign, all of which bear the mark of a linguistic conglomeration taking place since colonialism. How has this phenomenon affected our identities? What are the social and aesthetic considerations in any multilingual visual representation? How can we demonstrate the richness of our spoken words onto a piece of paper?

Text by Typokaki.

TYPOKAKI is a typography and type design collective founded by Hui Chia Yin and Tan Sueh Li in 2012. The collective also includes a research associate, Tan Zi Hao, who writes on visual culture and politics. Their working process is based on the principle that great design starts with thorough research and insights. They organise type workshops, events, and research dedicated to exploring typography and type design specific to Malaysian cultures. Thus far, they have conducted two type workshops that took cultural heritage as a source of inspiration. Their portfolio encompasses typeface design, lettering, identity design, environmental design, and publication design for both cultural and commercial institutions.

Find out more about TypoKaki