Tibet Action, October 16, 2015
Tibet Action is excited that Android 6.0 (Marshmallow), released last Friday, has a newly built-in font that supports the proper display of the Tibetan alphabet! Our team has been advocating for this development because previously Tibetans were forced to “root” their phones in order to add Tibetan font, or use specially crafted applications, and even then, proper display of the complex script was not always possible. Currently, the new operating system is only available on Nexus devices sold by Google, but should soon be available on Motorola and Android ONE devices in India, from other popular vendors like Samsung and Huawei, and through third-party open firmwares such as Cyanogen.
In 2009, Tibet Action’s Director of Technology Nathan Freitas, first posted online instructions on how to add Tibetan font support into early Android phones (http://nathan.freitas.net/2009/11/20/the-droids-dharma-supporting-the-tibetan-language-on-android/). Since then, we have consistently advocated Google to make Tibetan a fully supported language on Android. Tibet Action has also supported the development of open-source code libraries, add-on keyboard software and dictionary apps, that enable Tibetan language at the application level, which hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have utilized.
Tibetan script is used to write Tibetan, Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Ladakhi and Balti, and is intricately tied to an identity that connects millions of people across Tibet, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Mongolia and Pakistan. Considered highly sophisticated as a vehicle for the transmission of complex philosophical teachings, the Tibetan language holds one of the largest reserves of Buddhist canon as well as contemporary literature. We encourage developers everywhere to include the Google “Noto” Tibetan font in builds of stock firmware for Xiaomi, Cyanogen and all Android Open Source Project-based operating systems, so that it will improve access for Tibetans around the world, and other regions that use the Tibetan script.
Furthermore, digital communication is a lifeline for Tibetans living under China’s extreme state-sponsored repression and censorship. This development will provide more opportunities for Tibetans to use more open-source communications tools to connect and communicate with their friends and family around the world, using their own written language.
Noto Sans Tibetan is the new open and freely-licensed font that Google has created and released (https://www.google.com/get/noto/#sans-tibt) as part of their Noto Fonts open-source project (https://github.com/googlei18n/noto-fonts/).
The font is open source, and is not only for Android but also your own operating system or applications, whether it is Windows, Mac, or Linux. All Noto fonts are published under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1. Language data and some sample texts are from the Unicode CLDR project.
There is currently no Tibetan locale or keyboard support built-in to Android. This means that the entire Android operating system is not able to be set to Tibetan, but you can install an add-on keyboard (which there are three now from Iron Rabbit, Honso, and MultiLing). Noto font works perfectly with Iron Rabbit’s Tibetan Keyboard, which is available in many app stores around the world and source code here: https://code.google.com/p/bho/wiki/BhoBoard
Let us know if the Tibetan font is available on your phone and how the experience is using it! Also, if you come across any bugs, we’ve been asked by the Google language team to post bug reports here: https://github.com/googlei18n/noto-fonts/