Many games have their secret languages, usually used by having players use phrases like "I say in <fantasy language>: ". For text on handouts, I have often seen GMs tack the note "In <language>:" to the start of a passage, possibly using a separate style from the actual text. Secret means not the common language that everybody speaks. This could be Spanish or Elven or a made-up combination of sounds.
However, I really like to use fonts or handwriting that make the text more relatable in how it is written. The text of a diary by a proper lady might be in Question of Science while the scientist that is about to lose his grip on reality is written in Fearsome... But then there are texts simply written in a glyph system that isn't a Latin-letters (or derivate) handwriting. For example, the players might encounter Ancient Greek, Futhark Runes, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Tolkin Dwarf Script, or or or...
For this, let's look at The Dark Eye. That system has about 12 different scripts for which there are not only character lookup tables in the gamebooks but also official grammar stubs and word lists in existence. Add to that some slight variants of the scripts and special ideograms for alchemy and gods and demons... One example package would be this font pack of 7 different scripts and glyphs.
I find that handing people handouts in those scripts often does disrupt the game flow if the players that actually have fluency in said language on their sheets need to use a lookup table and grammar text to actually read it, even if it is quite nice to mae the experience more imersive when player characters only have low fluency in the script and language1.
However, I have also encountered that handing out a plaintext translation to those that should be able to read it the text at times ends up with players handing that handout around without even roleplaying the act of informing the others of what they read there, which decidedly wasn't the idea. The idea of the handouts is to deepen immersion, and giving the players that do have spent on a language a chance for the spotlight in acting out translating the text.
How to best use non-latin fonts (with or without a cleartext translation), possibly in fantasy languages2, without disrupting the game flow and heighten immersion? Please back up your answers with how it worked at your table.
- The Dark Eye 4/4.1 do track languages as a skill and assign a complexity to each script & language. How good you are in a language/script is determined by the relation of the skill rank to the complexity. A single point means "I know this is X", 2 are basic concepts ("I hunger"). A skill of a third of the complexity is somewhat fluent with accent, half the complexity is fluent. A skill of the full or higher complexity means, you know super rare words like nudiustertian for "The day before yesterday". For example with scripts, someone with less than a third of the complexity of it is unaware that Rogolan has vovls at all. The most complex scripts use basically hyroglyphs or are iconographic.
- For the purpose of the question an example, using the word player to include the GM:
I know no player that speaks fluent dwarvish but some words are common and I have pretty sure never encountered a player that could fluently read or write the Dwarven runes provided by the game. Yet two characters had fluency in the Dwarven language of Rogolan on the degree of a native speaker and second-language respectively.
Of the players around one particular table one was fluent in reading/pronouncing Futhark and had studied Old Norse language, two were at least familiar with Futhark and could transliterate such texts with some ease. Other than that we had 3 Graecums and Hebraeicums, and 6 Latinums (proficiency degrees) at the game table as the group consisted of 3 students of theology, 2 of history, and 1 of archaeology - yes, at that point everybody at the table could, on a player level, translate Latin with a varying degree of need for a dictionary. But on a Character level, only 2 of the characters had the fantasy-stand-in for Latin (Bosparano) on their sheets.