In the last 10 years, file type support in modern translation environments such as SDL Trados Studio has come a long way. As a result, most documents that are sent for translation can be opened and translated smoothly today without further preparation or post-processing which, in the past, used to be a common task in the translation process.
However, even today, the results might not be optimal in some cases. For example, translators can encounter situations, where sentences are cut off in the middle and continued in the next segment, making the content difficult to translate.
When files are difficult to process, they can sometimes take a very long time to load in the translation editor, if they can be opened at all. Once opened, translators sometimes have to wait several seconds when progressing from segment to segment.
Translators might also encounter situations, where a customer is unhappy, because text got translated that shouldn’t have been or, even worse, some content was not translated at all (i.e. the translation editor did not even make it available for translation in the first place).
Translators working into double-byte, right-to-left, and eastern European languages may find out, after completing their translation, that the text is looking garbled in the target language document or does not even show at all.
Another common problem: the layout of the translated document looks completely distorted, therefore a lot of time has to be spent fixing it after translation.
To sum up the above-said – we are living in 2019 and still, we are far from a 100% trouble-free translation process. In many cases, a considerable amount of engineering effort has to be applied to make documents translatable or to fix layout issues after translation. Why is this happening and how can customers be educated to avoid or at least minimize bad surprises like these in the future?
Here are a few useful tips with general recommendations to share with your clients that will help to get the best translation results out of their documents from the very start (which will also save your project managers a good deal of time). Most of them should be taken into account whilst creating the content, i.e. in the authoring process:
- Avoid monolithic documents that are hundreds of mega-bytes in file size, rather organise content into smaller chunks in order to avoid memory problems on the translator’s PC. In modern translation environments, such as SDL Trados Studio, the text is extracted from the source document and put into a bilingual intermediate document that will contain the source and the target text while the translator is working on the file. Since the intermediate bilingual file contains both source and translated text, the text is actually doubled, thus the file size of the intermediate file might become very large.
- Leave room in the layout for the translated text as it will expand in most cases. For example, Roman languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian but also Eastern European languages such as Polish, Russian, Croatian, Serbian etc., compared to the same content in English will show a considerable text expansion. As a result, the translated text in many cases may no longer fit nicely into the layout.
- Avoid text on pictures (JPG, PNG, TIFF) as in most cases, it cannot be extracted for translation. When creating translatable content, avoid the text functions in graphics applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Rather use InDesign, Word, Framemaker etc. to create the translatable content and the graphics application to create the visual content.
- Avoid paragraph breaks in the middle sentences rather use soft line breaks for that purpose. Remember that when translatable text gets imported in a translation editor, the text is segmented, i.e. the translation editor creates smaller chunks, e.g. each sentence will become a segment. If you use the paragraph break to layout a document, the segments will get cut off in the middle and translation will become a nightmare.
- Use styles, avoid manual formatting when creating layouts. Avoid creating indents using space or tab characters – if at all possible, use styles with automatic indentation
- When selecting a corporate font as part of your corporate identity, plan ahead whether you need to localise and into which languages you need to localise. Select a corporate font for your CI that supports all character sets of the languages you want to get your content localised into.
- Avoid sending PDF files to translation. Prefer open formats. Even if content can in many cases be extracted from generated or scanned PDFs, the resulting target layout will not look as nice as when working with the underlying open text format.
- Avoid embedding PDF documents into the main document, rather embed the open formats as those can be imported into the translation editor in most cases.
- Before sending documents for translation, make sure you know which text must be and should not be translated and make sure to tell the translator or LSP about it. Modern translation environments such as SDL Trados Studio avail of many functions that allow translators to include or exclude text for translation and thus control, which parts of the document are imported or ignored for translation.
If you’re interested in hearing more useful file preparation tips like the ones I have provided above, this September I will be taking part as a guest presenter in SDL’s webinar series on File preparation made easy for LSPs. The first session of this three-part webinar series is all about ‘How to help your clients get their files in the right shape for translation’ which will be useful for those who often receive difficult files to work with.
You can now also read part 2 of this blog where I provide additional tips for processing specific files such as InDesign, QuarkXPress, XML, Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.