All about document translation

By Steve Donlon
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All About Document Translation

A high-quality document translation is well-formatted and high quality — even across multiple languages. Formatting, images, captions, and the like need to stay consistent.

Thanks to translation technology, localization know-how, and quality assurance measures, it’s possible to achieve seamless translations across different file types and versions. Let’s take a look at what goes into a document translation.

Prepare for formatting needs before translation starts

Most professional translation agencies, including Acclaro, use translation software, like a TMS, boosted by translation memory (TM) and machine translation (MT). To reap the benefits of TM, the first step is to get the content out of the document (including graphics). Then, the content goes into the TMS environment for translation, and then back into the document with the same formatting. This is where the fun begins!

Each language has its own characteristics that impact space and formatting. For example, many Asian languages use double-byte character sets. Then there are bi-directional languages like Arabic and Hebrew (meaning that text is read right-to-left). And translations for nearly every language pairing will take up a different amount of space. 

This means that translation will almost certainly impact every aspect of a document. The formatting (see below) must be verified in context for each language we handle.

Consider font rendering and support requirements

Thanks to the advancements in TMSs over the past decade, Most TMSs support main types of file formats. This makes it easier to work with all types of documentation across various formats. Once the files are uploaded into the system, the text is divided into translatable strings, and displayed in an easy overview that simplifies the work for translators. 

In many cases, there’s also a “view in context” setting. This allows linguists to see the original formatting, and understand the intent of the shown phrases (whether it’s a title, a bullet point, a caption, etc.). The linguist can then translate it in a way that perfectly fits the context. 

Up until recently, most publishing applications were developed in English-speaking countries by English-speaking companies. And they didn’t always take foreign language support into consideration! Once we got a perfectly good translation back into the document, it sometimes looked like a bunch of symbols and random characters. 

Today, we can count on font support across nearly all languages. So thankfully, the formatting generally doesn’t come out skewed at the other end. However, certain languages still present their own unique support challenges.

Allow space for text expansion in translation

The question of space, however, does still pose a problem. When the target language needs more words than the original (source) text, translators run out of space. The original document’s formatting no longer works the way it’s supposed to. 

To create global-ready content, leave space for translations that might require a higher character count. 

Check graphics, tables and indexes for accuracy

Since the amount of text changes in translation, it’s important to check every part of the document: graphics, tables, columns, page numbers, and headers/footers, as well as any cross-references and hyperlinks. 

Once that’s done, we review the table of contents (TOC), along with any indexes, for accuracy. Then, we ensure that any re-ordering (alphabetization, or for Asian languages, character organization following Pinyin, stroke count or radical number) is linguistically accurate. 

And finally, paper size isn’t the same the world over. A different page size, if required in a specific region, can affect how and where text appears on the page. Font support is generally well managed by TMS. Even so, as with all translations, it’s important to control quality every step of the way. 

Create global ready content and streamline document translation

So there you have it: Document Translation 101. It’s probably not as simple as you thought! While TMSs can handle many different languages and formats types, and publishing software has made huge strides, it’s helpful to set up your documents with translation in mind. 

At Acclaro, we take a collaborative approach to help you create documents that are global ready, and provide high-quality translations that are on time and on budget. Contact us to get started.

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