Tips and Tricks for Laying Out a Document to be Translated


You’ve created a beautiful layout. The colors draw attention to your brand. The text has been expertly crafted to grab the attention of the most casual reader. And now you want to send to this to Europe and Asia with the same effect.
You’ll need a professional translation team for each language and desktop publishing (DTP) people who are used to handling foreign fonts. You knew that already, didn’t you? But did you know that there are ways you can make the DTP work easier, faster and less expensive all around? Here are some tips and tricks.
1. Remember that some languages shrink when translated from English. Chinese is one example. Give the DTP staff permission to enlarge the graphics and adjust the layout so your final file doesn’t look like someone stuck a postage stamp’s worth of text in your layout.
2. Some languages expand when translated from English. French, Spanish and Portuguese will be 25-35% larger, depending on the topic. Hmong may be 50% larger. Navajo will double in size. Differences in grammar account for some of this. If an adjective follows the noun with a linking word, that adds text. Another reason for expansion is that some languages lack the vocabulary and the translation team may need to explain terms within the text.
What does this mean for DTP? White space is king. Allow enough space for expansion within the layout or be prepared to shrink the font, adjust the margins, or even add pages. That can get expensive if you’re printing. Plus it makes your layout look like it was not created for those target languages. The best layouts look as polished in the translations as they do in English.
3. Send the live graphics if at all possible. If the DTP team can’t get into the graphics, they can’t put in the translations.
4. Don’t put text within your locked graphics. Yes, the DTP staff can handle that, but the process becomes time-consuming and, therefore, more costly. Even MSWord documents benefit from this. Inserting text boxes to cover the English so the foreign text can be typed in is a very slow process.
5. Send the DTP file itself for translation. Sometimes you may not have it, but know that recreating a layout from a PDF will cost just like creation of the original layout place.
6. Ask your translation/DTP team if they have the software to interact directly with your DTP program. Tembua’s professional translation management software can handle most of the DTP programs on the market. There are exceptions so please ask.
7. Think about the illustrations. Blond blue-eyed children may work in your geographic area but those pictures certainly wouldn’t speak to people in Korea, for example.
8. Consider the font. Ask your DTP team if all the glyphs will display in your font in all the languages you order. If they don’t know, you need to ask someone else. It is possible for text to look just fine to the untrained eye but still be missing bits and pieces of a font.
9. One more point—if you have ordered a right-to-left language like Hebrew or Urdu, consider how much time it will take to flip the layout, particularly sections that extend across pages. Keep it simple if at all possible.
Tembua is here to help! Even if we never do business together, contact us with questions. We like to talk about what we do!
Patricia May


About tembua

Tembua: The Precision Language Solution provides comprehensive linguistic services for 100 languages to private industry and government agencies on a global scale. Services include document and website translation and localization; conference and 24/7 telephonic interpretation; glossary development; proofreading, text adaptation, editing, multilingual design and DTP; transcription; technical / custom authoring editing, foreign search engine optimization; translation memory management; subtitling.
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