Tips for designing documents for translation

Multilingual Design

If you are creating a document layout that will only be used in English, you can take a great deal of liberty in the methods you use to achieve this. However, when you are designing documents in InDesign or other design applications with the intent of translation and multilingual desktop publishing, how you set up the design template can have a big impact on how easy it will be to create different language versions.

If you can adopt the practices below it will improve the adaptability of your layouts for translation, which will save both time and money on any multilingual layout projects you require.

Consistent Styles

Multilingual Design

We recommend you use paragraph and character styles and, ideally, your final file should have a professional catalogue of cascading paragraph and character styles with no manual/local formatting overrides (“+”). This is important because the programs we use to streamline the transfer of text between your documents and our translation process use this style information when inserting the translated texts back into your document template. If a file does not have well-defined paragraph and character styles, then often we will need to spend time “cleaning” and preparing your original file to ensure the most efficient translation and consistent typesetting result (especially for large documents).

Space for Text Expansion

Multilingual Design

It’s advisable to leave as much white space as possible on the page to accommodate the text expansion that occurs when translating from English into many other languages. The amount will vary according to the language, but it is usually around 25%. Note: Pacific Island languages can increase anywhere from 25% to 100%! On the other hand, Chinese script can take up 20-30% less space than a typical English source text.

If not enough space has been allotted we may need to consider changing the font size; changing the character and line spacing; or new page/s may even need to be added. Since the text may be longer and flow differently, it’s also possible that some images will have to be re-positioned and the entire document may look a little different.

Other Template Tips

  • Use a minimum number of columns. If the columns are too narrow, you may end up with lines that have only one word or too many hyphens. For example, in German, some words may be at least twice as long as in English.

  • Limit your use of or avoid text embedded in graphics (aka ‘flat’ graphics that are uneditable within your document). To translate such graphics we need to have the original editable graphic files. If they’re not available we will need to craft or in extreme cases recreate the graphic and/or document to meet the standards required for our translation process.

Multilingual Design

Text embedded in graphics that require translation, once translated, can also change the look of the document, as there are often space issues when text length increases following translation.

  • Use real tables. Some InDesign users manually draw vertical and horizontal lines to ‘create’ a table. With text expansion this then means that we have to manually resize such ‘tables’. Whereas with real tables, all cells adjust themselves to fit the text from text expansion.

Optimising your documents for translation can be an art form in itself, so if you have any questions about the above tips or would like more information, please feel free to contact us and our friendly and experienced Art Department will be more than happy to help.

#multilingualdesign #NZTC #InterpretingNewZealand

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