5 reasons why design and typesetting is essential for multilingual content

So you’ve translated your text, but something doesn’t quite look right in the formatting and layout of the document. You’ve got text overflowing, corrupted characters, images crashing and suddenly you have to reduce the font size to fit all the translated text on the page. Sound familiar?

During the translation process, text expands and contracts, meaning that the layout of your translated content doesn’t match the original source file. For example, did you know that Thai words have no spaces between them? Or that certain characters in Japanese cannot start or end a line?

When handling translated documentation, it certainly isn’t just a matter of copying and pasting text, changing the font and tweaking the layout.

Multilingual desktop publishing (DTP) is the process of ensuring that none of the above is an issue, by adjusting the design and typesetting.

At Capita TI we believe there are 5 very good reasons why you should leave this process to the professionals:

1. Did you realise that some of your graphics may be off-putting to your target audience?

So your promotional material includes a lovely photo of your staff with their thumbs up? Don’t even think about releasing this in Africa-this gesture is seen as the equivalent to giving the middle finger; in most countries red is an emblem of love and romance, but in China it signifies good fortune or luck; and stay away from using the colour black on documents in Chinese, it’s seen a symbol of evil.

2. Do you know which fonts are appropriate in certain cultures?

I bet you don’t have all foreign fonts installed on your PC do you? And even if you did, do you know which font people in Japan prefer to read? It’s not only important to have a grasp of reading preferences, but a knowledge of how to use different font weightings for effect is also vital too.

And did you know that in Korean texts for example, italics are very rarely used? It’s vital to come up with different strategies in these instances for displaying text.

3. Do you know what looks good on a page?

In English, maybe, but Chinese typesetting, for example, favours neatly aligned text, and the effect of white space on a page is important in this culture too. In Japanese texts, certain characters shouldn’t start or end a line, and had you even considered how the overall layout of the page will need to be revised for right-to-left languages? Have you thought about text expansion?

For example, when translating from English to Russian, you’ll end up with 30% more text – how do you fit this on your page?

4. How do you format different characters and alphabets?

In languages such as Thai that don’t generally have spaces between words, where do you break lines? This is referred to as line-wrapping, but lines must wrap at the end of a word, not mid-word. How would you know where the appropriate point was, unless you spoke the language? And for texts that read right-to-left, how do you handle the usage of English words?

5. Do you have the software to handle certain languages?

In most design programs Indian or Arabic text for example will not display correctly without specific software.

Your translation could end up looking like gibberish in its target language, causing frustration amongst your customers and a waste of money on your part.

Working with languages that you are not used to and have no real understanding of can be a real head-ache. Knowledge of precisely how text should display in that language is crucial, and this is where we can help. We’re on hand to provide professional DTP specialists as well as the latest technologies in Desktop Publication.

If you want your translated text to look as good as the source file, don’t waste any more time trying to re-size text, inserting wrong characters or badly placed line-breaks, simply fill in the form below with your details and any requirements, and we’ll get in touch.



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