Translating PDF documents

One of the most common file types we receive for translation is PDF, which stands for Portable Document Format. PDF documents are simple to create and are an easy, secure way to share information over the internet. Unfortunately, they are not so easy to handle when it comes to translation.

The use of PDF is so widespread – so we should take a moment to review what a PDF is and why it is used. In simple terms, a PDF is a picture of a document. A PDF can be created from another program, such as MS Word or InDesign, or it can be generated by scanning a hard copy document. People generally use PDF documents when they want to:

By nature, a PDF is not meant to be edited; if you’ve ever tried, you probably know how frustrating it can be! Therefore, translations cannot be done directly into a PDF document. It is also very difficult – and sometimes impossible – to get an accurate word count from a PDF document which makes it hard to get an accurate cost quote.

So, when a PDF file crosses your desk for translation, here are some things to consider in order to save considerable time and frustration:

  1. Whenever possible, give your Language Service Provider (LSP) access to the source documents from which the PDF was created, including links, fonts, graphics and any other elements. This will allow them to provide an accurate cost quote and will ensure that the end result is a translated file that is identical to the source format and layout.
  2. Prior to translation, make sure the source file allows for the translated text to expand or contract. Words tend to expand or contract (get longer or shorter) when translated, so make sure the spacing within your document is flexible, especially within images.
  3. Let your LSP know which operating system was used to create the source file, as this can affect fonts, amongst other things.

If you do not have the source file from which the PDF was created, or if you only have a PDF scan of a document, your LSP will only be able to provide a text translation. The layout and formatting will not be identical and will not contain any images or graphics.

Getting the right pieces together can make all the difference between a successful project and a complete nightmare. Our trained Project Management and Sales teams will be glad to provide you with more details and help you in the process!



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