Technical insights into DTP
for document translation
DTP often fulfils an essential role in document translation as we discussed in several previous articles (please click here for more details). Today we will provide insights into the routine of DTP artists and explain some technical aspects of common situations in which DTP services are required.
Layout software and file formats
DTP professionals work with layout software. That is why they require a source package with editable working files from clients. It is a common misconception that files can easily be opened with any layout software, or that a .pdf can just be overwritten – in fact there are clear technical requirements and it is not that simple. A quality language service provider that offers DTP for document translations will be able to advise you if you have questions on this matter.
Texts that become longer or shorter
This is an issue that appears in most document translations. If the source documents are plain texts, DTP will normally not be required. For documents with layout, however, DTP can be beneficial or even necessary.
For example, think of a 10-page company brochure that is translated from English into German. German translations are usually approximately one third longer than English original texts, which means that the German brochure can easily have 13 or 14 pages. Of course, not only the text will appear on other pages, but also elements such as graphs and illustrations have to be moved. This does by no means happen automatically. Instead, DTP artists have to define 2-dimensional coordinates to re-position the elements. They might also change other element parameters (e.g. shape, size, transparency) to create appealing results.
Fonts, scripts, special characters, etc.
While many great fonts exist for English, font choices are much more limited for other languages. This does not only apply to languages with completely different scripts, such as Chinese, Japanese, Burmese or Khmer, but also to languages with Roman script that use diacritics or other characters that English does not have (e.g. Portuguese, French, Czech or Polish). Some fonts do not support diacritics of those languages at all, whilst others do support them, but look very unappealing. DTP artists, particularly those with significant experience in DTP localisation, know which fonts to use or how to develop bespoke solutions, for example when clients use certain standard fonts for all their business documents.
An image that works perfectly well in one cultural context might carry negative connotations in other settings. That is why alongside with translating texts, illustrations often have to be exchanged in the localisation process. Strictly speaking, when new illustrations (such as photographs or drawings) are created, that is considered a creative service rather than actual desktop publishing. Nonetheless, a quality one-stop solution provider should offer such services as part of its portfolio.
From the perspective of desktop publishing, exchanging an illustration is much more complicated than it might sound. DTP artists have to consider many different aspects: One very important issue, for example, is about the colours and problems that new images (with their colours) might cause: Do the colours of images and the colours of text harmonize well? Will the text content be legible, for example when black text appears on a dark background or when colour contrasts are not as strong as in the original document? Are there any no-go combinations (such as red text on a blue background, which seems to vibrate to the human eye)? What will the colours of images look like when they are printed on certain types of paper/foil, etc.?
Solutions for translation and DTP projects
As you can see from the examples above, there is much more to DTP for translations than commonly assumed, even though today we just touched upon a very small selection of issues. Good news is that with a quality language service provider that has suitable resources to offer turnkey solutions, clients do not have to worry about the details. What is important to remember, however, is that translation and DTP experts must work together under one roof, so that DTP and/or linguistic errors will be avoided.