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How to translate in InDesign

How to translate a document in InDesign

Design and translation are often related, but how to easily translate a document in InDesign? How can I produce my product catalogue in six languages? Do I need to create six versions? What if I get modifications from my boss AFTER having copied all the translations into my original file?!

The short answer is, yes, you can easily translate a document in InDesign. But maybe not the way you are thinking…

Getting your copy to a translator

The first thing to bear in mind is that nobody translates directly in InDesign. There are very few graphic designers who are also translators, these are two very different skills.

So first, you will need to get your text to your translator. Professional translators and agencies (like Quicksilver Translate) use CAT Tools. CAT tools split a source text into manageable units known as ‘segments’. The software then builds databases of equivalent segments in different languages. The databases of these matching segments form a Translation Memory (TM).

From InDesign it is possible to export your file to an .idml file (the process is much the same as exporting to PDF). You should avoid manually extracting text (copy and pasting) from InDesign (your .indd file). The chances are you’ll miss bits of text, take text out of context, or make other similar errors.

An .idml file, on the other hand, can be imported directly into our CAT software, ensuring that nothing is missed, and the translator can view the copy in the correct context.

Preparing your file

If you’ll be producing your document in two or more languages, it is cost-efficient to consider this from the start. Different languages take up different amounts of space — often very different amounts, as is the case with English and Spanish, for example.

For this reason, if your design has considered only one language, you will have to adapt, maybe even re-design it, to accommodate the translation. For example, imagine you have a two page spread in Spanish, but the English translation only takes up one page. Or, even worse, the other way round, and you need to insert an extra page to accommodate the Spanish text.

Another important factor is to ensure that the text ‘flows’; that the format accepts text segments of varying length; and that you avoid the use of manual line breaks within paragraphs. If a sentence is spilt by a hard return (in order to avoid hyphenation, for example) this will appear to the software as two incomplete sentences. So, if you prefer not to hyphenate, use stylesheets, don’t do it manually!

For numbers and units we recommend using S.I. (International Standards). If you do not, you may have to adjust after translation to ensure clarity. Consider also, that different languages use different punctuation marks. For example, quotation marks vary from “English” to „German“ to ”Swedish” to « French ».

For these, and other reasons, we believe that the language service provider (LSP) should be involved in the process from the outset. We can prepare the InDesign file for you, to ensure that the translation process is smooth and efficient.

The process to translate InDesign files

So you’re ready to translate your InDesign file! You can send us a fully prepared .idml — it would be best to discuss this with your project manager first — and we will import it. Alternatively, you can send us your InDesign file and we will check that it is formatted properly for translation, before exporting to .idml.

Once we have your text imported into our CAT tools, the project manager:

  1. Analyses it against the Translation Memory (TM)
    If you are a regular client of ours, we will create a specific translation memory for your company. That means the software will ‘remember’ how each segment of text was translated. Subsequently, if the same segment appears again in future projects, the Translation Memory (database) will offer the ‘remembered’ translation as a suggestion. Saving you money on repeated or re-used copy.
  2. Create a file with only the new text segments for translation.
  3. The translator works on the document.
  4. The reviewer works on the document.
  5. The text is exported back to an .idml file, which can then be opened and saved, as normal, in InDesign.
  6. Finally, your project manager updates your translation memory for future use.

Post-translation adjustments

The translated document will have all the text included, and it will all be in the right place! Of course, there are often adjustments to be made. As discussed, you may have to adjust the layout to accommodate more or less text, or longer/shorter headlines, titles, captions, etc.

Furthermore, if the original file has not been correctly formatted with stylesheets, it can happen that the style will revert to ‘basic text’ and you will have to re-apply the correct styles.

For this reason, we offer post-translation DTP. Our expert will work on the translated document, to ensure that the translated version is an appropriate copy of the original.

Benefits to you

We are able to offer considerable savings to our customers by managing the DTP, as well as the translation(s) of an InDesign document:

  • Reducing Time-to-market — as soon as the translations are ready, you can release your document. No more to-ing and fro-ing between designers, translators and project managers.
  • Reducing Costs — you do not need to use a graphic designer for each version.
  • Considerably reducing the Hassle! All you need to do is send us the document, and we’ll send it back… finished!

Contact us for more information

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