Skip to content

Bilingual RTF files and how to use them

What are bilingual RTF files?

Bilingual RTF files can be read, reviewed, translated or edited in Microsoft® Word®, and similar word processing software, without the need for specialised translation software. Furthermore, some translation tools make it more efficient to work with them.

A Bilingual RTF file contains segments of translatable source text, their translated equivalents, and special segmentation codes that separate these. The source text and the segmentation codes are hidden, making it possible to easily scan the translated text in Word when hidden text is not displayed. Displaying hidden text in the word processor application reveals the structure and source text. By exporting a translated document to this format, any user can work on a document prepared using specialised translation software.


A segment is the basic semantic unit of a text. A segment could be an entire sentence, or it can be a small group of words: ‘the red house’, for example.

Once our software has split the text into segments, the translator goes to work, translating the segments one by one. Once a segment has been translated, the Translation Memory (TM) ‘learns’ what it means, and the next time a text is put into that TM, it will search for any segments it has already learned. The TM learns that ‘the red house’ means ‘la casa roja’ in Spanish and, the next time that it comes across ‘the red house’ in an English-to-Spanish translation, it automatically suggests the translation it knows.

Translation Memory

A translation memory stores all of the segments pertaining to a particular client. This enables a consistency of translation in the work we do. Naturally, we build a TM for each of our clients. So regardless of which translator works on a given text, we use consistent terminology in all translations for them. TMs also enable us to store industry-related terms, guaranteeing a precise and accurate translation of technical vocabulary.

Translation Memories improve workflow and allow greater flexibility in translation. TM databases adapt themselves to the needs of different clients and different contexts. They are highly customisable, and the bigger they get, the better!

How to use bilingual RTF files

In many cases, translators need to cooperate with users of other software products. For example, many clients prefer to have their translated documents edited or proofread by their own reviewer or proofreader. In this case, a translated document can be exported into bilingual RTF format, and passed on to the reviewer. The reviewer can then make any changes they require, easily, within Word. When the finished work is sent back to us, we can “merge” the translated or proofread segments back into our translation software – and save them in the TM.

The benefits of this process include:

  • Streamlined collaboration between the Language Service Provider (LSP) and you, the client.
  • Multiple users can contribute to the same project — it is totally editable by anyone (in Word).
  • It is compatible with Translation Memory — which means translations can be saved and re-used for future projects.
  • It allows for pre-translation (by machine or human).
  • Both the client and the translator can add comments/suggestions to aid the process.
  • It’s light! That is to say, there’s no heavy graphics, or complex procedures to learn.
  • Once edited, the file can be simply re-imported into the TM — avoiding a manual process which costs time, money and mistakes.
  • It allows clients to modify translations which will end up being used in another format (eg: InDesign).
  • Bilingual RTFs are much better than comments in a PDF; which often can be misunderstood or overlooked, and can lead to time-consuming manual changes.

QA (Optional)

Modifications occasionally add typos or grammatical errors. Our software will, of course, import the text as it is provided to us. However, we offer an optional QA check; this process looks for, and corrects, spelling and grammar mistakes.

Contact us to find out more!

Related Posts