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The Basics of Multilingual DTP


Kristin Kehoe

Project Manager

Ian Gilchrist

PureFluent Roving Reporter

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August 13, 2019

In this entry, PureFluent Project Manager Kristin Kehoe outlines the basics of Multilingual Desktop Publishing (DTP).

Ian:Let’s start with the obvious – just what is DTP?

Kristin:Desktop Publishing simply refers to the creation of a page layout or design using specialist software like InDesign or Microsoft Publisher, often undertaken by someone with graphic design abilities. The goal is to create attractive, user-friendly online or print ready material.

The creation of multilingual DTP involves adjusting the design of content in a way that is suitable and effective for each language translation that’s been created.

Ian:Is the translation process tricky for these DTP formats? What sort of challenges does multilingual DTP throw up?

Kristin:Every language has its own structure, so the space required to fit the text properly within a web page or a document can vary, sometimes dramatically; when translating from English to Spanish, French, Italian or German, text will likely expand by 15-30%, while other languages like Chinese, Korean, Finnish and Swedish may contract by 10-15%.

Businesses put a lot of time and effort in to getting their English content just right, but often don’t consider how a translation might substantially change the layout.

Businesses tend to put a lot of time and effort in to getting their English content just right, but often don’t consider how a translation might affect and substantially change a layout. DTP experts may need to make design changes including resizing images, selecting fonts that work best for various alphabets, and completely rearranging a layout to accommodate a translation.

Ian:Can you provide us with an example of multilingual DTP gone wrong?

Kristin:Sometimes customers don’t realise the importance of font selection – I’ve seen 2 or 3 different fonts used within a single word (yes literally!) because certain characters in a language didn’t correspond with the font of choice. This can look terrible once you’ve printed a brochure or product label.

My goal is to ensure that my customers have the best content in their translated materials, which includes ensuring that their layouts look great, fonts work well and there is consistency across the translated versions.

Ian:What planning should someone do when preparing a DTP project for the translation phase?

Kristin:We always recommend that people talk to us during the design phase with their original content. We can provide advice on fonts, text expansion rates, and leaving white space to allow for a bit of wiggle room for the translated text.

Ian:So is there an ideal workflow for multilingual DTP?

Kristin:We’d like to be involved in the initial design phase so we can advise on font choices and text expansion rates. The next step is a standard translation, just as in most other translation projects: translation followed by proofreading.

A client review of the completed translation is a really good idea before the DTP commences because spotting a translation you don’t like once it’s been printed can be very expensive. Once the text is approved we do the design layout and this is sent back to a native speaker translator to review the design layout, checking for any layout issues that may have cropped up. Translators share their notes with us and we implement the required layout changes, and when the changes have been made the file is ready for delivery to the customer.

Ian:Are there any other things that customers should consider?

Kristin:Some translations will always require DTP to be handled from start to finish by a native speaker. Arabic for example is written from right to left and has a completely different alphabet from English, and since the text is read right to left the layout of images and graphs will be moved to mirror this. Asian languages also require special fonts, which of course has a major impact on design. The best thing is to talk to us as early as possible because we can help make sure everything goes smoothly right from the start!

About the authors

Kristin Kehoe

As a Project Manager at Purefluent, Kristin manages the translation workflow for customers in the UK, Netherlands, and Italy.
With more than a decade of experience in the non-profit sector in the US, Jamaica, and England, Kristin brings a unique combination of project management skills and cross-cultural awareness to the role.

See all posts by Kristin Kehoe
Ian Gilchrist

Ian has worked in music and home entertainment product development, marketing, and journalism in the U.S., Canada and the UK, where he currently lives, for over 30 years.

In that time he's has aided and abetted an eclectic array of artists including Alison Krauss, Talking Heads, Madeleine Peyroux and Slade, and has worked for a diverse range of labels and companies including Universal Music (Canada), Pioneer LDC (Europe), Milan Records (France), the British Film Institute (BFI), Rounder Records Group (Canada) and BMG (UK). In his guise as a film journalist Ian's interviewed many renowned and influential people, including director John Carpenter (Halloween), actors Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Tom Hardy (Venom), director Roman Polanski (Chinatown), and many more.

See all posts by Ian Gilchrist

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