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Foreign Language Typesetting

At PS we pride ourselves on the broad range of translation services we offer. Often as part of a multilingual assignment we will not only be asked to translate and proof-read documentation, we will also be asked to provide the translation back formatted in a specific style. The stylisation of the text is known as typesetting, and this articles looks at the basic process involved and makes suggestions for document designers who are producing documents that are required in multiple languages. Typically, modern typesetting involves the creation of digital artwork that will later be printed or made available in a universal digital format such as PDF. But typesetting can also encompass the much broader field of localisation engineering, where a typesetter may be involved in the overwriting of text in digital files such as HMTL and XML. For the purpose of this article we will focus mostly on the formative.

It is important to understand that translation and typesetting are often carried out by two separate entities. Although at PS we strongly recommend the use of mother tongue typesetters, it is worth considering that translators are focused on the translation itself and the subject within. The typesetter, conversely, is concerned with the presentation of the text and is unlikely to be a trained linguist. During a translation and localisation assignment, it is usual for translators to work with a narrow set of text editing applications (such as MS Word) and to supply the typesetter with the translated text ready for them to then set in place. The typesetter's job is to then take the text and manipulate it into a prepared source document (which may have been previously supplied or created by the typesetter) making sure the document follows the style of the original.

Most modern typesetting studios are well equipped to handle multiple files simultaneously and can operate many typesetting applications. Some of the most typical applications in use at present include Adobe InDesign, Quark Xpress and, common for technical manuals, Adobe FrameMaker. One crucial reason to use a typesetting studio will be the access they have to fonts used in specific typefaces, especially for foreign language fonts. Its quite common to receive translated text in a non-standard script and be unable to read or view the text if the viewer does not have the required typeface installed on their system, and to them it may appear to be a series of nonsensical characters. Most good typesetting studios will have access to a wide variety of fonts and are able to convert your translated text into a form you are able to read (such as an embedded PDF etc.), or that you or printers can use and print (outlined EPS etc.). Traditionally, typesetting applications require various versions of that application to process different font types from different geographical regions (such as middle eastern Arabic). This, however, is changing and some applications (such as InDesign) now incorporate powerful tools which allow the typesetter to utilise foreign text within one application. This has been further advanced by the introduction of Open Type. Developed by Adobe and Microsoft, this font file format allows for cross-platform production (Mac and PC) and provides richer linguistic support and advanced typographic control.

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When creating the layout for documents that are to be translated into many different languages there a factors to take into consideration.

Firstly, it is worth planning to leave enough white space to account for the word growth that is common when the text is translated out of English into non-English languages. Typically, non-English languages take up to 30% more space than English text. If not enough space is available the typesetter may have to reduce the font size or alter the leading (the amount of space between lines of text) within the document. In extreme circumstances in maybe necessary to add additional pages to compensate for the extra translated text. These pages will need to adhere to the style and layout of the brochure, so it maybe worthwhile have a few extra "notes" or surplus pages in the source version.

When creating style sheets for your documents, it is also worth considering if the target language has any cultural conventions regarding the display of text. Such conventions can include the use of capitalisation within documents, the use of speech marks and any special characters commonly used within the text.

For further information on scripts and alphabets visit the Wikipedia article in the link below.

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