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Understanding Translation

The Use of Unicode in translation services

When undertaking a localisation and translation project at PS, clients often ask what are the special requirements for viewing and editing the work once the translation is complete. The Answer varies depending on the nature of the assignment. If the work is a translation of a standard script and is to be presented in an office application such as MS Word, there should not be any issues in viewing the completed work. If the work involves translating and typesetting non-standard scripts (such as Arabic, where fonts may not be installed on the user's system, once complete we can provide viewable pdf files with all the required fonts embedded, allowing for any user (so long as they have Acrobat installed on their computer system) to view the work. However there are instances when the completed work will be viewed by multiple users (such as web based files) and there is little control over the systems they are using to view the work. When this is the case special parameters can be applied to the files which will enable users on multiple system platforms to view the files.

This article looks at the basics of the Unicode system, the universal character encoding system, which allows for the viewing of specific text over multiple platforms and explores the process involved in applying this to files. In essence, Unicode identifies characters and numbers by assigning a specific number or sequence of numbers to that character or number. Before Unicode was invented there were hundreds of different encoding systems for representing numbers and characters, none of which were suitable for representing all of the characters that may be needed on various computer systems, and also conflicted with one another by using the same number for two different characters. Unicode solves these issues by providing a unique number for every character. The premise of Unicode is to provide a universal system, "no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language".

By using this standard in its encoded form of UTF-8, localisation engineers and those involved in presenting multiple languages can utilise many scripts over a variety of platforms. For further information on Unicode and UTF- 8 please visit the link below:

The process involved in encoding your files (specifically HTML) is fairly straightforward. Firstly you will need to ensure the file is saved as a UTF-8 file. Both graphic based HTML editors (such as Adobe Dreamweaver) and text based editors (such as Notepad) make allowances to save as this file type. Often this will be set as default prior to commencing the editing of files, however, it is worth validating this.

You will also need to declare encoding in your page. The example below shows how this can be done in a standard HTML page. Please note the declaration will need to be declared in the <head> tag of an HTML page.

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8"/>

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