Five translation challenges in desktop publishing (DTP services)

Published on May 2nd, 2017


Desktop publishing (DTP services) poses a number of challenges when it comes to translating documents – especially for visual projects. Whether you’re creating blueprints in AutoCAD, leaflets in Adobe InDesign or a presentation in PowerPoint, some planning ahead will make it much easier to take your documents to multilingual audiences.

Here are five DTP translation challenges found in DTP services and how to overcome them.


#one: Fonts

Just because your font choices are supported in English, it doesn’t mean they’ll be suitable for your target languages. You may find accented characters, letters or entire writing systems are unsupported in your chosen fonts once it comes to translation.

In fact, your chances of finding fonts that support European languages, Asian writing systems and scripts like Arabic are very slim. Google’s Noto Fonts project aims to provide some options to this problem but this doesn’t give you much choice in terms of style. So, in most cases, you’ll have to choose a combination of fonts if your list of target languages is diverse.


#two: Text length

Something you can’t avoid with DTP translation is text shrink or expansion. Words and sentences also change length when they change languages and you can suddenly find the structure of your document falls apart upon translation.

This can be particularly frustrating for visual documents where text length, font size, spacing and other design choices have been carefully considered. You may find this is made better or worse by playing around with your fonts styles or choice, which adds another layer of complexity into the equation.


#three: Layout changes

A common side-effect of text expansion in desktop publishing services projects is that layouts no longer work. In fact, you could find your entire design no longer holds together if there’s a drastic change on word or sentence length. This makes consistency across multiple languages a real challenge, which can be especially problematic for advertising campaigns and other marketing materials where brand consistency is important.


#four: Localising graphics

If your original document has graphic elements, these may need to be localised for regional audiences. Sometimes, it’s a simple case of changing colours or icons to match local interpretations but you could find the whole concept of your graphics is lost on some audiences if there’s a strong thematic element to them.

Again, if your entire design is based around visual themes that don’t translate, then your whole approach needs a rethink.


#five: Some things simply don’t translate

This is a fact of translation: sometimes there’s no way to capture the same meaning in another language. It could be because the original text is too complex or the relationship between source and target languages is too distant, and this is quite a common scenario.

If you have a lot of text to translate or use rich language, then there’s a good chance you’ll come across this situation. In some cases, you may be able to find a close alternative and be done with it but if you’re dealing with creative language, you may have more of a challenge on your hands.


How do your overcome these challenges?

Our DTP services can help you publish documents in every target language you need, but the best way to overcome these challenges is approaching us before you create the original documents. This way we can help you conduct the right kind of research and make informed design choices that reduce the risk of running into such problems.

For example, with our help you can create a list of font options that cater to your language needs and avoid creating original documents with problematic font choices. We can also help you word you documents in a way that reduces text shrink/expansion and advise you on how much variation to expect, allowing you to pre-empt this in your original design.

As with any DTP translation project, research and preparation can save a lot of problems further down the line, so get in touch with our team of DTP specialists if you need any further guidance on this.

Posted on: May 2nd, 2017