There is always text expansion or contraction when you translate content from one language to another. It is important to take into consideration this expansion or contraction, especially when translating any marketing material, for example: brochures, presentations, or websites since you will need to revise, and adapt your layout and design for proper presentation. Text expansion in translation is inspected by graphic designers in the multilingual desktop publishing department of translation agencies or by the person responsible for testing/proofreading in the website localization process.
When a document is translated from English into another language, it usually takes more words to convey the same idea. It is always possible to handle text expansion when translating technical or marketing documents by tweaking it a little, although the presence of graphics, diagrams and images in any type of document makes the adjustment a bit more complex, if it wasn’t considered at the document creation stage. It is safe to design your layout assuming that English text will expand by 20 to 30% once translated. Every language has a different expansion percentage but, when it comes to adequate space, the expression “better to be safe than sorry” holds true. Remember that white space is not necessarily wasted space; it allows for a more versatile layout and can greatly increase the readability of a document.
A few elements to keep in mind for document translation:
- Pagination (the arrangement and number of pages): Does this need to remain the same as the original? Will references within the text be affected if the page numbering differs?
- Table of contents: Is consistency between languages important?
- Any areas (tables, diagrams, etc.) where your English document completely fills all available space can be problematic upon translation without layout adjustments.
When dealing with online material:
- Navigation elements and links can change in length and might cause problems in display.
- Online forms and page elements in your website, like graphics and buttons, may also need to be re-sized after translation.
Although easily overlooked, text expansion can affect much more than the visual consistency of your document and websites. It can bring higher cost to your project by adding hours of multilingual desktop publishing. By addressing the relevant elements that can change at the beginning of the process, during the design stages, and by designing with Internationalization practices in mind, layout sacrifices and rework can be avoided and reduced; saving you time and money.
To find related information about text expansion and localization, please read this post from our series of articles about website translation and localization.
Competing in a global economy and trying to reach other markets is exciting, and brings other activities to your marketing effort. You can charm customers by translating your products packaging, but in doing so you will need to incorporate other steps to ensure that you are doing it right. If you do not take the time to address important issues, instead of reaching potential customers, you will turn them off.
Recently, I went to the local hardware store to buy a replacement for my kitchen sink faucet. While trying to find the right faucet, one of the boxes caught my attention. Not because of its great design or the fact that it was the replacement I was looking for, but because it had a word in Spanish that I didn’t understand. They had used “acobado” for “acabado”; an obvious misspell in Spanish.
This shocked me because they are one of the leading companies for faucets and are well-known for the quality of their products. I was puzzled by the contradiction. They didn’t reflect the same quality in their packaging with poor translation and errors in the DTP. Their mistakes can be used as a guide for the elements you need to take into consideration while doing translation and Multilingual DTP:
- Check and update your TM’s: Be careful with your translation memories; if they have an error it can be repeated several times.
- Be consistent: Maintain order in the languages used in the packaging.
- a. Do not switch the order – From the beginning the language order on the packaging was: EN-SP-FR and, suddenly they switched it to: EN-FR-SP. Eyes get use to see things a certain way and that error can complicate the instructions. Be careful!
- b. Do not mix the languages – They introduced a French and an English word on a Spanish instruction.
- Always proofread: Especially after incorporating the translation into the design of your packaging. With this step, you will avoid errors that can be introduced by the designers while typesetting the translation. Proofreading is paramount with multilingual DTP after translation.
- Use the right people: Creating packaging in multiple languages requires more attention to detail. Use designers that know the languages or have your products proofread by someone who does.
Going global is fun and exciting but you need to do it with the appropriate resources and the right process in place. Two basic components for success are:
- Create a quality product
- Respect and take into consideration you target audience
When it comes to globalization, respecting your target customer’s language is critical to their understanding of your product and service offering.