Breathing Room: Designing for Translation

roomtobreathYou’ve created the perfect manual, press release or flyer. You send it to your language service provider for translation into seven languages. About a week later, you receive your translated document back and it looks awful in every single language for different reasons. That small chart is now running across two pages in French, your headings are wrapping across three lines in Russian and the German label doesn’t fit at all.

What went wrong?

Your document wasn’t designed for translation. Most languages are longer than English by as much as 30%. This is stretched farther when you need to include some English text in addition to the translated text. The solution? Your document needs some breathing room: Add extra space. When designing your documents, you should always design them with room to grow. Make sure your charts have extra space and that your fonts and page layout allow for longer titles and more volume of text. Don’t cram lots of text in a tight space, it’s not going to work in another language and it’s certainly not going to work the next time you need to add something to the English. Keep the designs simple. Simple is clear and easy to follow, but it is also more forgiving. You should also use styles and not manual formatting such as hard returns, those will not only affect how your translation looks, but it can also affect how the translator sees it. Let’s also not forget font choices; choose a font that has the characters for all of your target languages.

Realistically, your translation will never be formatted perfectly, but that’s where a good LSP and excellent proofreaders come in. They’ll know where to look and how to polish your hard work so that everything translates well.

Photo: Marcin Wichary

JLS Language Corporation offers high-quality translation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. We help bridge communication gaps in our diverse world, working in multiple languages and for many different industries, including medical, technical, and legal. JLS services include translation, interpreting, and website or software localization. Our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.

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