You’ve no doubt heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But how does that apply to translation? To put it simply, words aren’t the only thing that can get lost in translation. Without special precautions, the visual impact of your content can easily get lost in the shuffle.
For example, international typesetting is trickier than it might initially seem to the uninitiated. However, ignoring its complexities can make your translations look unprofessional or even unreadable. Here are 5 reasons multilingual typesetting is harder than you think:
Multilingual Typesetting Pitfall #1: Formatting
Text formatting conventions can vary between languages, even languages that are closely related. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:
- Hyphenation and line breaks: Different languages have different rules about if, when and where you can use hyphens. For example, there are no hyphens in Arabic. English allows them in a variety of circumstances, although grammar experts and organisations disagree on the particulars. German, on the other hand, allows hyphens, but only in certain locations. And then there are languages like Thai, which don’t have spaces in between words but do have rules about where the next line can begin.
- Text Direction: In English, of course, we read from left to right. But that’s not true for all languages. In Arabic, Hebrew and Persian, text is written (and read) from right to left. This might mean you need to reverse the entire layout of your document. And what if there is some Latin text embedded in the document and left untranslated? That can get really interesting!
- Numbers: Different countries write numbers in different ways, too. For example, some countries use a comma where we would use a decimal point, and vice versa.
- Alignment: Standards for how to align text also vary from language to language. For example, in Chinese, it’s important that text is aligned precisely and justified on both sides, if possible. Meanwhile, Arabic is almost never aligned to the left.