;   Medical Translation Insight: Taking the pain out of translating text in images - ForeignExchange Translations

Taking the pain out of translating text in imagesWhen translating CMC documentation, SOPs, or regulatory submissions, we regularly run into graphics that contain text to be translated. Translating text contained in images can be a slow and frustrating task.

The main problem? Source files that are not available to translators. So we're often left with manually extracting text and then recreating or editing images.

One strategy for making images easily translated would be for drug and device companies to more broadly support the open standard SVG format. Text in an SVG image can be changed without changing the rest of the image because an SVG file is itself a text file.

One of the main advantages of SVG is that the image file itself is the source file. However, SVG as a format is not widely supported by many applications. Therefore, it is often necessary to export SVG to a supported format to use it on a web page - which leaves us with the same problem of keeping and then making available to translators the source SVG files.

Despite the fact there is no "easy fix", there are some good tools out there to help with localizing. One such tool is Bjorn Austraat's Globalization Image Assistant (GIA).

The tool can speed up the time needed to the task of analyzing, preparing, and QAing graphic images. Two items that would make GIA even more useful would be if it included the actual graphic in the exported reports and if it had a tie-in to OCR. GIA is definitely worth the investment!

However, to address our specific needs, the ForeignExchange team ended up developing a macro that extract graphics into a Word table with the file path, graphic image, and 2 columns for entry of source/target text. To populate the source text, we use the following process:

  1. Create a DOS directory listing of all graphics.
  2. Turn the listing into an HTML page with links to all the graphics.
  3. Print the HTML page to the Microsoft Office Document Image Writer print driver, which then opens in the MS application that allows you to OCR the text.
  4. Select Tools -> Send Text to Word.
Of course, as with any OCR endeavor, the text is only as clean as the original file. Proofreading is highly recommended!

Dealing with scanned images and text is a fact of life in the medical translation space. However, GIA or homegrown solutions can help you take some of the frustration out of the process!

UPDATE: A previous version of this article mentioned a $99 price for GIA. It seems that was an introductory offer.

Contact ForeignExchange to find out more about our specialized medical translation services for CMC documentation, SOPs, and regulatory submissions.


  1. amaxson said...
    Graphics are tricky! FX's homespun tool works great, and while I haven't used the other tool mentioned, I think the point about proofreading the graphics is the key! Even when we 'extract' the text manually and type out a word table, there is still room for human error. Any of the processes only work if the translator/proofer/QA'r are all paying attention to the source v. target.
    Also, I just wanted to mention just because a file has an .svg extension does NOT mean the text will be editable. There is a good chance it will be, but something to be aware of. There is not a single graphic extension that can guarantee without double checking that the text will be editable in the source.
    SK said...
    Have you tried SnagIt software (http://www.techsmith.com ) ? It is "cut and paste" tool which helps when the customer don't want to provide source file for the translation...
    Valerij Tomarenko said...
    Am I the only one who - almost always - resorts to Adobe Photoshop when translating text in images? Probably, any image editor would do, but with PhotoShop, you could change and shape the text so flexibly you'd hardly see the image was modified.
    Anonymous said...
    Globalization Image Assistant actually costs $298.00 not $99.00.
    Thats a lot of money.
    J Nelson Rn BSN

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