;   Medical Translation Insight: Why are there DTP numbers on my quote? - ForeignExchange Translations

Why are there DTP numbers on my quote?

Why are there DTP numbers on my quote?Medical device clients who are new to translation are often surprised when they receive an estimate to translate documents, and they see desktop publishing (DTP) or production hours on their proposal. Typically, they think something along the lines of, "we already spent money with the advertising and regulatory agencies to create these files, we don't need any more work done on them; they just need to be translated".

In reality, both "DTP" and "production" are misnomers in the translation and localization industry. A better definition would be document reconstruction.

The ideal document translation process goes through four steps:

  1. A DTP specialist manually cleans up the file to make it more translation friendly (removes bad line breaks, extra spaces, etc.), and then uses automatic software tools to extract the text into a translation file format.
  2. Next, linguists use a Computer Aided Translation tool to open and translate this extracted text.
  3. Reviewers and Editors further refine the translation in this same file format.
  4. And finally, the DTP Specialist imports the translated and edited text back into the layout using the same automatic tools that extracted the text.
At this point, the document reconstruction tasks begin. Typically, the translated text can increase in word and line count by up to 30%. Some languages, like Russian or Bulgarian can even take up to 50% more room on the page, due to the shape of the Cyrillic characters and wider character spacing. If the layout size or the page count cannot be increased, it may require fussy cleanup-work to produce an acceptable translated document.

Uncommon and old DTP software, or complex regulatory procedures only adds difficulty, because there are fewer automatic software tools to speed up the process resulting in more manual production tasks. In worse case scenarios, word-by-word or character-by-character are copy and pasted back into the layout.

In the dream world of the future, XML with a Content Management System likely will eliminate much of the DTP time during a translation project, because content separates from the format. But for the time being, DTP remains an important (and sizable) part of the translation process.

Take a look at ForeignExchange's desktop publishing and multimedia services for medical device and pharmaceutical companies and request a detailed proposal for your next multilingual desktop publishing project.


  1. Eve Bodeux said...
    I really like the term "document reconstruction" as it gets to the heart of it! And, I appreciate your accurate and clear step-by-step explanation of the process!
    Anonymous said...
    >> A DTP specialist manually cleans up the file to make it more translation friendly <...>

    Of course, different document formats require different approaches (although it would be nice to have a one-size-fits-all tool). Just wanted to mention one solution I saw not so long ago: a utility that can be added as a plugin for Photoshop and Illustrator, which is also connected to an MT engine. This way, a designer can create a template and "pretranslate" layers with text to approximate their geometry after translation. The idea would be not to create a pristine translation but to internationalize the PS or AI template.

    Iouri Tchernoousko, Photoshop localization PM at Adobe
    amaxson said...
    How we get the text out is often a stumbling block of understanding with clients new to translation. (Or, new to the transparency within the process that ForeignExchange offers).

    First, it needs to be clear to the client that we do not actually translate IN the source (InDesign, QuarkXPress, etc) file. We need to get the text into a format that translators can work with.

    I often explain this as taking a 'vacuum' and sucking the text out of the document. That vacuum then puts the text into another program, that translators can work in. When it comes back from translation/edit/etc, we use the same vacuum to suck the text out of the translate-able format and put it back in the original file format.

    In this process, things can get a little moved around. It is necessary for a DTP specialist to clean the file back up and make it pretty again.

    Of course, this is a simplified explanation of how this all works, but it has helped a few clients understand the process without understanding the mechanics.
    Gary Neal said...
    Thanks for the post. I too like the term document reconstruction rather than document translation. So much of translation is about getting the grammar and finer things of the language so it actually sounds like the language.

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