How to prepare your source documents for translation

How to prepare your source documents

Some tips on how to create source files ready for translation

You can save a lot of time and money if you prepare the source documents with the need for translation in mind. Computer-aided translation tools (CAT tools) move from segment to segment as the translator works his way through your document. When a segment is translated, it is added to the memory of the CAT tool (translation memory, or TM) and it will offer the translation to the translator the next time he comes across the same segment. The CAT tool works ideally when the segments that are meant to be identical are actually identical. 

You can benefit from the shorter turnaround times and lower unit prices for matches coming from the translation memory if you keep the following in mind.

Provide editable files instead of pdf files

Pdf is not meant to be an editable file, therefore it cannot be directly processed by a CAT tool. First, it needs to be converted into a different file format (e.g. Word) where you lose most of the formatting e.g. the text breaks at the end of lines and not at the end of sentences. This results in an incorrect segmentation of the text where CAT tools can no longer recognize what has been translated.

Write clearly and consistently

Try to write brief, clear sentences avoiding subordinate clauses as much as it makes sense. The more consistently a text is segmented, the more likely the segments are picked up by the translation memory system. 
Do not use any cultural references as they may not work well in a different environment. The same applies to humour. Similarly, try to avoid using idiomatic expression as they carry an increased risk of being misinterpreted.

Avoid line breaks

Both hard line breaks (Enter) and soft line breaks (Ctrl + Enter) can prevent CAT tools from identifying segments correctly. A hard line break is always interpreted as the end of a segment by a CAT tool so if it is in the middle of the sentence, the sentence is divided into two inconsistent parts. Soft line breaks are not considered to be ends of segments, so if you use them in a list of items, they will appear in the same line for the translator and he will need to adapt them manually.

Allow for variations in the length of the text

The translated text is almost never the same length as the source text. In the case of a document translated from English into Hungarian, be prepared for average extension of 10%. This also means, for example, that manual page breaks introduced for formatting purposes in the source document will no longer be valid in the target document. 

Apply automation

In line with the previous point, use automatic table of contents, indices and cross-references so that the modified lenghts will not have an effect on these items.

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