Multilingual Typesetting: The Difficulties!

Typesetting is the careful arrangement of text on a page and so when it comes to translating text, the original typeset may not suit.

The way your text is displayed can have a huge effect on the visual impact of your content and when the text shuffles around due to changes in word length and sentence structure, this can easily be lost. For this reason, implementing multilingual typesetting can be notoriously difficult, particularly if you don’t have the experience you need. Here, we’re looking at some of the key difficulties behind successful multilingual typesetting.

Formatting

Typical formatting conventions can differ hugely between languages and if not adjusted correctly, you can face a number of pitfalls with your typesetting. While it might seem obvious, text direction will make a huge difference to the typesetting needed. English, as we all know, reads from left to right, but languages such as Hebrew, Urdu and Arabic read from right to left. In these cases, you may need to reverse the layout of your pages completely. Numbers can also throw off the typeset between languages, as can hyphenation and line breaks. Some languages have different standards for hyphenation and numbers (e.g. commas vs decimal points), and so these grammatical differences need to be taken into account.

 

Design Elements

Some of the most common languages for translated documents can actually lead to content that is up to 300% longer than English, or more! Spanish translations, for example, typically result in text that is up to 25% longer, which can change the necessary typesetting in order to keep the impact of the design. Some Asian languages, on the other hand, require more horizontal space than typically necessary with English publications and implementation will need to be adjusted accordingly.

 

Text Size and Fonts

Finesse is something you’re going to need in abundance when it comes to the size and style of the fonts you’ve chosen. In some cases, you’ll need more space between lines, more vertical or horizontal space, different fonts that can accommodate certain characters, letters and diacritics, and more. If you’re using an original font, you’ll need to make sure it can handle all of the extra characters needed when translating, from the aforementioned accent marks to different character styles or symbols.

 

Software Issues

You may find that the typesetting software in use doesn’t agree with some languages, particularly for scripts such as Arabic or Devanagari. If this is the case, there may be additional plugins or software that you need to download to make sure that the content can be typeset correctly, will full utilisation of every character and mark within the language without having to jump between different programmes too often.

Please do not assume that simply choosing a different font and reversing the direction works – it doesn’t. We have experienced some of our clients doing this, only to find that the words are in the correct order but the letters in each word are not! If you do not speak the language, you probably won’t notice this… Using native speaking typesetters avoids this.


If you are unsure on any of the above, our multilingual typesetting implementation ensures that all of the above is taken into account and dealt with before it can cause any concerns. Our knowledgeable experts have experience in adjusting and adapting to various languages and have the tools and processes in place to ensure seamless typesetting across a multitude of languages. Contact our team for more information, today.

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