Not all files are suitable for translation in their original form. Some files require pre-processing; that is, conversion into a translation-friendly format—one that a computer-aided translation (CAT) program will recognize. This post explains this process in detail.
Files requiring re-creation of formatting generally include:
- Scanned documents
- PDFs created by programs such as InDesign, when clients cannot provide the underlying files (e.g., INDD or IDML in case of InDesign files).
Why a separate service?
With this type of file, clients usually expect to receive the translation as DOCX files closely matching the original formatting. This leaves translation vendors with two options:
- They can translate these files by opening a clean DOCX file and typing the translation directly in the file (usually a bad idea).
- They can re-create the original layout in a DOCX file first and then translate the resulting file.
Since vendors have to re-create formatting anyway, either before or during the translation process, I recommend doing it in advance. Among other things, this allows using a CAT tool, improving the quality of translation. Other advantages are described in the article about optical character recognition for translation buyers.
Re-creating formatting from scratch is a time-consuming task, not directly related to translation itself—i.e., it is a separate service. With larger files, re-creation of formatting may take three, or four, or eight hours before translation can even begin. Note that if the client had sent a well-formatted DOCX file instead, the price of translation would have been the same, but no additional formatting work would have been necessary. This distinction clearly shows that re-creating formatting is a service completely separate from translation itself.
Avoiding getting upset
It is not uncommon for translation agencies to assume that running files through OCR software is enough to make them translation-friendly. As a result, they do not include the additional work of reformatting in their quote and are angry later on when translation vendors bill them for this additional work. It is therefore crucial for project managers to take into account this additional service while preparing quotes. Not only will they stop being upset about translation vendors’ bills, but they will earn more themselves as a result.
Freedom of choice
The best thing about this service is that clients can do it themselves if they want to save money or believe they can do a better job than their translation vendor. For example, it is fine with us if a client chooses to re-create formatting if they did not expect additional costs for this service.
Re-creation of formatting as early as possible in the process is especially beneficial in projects translated into multiple languages. For example, you translate a file into five languages, with one translation vendor per language. If you have each vendor re-create the formatting and bill you for that, you end up paying for this five times, rather than just once! Instead of this wasteful, redundant work, you definitely want to prepare the files for translation properly before you send them out to your vendors.
Yet another possibility is to ask your vendor to deliver loosely formatted translated files and then fix the formatting on your end. This is usually suboptimal, though, and should be only considered when translating into one language and under time pressure.
Cutting translation costs
The best thing about re-creation of formatting from clients’ perspective is that it can also save money. Suppose clients use OCR software to count words in the PDF files and come up with 5,200 words. They expect to be billed for the translation according to this word count, which at $0.20 per word means:
5,200 words x $0.20 = $1,040
After the translation vendor re-creates the formatting, the statistics improve, since (a) the total word count decreases, and (b) repetitions are identified. Now the text has 4,500 new words and 555 repetitions. The vendor bills this amount:
4,500 new words x $0.20 + 555 repetitions x $0.06 = $933.30
$1,040 minus $933.30 = $106.70
As a result of re-creation of formatting, the client saves over $100.
The assumption that translation vendors can work from a scanned or PDF file just as easily as from a well-formatted file is a common misperception. Such files usually require time-consuming pre-processing, billed as a separate service. Clients can choose to do this themselves if they believe they can cut costs this way. Alternatively, if the translation vendor reformats the files, these files can produce better statistics in a CAT tool, resulting in discounts.
You can read more about other additional services included in translation estimates in the article “Translation Cost Estimate Explained.”