Translating PDF Files

By Stacey
Nov 9, 2015 · 3 min

tips that might be useful when translating PDF documents.

Translating PDF Files | One Hour Translation

Using CAT tools for translating webpages or MS Office documents is definitely advantageous, however what do we do when the documents we’re asked to translate are submitted to us in PDF format?

Below we’ve listed some tips that might be useful when converting PDF documents –

1. Ask Your Client for Original Files

Let’s imagine that a client has an instruction manual designed in InDesign, however they now want it available on their website. The only people that could open the file would be people with InDesign. So, in order to make it accessible to everyone, it should be published in PDF (Portable Document Format) so it can be opened on any PC and on any platform – Mac, Windows, Linux.

Certainly, the distribution of PDF files is simple, but extracting translatable content is not so simple. To start with, you need to ask your client to forward the original files. If these files are not available there are other alternatives, which we will explain below.

2. Customer Expectations

You must inform your client of the challenges involved in converting PDF files. For example, you may be able to extract the text but you may partly lose the format, particularly when the document has text boxes and columns.

If your client advises that they expect to receive the translated documents in the same format, the services of DTP may be required. Is your client aware of this and are they prepared to pay for this service? Are you dealing with scanned documents containing handwritten comments, overlapping text stamps, coffee stains and tears? If so, these PDFs are almost impossible to convert and would probably require a prior transcription of the text.

3. Choose a Reliable PDF Converter

Typically, a translator will use third-party tools to convert PDF files into PowerPoint, Word or Excel. Some translators are happy with this process, while others find them ineffective, because the formatting can be directly affected, and sometimes even lost.

The reading of some PDF files is supported by versions of SDL Trados Studio, 2009 and 2011. Unfortunately, it does have limitations because it only works with PDF files with editable text. We also have Foxit Reader and Acrobat Reader which are free tools that allow you to open a PDF document, then save it as a text file. When you do this you’ll see an ‘enter’ at the end of each line: this is because it’s been incorrectly segmented for CAT tools.

Perhaps the best solution is to get an OCR converter, such as Abby Reader or PDF Solid Converter; or alternatively use free online tools such as Abby is actually a good alternative for simple scanned documents; while PDF solid converter only works with PDF files that have been generated from software.

Translators should always be well prepared, and most would already have two or more converters installed; mostly because they never know what their next translation project is going to be. 

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The translation industry is a relatively small one but it’s also a highly competitive one. Basically, do your research on a translation agency prior to making initial contact and it will certainly pay off; perhaps not immediately because there may not be any work available at the time, so just be patient. Your application must stand out above the rest, and by following these simple steps you should have no problem whatsoever in achieving your translation goals.