What is a PDF file?
If you are a translator, surely some client has already asked you to translate a PDF document.
PDF is the acronym for Portable Document Format . They are easy to open files on various devices and in a standard format that allows us to share documents created with different programs, for example. InDesign, Word or PowerPoint.
If you think that you can simply perform the translation with a PDF editor, you are wrong. You will probably have to make changes to the format as the translation will have a different number of words (texts written in Spanish, for example, are usually 20-30 percent longer than texts written in English). Many PDF files also have images, tables, and graphics with text that cannot be edited or must be adjusted for the new text size.
Do you have to deliver the translation in the same format as the PDF?
This is the first question you should ask yourself when you receive a PDF. There is a possibility that the client does not need a file with an identical format. In some cases, they just want the translation to be sent to them in a Word document, and a company designer handles the formatting of the translated text. Don’t assume that you will have to handle the layout of the document just because you received a PDF file. Find out exactly what they need first.
If the client wants you to do the layout work, you should consider the following:
Find out how the PDF was created
Is the file a simple document created with MS Word or was it created using a graphic design program such as InDesign? Is it a scanned document? If it was produced from a Word file, the conversion will be quite simple. To find out which application was used to create the PDF, click (in Adobe Acrobat) File> Properties> Description. The program used will appear in Application (eg PowerPoint).
Choose the best method to translate the PDF
Direct translation: If the PDF file is not a scanned document, it is possible to translate directly into a PDF editor (such as Adobe Acrobat) by overwriting the original text. As mentioned previously, the number of words in the translated version will be different, which means that you will have to solve some formatting problems. With direct translation, this can be a challenge, as formatting options are limited in PDF editors. This alternative is only valid for files with a very simple format.
Retype: This is basically the only option for scanned documents that cannot be properly converted with OCR software. In these cases, the text cannot be edited using a PDF editor, nor can it be properly converted to an editable format. For other types of documents where text can be edited, retyping them is the slowest way to translate a PDF file, which will significantly increase the time it takes to translate.
OCR : OCR programs (stands for Optical C haracter R eCognition [ optical character recognition ] ) are not free but are ideal format to solve problems as they allow PDF files to editable convert documents. It should be noted that in most cases you will need to correct the format after converting and exporting PDF files to Word. You must learn the basics of the OCR software you use. There is a way to choose how the OCR software will read the blocks. For example, you can choose to have a block read as an image, table, or text.
Assisted translation programs : Programs like SDL Trados can extract text from a PDF to translate it in its interface, but it will not help you with formatting problems.
Copy or export: PDF readers and editors allow you to copy text to clipboard or copy and paste text manually. With paid versions you can convert and export files. This option is not ideal for complex formats.
How to charge for a translation of a PDF file
If they send you a PDF file in a complex format, ask your customer if he can provide you with the source file (the file that the PDF was created with). If this is not possible and you want the translation to be delivered in an identical format, to calculate the price you should consider how long it will take to fix the format of the translated text and whether you will need to use a provider (such as a graphic designer) to do it successfully. Please note that layout of a complex formatted document may take longer than translating.
A final tip
For those who work with PDF files frequently, it is advisable to use a PDF editor like Adobe Acrobat Professional, although there are also cheaper options, so compare prices before buying one.