Toolkit for Translating and Localizing PDF Files

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Posted on: 21 March 2019 by Pauline Farris

Although many translators argue that converting files for translation is not their responsibility, many still have to do so. And that’s where the challenge hits you: even though there are enough tools, none of them seem to work properly.

Translators have to deal with many different issues, including working with different file formats, which sometimes can be challenging. I’ve been working as a translator for quite some time now, and I had to deal with converting many types of documents, like audio files into .doc files, which is quite time-consuming.  But somehow, the biggest issue for me has always been converting .pdf documents.

Although many translators argue that converting files for translation is not their responsibility, many still have to do so. And that’s where the challenge hits you: even though there are enough tools, none of them seem to work properly.

Why Translating PDF Files Is An Issue?

Here are some insights on why working with .pdf files can be a difficulty:

  • .pdf files sometimes have to be overwritten, as there’s no option for making changes to the original document;
  • The issue may occur when a .pdf file is a scan of a document, which many programs, designed for that matter, cannot convert properly (you may see a bunch of different signs where the words should be);
  • Some .pdf files need to be translated and converted into different files that later will be opened in programs like Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint. Often translators do it by themselves, which can take a lot of time.

How to Deal with This Issue?

When I was a beginner, I didn’t have much knowledge of which tools can be used to convert files and how to work with them. Today, thanks to lots of educational experience, I’ve been able to prepare a toolkit for translators with tips on how to translate and localize .pdf documents. Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful.

1. What Can Adobe Acrobat Reader Do?

Adobe Acrobat Reader is the basic tool for opening and managing .pdf files. It also allows converting and exporting them to other programs. The options include converting .pdf files into .jpeg and .png files as well as into an HTML document.

The process of converting a PDF into a simple .doc file is simple:

1) First, you open Tools and choose the Export PDF option:

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2) After clicking on Export PDF, the window pops up, showing you the available formats to convert your file into as well as the list of languages for language recognition:

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The list of format option isn’t extensive and only includes .docx, .doc, .rtf, .xlsx and .pptx files.

3) After pressing Export to Word, your .pdf document converts into a .doc file, and all the text remains preserved.

What’s the issue with Adobe Acrobat?

The thing is that the function of converting .pdf files is available only if you purchase the annual Adobe Acrobat Pro DC plan. And, if you cannot afford it, the only way is to retype the document. That is why many translators opt for an online PDF converter.

Moreover, if you need to convert a .pdf file of a scanned document, Adobe Acrobat doesn’t always work well, leaving a lot of text unrecognized. It requires a lot of editing on the translator’s part to make the target document look like the source.

2. Using CAT Tools for PDF Translation and Localization

Computer-assisted translation and localization, more known in the professional world as CAT, can be of great help to those who struggle converting .pdf files. To help you understand better, how CAT tools can be used to translate and convert .pdf files, let’s take a look at the program called SDL Trados.

This is a comprehensive CAT tool to help translators speed up their work, using machine learning to analyze texts and create memory banks with words and definitions. The list of file formats supported by Trados is quite extensive and includes even .inx, necessary for Adobe Design, different HTML formats, Java resources as well as the basic .doc, .pptx, .xlsx and, of course, .pdf formats.

To start working with the .pdf file, you need to follow a few easy steps:

1) Using the Welcome tab, drag your document or browse your computer to find it and import it into Trados:

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2) After you confirm, Trados will ask you about the source and target language to create a memory bank. This is a very useful feature that allows translators to complete the work faster.

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3) After you’ve completed the translation, you can save the document in any format necessary. You just need to go to File and choose Save Target As, and the document will convert from .pdf to Word.

The Tricky Part

Trados only allows you to save the PDF document as a .doc file. As translators mostly work with formats available in Word, Trados has made it the only option. So, if you need to convert your translated .doc file back into .pdf, for example, you can upload it online on Google Drive and then download it as a .pdf file.

In general, CAT tools are perfect for translation and localization. They can decipher even scanned documents. However, if it is a scan of hand-written text, there might be some difficulties, with which you’ll have to deal on your own. Nevertheless, it’s easier to use CAT tools for translation and localization, as you’ll only need one single program both for converting files and translating them as well.

3. Online PDF Converters Can Be a Good Solution

Online .pdf converters are a blessing for a translator. However, there are some difficulties involved.

First one is connected to the translator’s ethical code. “Using open-source PDF converters isn’t always safe, as the documents get stored in the cloud, which can be hacked”, says Martha Jefferson, an interpreter at the translation and localization company The Word Point.

Moreover, if the owner of the website is dishonest, they can make the document public or use it for their own needs, which is a threat to the customer’s privacy. And you, as a translator, will be punished for that, which is a threat to your reputation.

How can you choose a reliable online .pdf converter?

  • A good PDF converter should have access to mass storage clouds like Google Drive and Dropbox, which are secure tools to store files. If a converter has been authorized to use these cloud storages, it’s reliable.
  • The more options for conversion, the better. For instance, if you need to convert a .pdf file into a .pptx file, you shouldn’t search for multiple converters to do that. This may compromise the security of your file. Look for a resource that has all options available at one place.
  • Take a look at the domain. Does it seem reliable to you? Does it use HTTP or HTTPS protocol? Always go for the websites that are using HTTPS protocol, as they have enhanced security.

Working with online PDF converters is a great solution. They are free, quick and handy. But for the reason of protecting the security of a document, you need to make sure that you’ve chosen a secure resource that will ensure you the privacy and protection.

Final Words

Translators have to deal with a lot of difficulties, from converting files to editing them. It’s time-consuming and can be very stressful. Hopefully, these tips will take some issues off your plate and make the translation process quicker and more enjoyable. Good luck!

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Pauline Farris

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