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Does translating include layout?
Thread poster: Buck

Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 05:16
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
Jul 1, 2007

I started freelancing (in addition to my fulltime job as a translator), and I am irritated by the fact that clients sometimes want me to do the layout in the final document. Surely that is the client's job? Although we do this as a courtesy in the office, it bothers me in my freelance activities. Just curious about your experiences.
Thanks


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:16
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Part of quality assurance / an extra DTP task Jul 1, 2007

Hi Buck,
Thanks for sharing with us
OK, I don't know the concrete case, but let me tell you two simple examples:

1) I receive an original document in PDF format, am asked to translate it, and deliver it as Word format, but respecting the original format - this could be regarded as part of the quality management of the translation project: letter fonts, margins, distribution of the text in the page, etc. Some agencies even include this as part of their terms and conditions.

2) Another different issue is: the client delivers a running text to be translated, and AFTERWARDS asks "I want this done as a beautiful page with pictures etc. etc." This is rather a DTP job, additional to the translation.

I haven't done a job of the second type so far - but perhaps another colleagues can recommend you something.
Regards,
Fabio


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:16
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Client can't speak your language, remember Jul 1, 2007

Buck wrote:
I am irritated by the fact that clients sometimes want me to do the layout in the final document. Surely that is the client's job?


Some translators feel that it aint their job. I feel that if a source document contains formatting, I am obligated to provide the translation in the same formatting. Why? Simply because the client (and his DTP person) can't speak my language, and I can't expect them to format it flawlessly without the help of some translator (me).

If the document is unformatted to begin with, I deliver an unformatted document. If the formatting is very complex, I do my best, but then simply advise that the formatting was beyond my skills, and leave it up to him to sort it out. If the source file is in non-editable format, then I deliver an unformatted target document.

So I guess in a way I agree that it aint the translator's job to do formatting, but I also believe that modern technology allows the translator to retain formatting easily and it is common courtesy to retain it where possible. Make the client's job easier, and you retain him better.


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 21:16
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Definitely Jul 1, 2007

For me it's a given that I deliver the document in a format that is as close as possible to the original. If it's a Word document, I often translate right into the document, keeping all the fonts, indents, etc. in tact. With a PDF source text, it's a bit more work but the same rule applies.

If you order a suit from a tailor or a piece of furniture from a carpenter, would you expect to do the finishing yourself?


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 01:16
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
A question of understanding and politeness Jul 1, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:
I am obligated to provide the translation in the same formatting. Why? Simply because the client (and his DTP person) can't speak my language, and I can't expect them to format it flawlessly without the help of some translator (me).

Hi Samuel,
Thanks a lot for sharing this.
Let me tell a concrete experience: when translating from German into Spanish, many times there is for instance a long-word title, say "Straßenbahnhaltestellenplanung" which could translate into "Planeamiento de paradas de tranvías urbanos" - this deserves, say, to be written in two lines. But this is a) an idea of mine, and b) a decision of the DTP responsible. In any case, the correct thing is: put a note on a separate document, giving your suggestions.
So I guess in a way I agree that it ain't the translator's job to do formatting, but I also believe that modern technology allows the translator to retain formatting easily and it is common courtesy to retain it where possible. Make the client's job easier, and you retain him better.

And don't forget that some clients are not-so-quite aware of many facts of the language industry, as DTP, localisation, HTML formats, etc. So sharing those things with the client in an amicable way is always useful.


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Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:16
French to English
+ ...
Depends on complexity Jul 1, 2007

I think it depends very much on the complexity of the layout. I'm certainly not trained as a typist/DTP operator and have probably just about scratched the surface of Word's possibilities, so I don't feel particularly qualified to provide anything other than a standard layout from scratch.

In saying that, I do try and make the document look as much like the original as I can when converting from a pdf to a Word document. I just spent a good couple of hours last night converting a pdf file to Word, which involved lots of messing about with tables and columns and I certainly won't expect to be paid for that. However, I hope it will benefit me in the long run because I can then use TM software to translate it, which I couldn't from the pdf file, and I hope the client will be impressed because I've put in the extra effort.

On the other hand, I have been asked to translate text from scanned documents, which I haven't been able to extract and which included lots of numbers and figures and very little text. In that instance, I pointed out that I would have to charge on a time basis, not word count, as it would take me a long time to transcribe all the figures/tables, etc. Not surprisingly, they opted to ask a clerk in the agency to transcribe the documents, so all I had to do was translate the text - cheaper for them and much nicer for me!

I've also charged extra in the past for cutting and pasting captions for figures in the days when we used to do that - but I can't remember the last time I needed to do that with modern computer technology!


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:16
English to German
+ ...
Agreement and price Jul 1, 2007

IMHO this is all a question of the services you agreed upon and you should calculate your rates accordingly.

If I receive and deliver a Word document, keeping the layout usually is included in my rates.

If I receive a PDF document and are meant to deliver a Word document, I would inform the client, that this requires layout work and tell them my hourly rate for this and an estimation of how much time it would take. Then the clients can decide for themselves.

I also include an hourly rate if Powerpoint files are to be delivered in final layout. I do minor adjustments for free, but there is a limit.

Alternatively you can charge higher rates per word/line/page for document types that need layout adjustments. This way it is all inclusive, but it may damage your competitiveness, since most clients first look at the price and then at the services included.

Generally speaking, let your clients know what to expect in detail so they can decide which services to order.

Of course, there is always the occasional favour for very good clients, but then make it very clear, that this is a special favour, and not a regular service!


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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:16
English to German
+ ...
Sweet analogies Jul 1, 2007

Tina Vonhof wrote:
...
If you order a suit from a tailor or a piece of furniture from a carpenter, would you expect to do the finishing yourself?



I go to a carpenter to order a piece of furniture. But this does not include delivery and putting it into the right position at home, with all required adjustments, except if especially agreed upon and paid for.

And if you give your tailor a shirt with very intricate embroidery and tell him you want another of these shirts, he will make you another shirt of the same size. If you wish to have the embroidery copied, you will have to pay extra (a lot) or take it to someone specialized in this kind of service.

If that's not true, PLEASE tell me the address of your tailor and carpenter!


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 04:16
Dutch to English
+ ...
Approximating vs retaining formatting Jul 1, 2007

My rules of thumb:

1. I approximate formatting as far as possible, e.g. when working from hard copy (e.g. PDF) to Word, but if I see it's intricate formatting, I tell the agency/client from the outset not to expect the same and/or to send me a Word doc.

The client should be able to easily follow the translation with reference to the source, i.e. be able to recognise where he is in the document - but more than that can't be expected (unless you've contracted otherwise, which I personally wouldn't as I'm not a DTP expert and don't have the patience).


2. I retain formatting where I'm given a Word doc, for example, and am overtyping.

3. Bottom line: if the formatting is taking up time and slowing you down, then you're probably going beyond the scope of what can be expected.







[Edited at 2007-07-01 18:02]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 06:16
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Charge for additional work Jul 1, 2007

Last week I agreed to translate a patent. Patents come usually as pdf, but normally its easy to convert the text into Word-format. This time The original patent had been corrected by hand, some sentences overlined, some words added by hand, and then scanned back into pdf. The resulting file was partly illegitable, and ocr-software delivered a text with lots of errors.
I told the client that I cannot do the translation in my normal fashion using CAT, but that I would either have to translate from hard-copy, which will take me much longer, resulting in a higher fee, or that the client has to deliver a proper file.
At first they responded, that all their translators do the translation from hard-copy and that there is nothing wrong with the file.
I suggested I would charge by the hour the additional work needed to get the text into CAT-compatible condition.
Next day the send me the text properly converted into Word-format with all errors corrected.
Thats what is expected from a translation agency: do as much work inhouse as possible to avoid their freelance translators charging for additional work.

Keep your head and concentrate on translation, avoid formatting wherever possible.

Cheers
Heinrich


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 02:16
English to Portuguese
+ ...
They are separate jobs Jul 1, 2007

If the material to be translated was provided as a formatted MS Word file, it's a matter of courtesy to preserve the formatting, as long as it doesn't involve Word playing "button, button, who's got the button" with the illustrations. I've learned that Trados can work on InDesign files, so if your rates cover the investment in buying an InDesign license, the same applies.

But if the original is either on hardcopy or a PDF file, the situation is quite different. Translators originally translate TEXT; DTP artists do Desktop Publishing. As I do both, I offered a solution in an article originally published at http://www.translationjournal.net/journal/38dtp.htm .

Depending on the job, forcing a translator into doing DTP becomes comparable to cajoling your friendly plumber into replacing your computer's hard disk, or something of the kind.


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 05:16
Member (2007)
Dutch to English
TOPIC STARTER
Word vs scanned documents Jul 2, 2007

Obviously, if the client provides a Word file (or similar), it is easy to retain the layout. I guess my question was more about scanned documents and faxes. Thanks for all the feedback so far.

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Rosa Diez Tagarro  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:16
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
no extra charge Jul 2, 2007

if nothing fancy is required.

If it is just a matter of creating a Word file that ressembles the fax or scanned document, I wouldn't charge extra for that, provided they are not asking me to recreate anything that would take a while, of course.

That said, I'm not a fan of that kind of source materials and would only accept them from valued customers and/or for nice rates.

In general, my position is the one Claudia described.

Have a nice week, everybody!

Rosa




[Edited at 2007-07-02 07:41]


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Deschant
Local time: 04:16
Should be agreed in advance Jul 2, 2007

I always clarify with the client what is required from me in case I anticipate problems in layouting the document. In Word documents, for example, it is relatively easy to keep the format. In PowerPoint, sometimes the translation of some terms and expresions is longer/shorter than the original (just as Fabio has pointed out, this happens a lot in English > romance languages), so I clarify with the client whether I am allowed to use smaller fonts or to slightly change the slide so that the text fits in.

The situation is more complex when I receive a document in .pdf or a similar format. In this case, I clarify with the client to which extent must I reproduce the format of the original: sometimes it is fine to deliver just the text in a simple Word format, sometimes more work is required. If this is the case, I evaluate 1) whether I am actually capable of doing the job; 2) how much extra time will I need for formatting and how much will I charge for this.


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lingomania
Local time: 14:16
Italian to English
Technical translations Jul 3, 2007

If the translation is very technical, like a thesis on mechanical engineering (and like all thesis), the layout/formatting has to be carried out by the client.....NECESSARILY . No doubt because the final product is so personal.

Rob


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