| It's a different kind of work || Jan 6, 2006 |
For me, it's difficult to set apart translation from DTP, as I have been doing both simultaneously since day one of my professional translating life. Back in 1973, I was translating technical manuals, getting them neatly typed, remaking and/or adapting drawings and photographs, and gluing everything onto sheets of paper for reproduction.
For promotional literature, everything was prepared for an art studio to make a "paste-up" and then shoot photoliths for printing. In this process, the borderline between translation and graphic arts was very clear.
The computer age changed all that. What was previously the work of translators in one place, draftsmen and paste-up artists in another, and external vendors (such as photo-typesetting, photoliths, etc.) elsewhere, COULD be done by just one person within one single computer on a desk top, hence DeskTop Publishing.
The point is that it COULD, but not necessarily SHOULD. As I had been doing the whole job manually, it was natural for me to adopt PageMaker as soon as it became popular for the PC, in the mid-80s.
It's a matter of paradigms. Word processing software stems from the typewriter paradigm. Microsoft Word is no more than a typewriter with all the countless resources computer technology was able to add to it. PageMaker, the first DTP program still alive, follows precisely the paste-up studio paradigm. The other DTP programs have paradigms of their own, most of them derived from everyday computer practices.
It is definitely possible to get DTP-like results from a modern word processing program. If the publication is simple, it will look all right, and shouldn't be too difficult to make. If it is rather complex and/or has to look just GREAT, DTP will be required.
The big question is whether a translator should do the DTP him/herself. With some considerable effort, a neophyte to DTP might be able to do as much as they can get out of their word processor. It's like switching from driving a car to a Bobcat. However to do really good DTP work it takes considerable experience. Should a translator develop the basic knowledge of some other language they might have to reach translating level? This is a very personal decision.
So what's the alternative? Well, a translator can tell the client that they only translate, that the DTP work will have to be outsourced somewhere else. Or the translator can offer to outsource DTP on their own, hire a DTP artist, and bundle the cost in the package.
The latter option opens very interesting possibilities. Let's take a frequent example, a corporate newsletter or institutional magazine to be published in several languages. Its original will probably be available as a file compatible with one of the most common DTP programs. By early arrangement with the selected DTP artist, the translator can have the latter export all the text therein to a convenient file format for their favorite CAT tool. No need to fumble with unknown software to get it out. No need for scanning and OCR from hardcopy.
The key in the translator-DTPer interface is to identify text correspondence. One solution is "marking". The translator will have to make a copy of the original, circle each block of text, number (or letter) each, and then properly identify its corresponding translation. Otherwise, how will the DTPer know what goes where? A time-saving alternative is to use a bilingual DTP-er. It doesn't have to be a translator between these languages. For instance, I only translate ENPT, but I know enough IT-ES-FR to do DTP between any two of these five languages without markings. If you can find a bilingual DTPer for your pair, it will spare you a lot of effort.
Another time-saver is formatting, though it depends on both the WP and DTP programs used. Of course I can import DOC or RTF files to PageMaker, but my first action is usually to remove all formatting, and redo it "the PM way". So I prefer clean TXT, but your mileage may vary. Check first with your DTPer.
There are some other considerations for a translator outsourcing DTP work. First, a DTP artist is not necessarily proficient in all such software; they might be specialized in one, or just a few of them. Second, if the client's need is just a PDF file, it won't make much difference which software was used to create it. And finally, if the DTPer will not be in direct communication with the final client, the translator will have to act as a bridge for issues like "what font is this and where can it be found?", "do you have figure X at 300 dpi?", etc.
Finally, if you - translator - have enough demand for a certain type of DTP service to prompt your investing your time and money in it, first check if the required software is "popular" enough to justify doing so.
Jose Henrique Lamensdorf
Sao Paulo, SP - Brazil
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