Bidding on translations

Subject: Bidding on translations
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 1997 13:21:45 -0600

Nancy Kaminski asked for advice on a three-language
translation of a manual. Nancy, one thing to be absolutely
clear on up-front is whether the translations have been
scrupulously edited before you see them. If not, you'll be
spending lots of time fixing things later on, and unless
you build this into your quote, you'll lose lots of money
(and ripped out hairs) on the exchange.

Also be very wary about working from a single established
template for the other versions. Most languages differ
dramatically in how much room they take to say exactly the
same thing. For example, based on my own translation and
editing experience, French translations are from 10 to 20%
longer than the English original. I can't give you actual
figures for the German and Spanish translations, though I
dimly recall reading that they're similarly lengthier than

If you can get your client to give you an indication of the
file sizes for the translations, this should help you
guesstimate the increase in size. You'll have to account
for this carefully in your planning because the layout will
be different for each version of the book, and making
everything fit will take lots of time. I prefer to tailor
each version individually so that it works well for that
language (i.e., things may appear on different pages in
different languages), but many others find this too
time-consuming and squeeze everything into the same amount
of space.

There are two obvious ways to do this (I'll use
English/French as an example): leave lots of wasted blank
space in the English so that the French expands to fill in
this space, or pick a font size (plus leading etc.) 15% or
so larger for the English than the minimum you choose for
the French. For example, we've just done our English annual
report in (working from memory here) 10.5-point Usherwood
on 14-point leading, and the French is 9.5 points on 13
point leading. Everything fits nicely, there isn't too much
wasted white space, and both versions are quite readable.

Setting the DTP style guide isn't usually too challenging;
for most projects, an hour or two at most should do it.
(I'm assuming you mean just constructing the software's
text styles; a writer/editor style guide can take a very
long time indeed to develop.) Make sure you get a look at
the client's proposal (i.e., the work you'll be doing) to
confirm this. It's certainly possible to have a complex
design that requires an equally complex template that might
take days to create.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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