What is Multilingual Desktop Publishing (DTP)?

Multilingual desktop publishing, or multilingual DTP, is formatting translated materials so their design looks and feels consistent across languages.

Our language experts answer basic to more complex questions related to Multilingual Desktop Publishing (Multilingual DTP).

How to Use Multilingual Desktop Publishing to Keep Documents Sharp Across Languages

The goal of incorporating multilingual DTP into the translation process is to have design elements like images, headlines, image captions, and line and paragraph breaks all feel natural in every language. This gives each language’s audience the impression that the publication was created just for them.

Let’s explore why design matters to your target audience and how to avoid common multilingual DTP challenges.

Why you need multilingual desktop publishing services for your translated content

From brochures to employee handbooks, catalogs, and instruction manuals, your business’s materials have important information to convey. Translating them into a new language is the first step in making that information accessible to a wider audience.

But don’t underestimate the importance of multilingual DTP. After all, those publications weren’t designed by accident. There’s a specific reason your designer chose the images, fonts, and layout that they did.

What does multilingual DTP involve when translating content? It is typesetting and formatting layouts with localization guidance from expert linguists to ensure your intended message is received correctly.

A document’s appearance is as much a part of its message as its text. The effect can be jarring when the text is translated, but the design is not.

Not only does the publication fail to convey its intended message, it can create a negative impression of your company.

The audience reading your translated brochure or manual will notice that it feels “off”. All that white space, those margins, and line breaks aren’t normal. Images may not make sense in the context of nearby words. The text, no matter how well translated, is difficult to absorb. The result can make the material feel cheap and untargeted, damaging the brand’s reputation.

Technical Issues That Can be Corrected with Multilingual DTP Services

To translate a formatted print piece like an employee handbook, the text is typically extracted from the source file, translated, then imported back into the document.

If you try this without the aid of a multilingual DTP specialist, several issues are likely to arise.

  • Image Localization. Most frequently, localizing images involves translating text or adapting cultural references to the target language (such as colors, symbols, currency, and measurements such as imperial to metric). All while matching current brand guides, and ensuring the document is consistent with the quality of your source-language documents.

  • Language expansion and contraction. Translating English into other languages can increase or decrease the lines of text by more than 30%. It will take your German manual two pages to say what your English manual said in one. Meanwhile, the Chinese manual will get the point across in two-thirds of a page, leaving awkward white space to fill. The text will flow unevenly across each document, breaking in odd places, and making images and graphics appear out of place.
  • Flipped reading direction. English is read from left to right. Some languages, like Hebrew and Arabic, are read from right to left. Translating from one of these languages to another means reversing paragraph alignment, including flipping bullets and numbering to the opposite side of each paragraph, and possibly moving the binding to the opposite side of the page.
  • Readability. Besides correcting alignment, multilingual DTP takes into account the movement of the reader’s eye. Rather than flowing the translated text around existing elements like images and callouts, a multilingual DTP expert mirrors the reading flow of the source material, placing these elements next to the text the original designer intended them to appear with.
  • Illegible fonts. Your font may be an important part of your visual brand. But many fonts that look appealing to English-speaking readers are impossible to apply to languages like Korean or Simplified Chinese. A multilingual DTP specialist can apply a font that honors your brand tone while making the text easy to read.
  • Re-sorted glossaries and lists. Glossaries and other alphabetized lists need to be re-sorted after translation to restore the entries to alphabetical order. Generated lists like tables of contents, cross-references, and indices also need to be revised to ensure they’re in the correct order, and the page numbers line up with the translated text.

How Multilingual DTP Enhances the Message for The Reader

Multilingual DTP makes translated material feel natural in every language. The audience feels the publication is just for them, not a copy-paste knockoff of an English-language piece.

Multilingual DTP is crucial in localizing many documents to make them relevant to different cultures.

Multilingual DTP can help you avoid using inappropriate images or color palettes. Images in your publications should include people and settings that resemble what the audience sees daily. And you wouldn’t want the cheery message of your brochure to be lost on an audience who associates the color palette you chose with death.

Multilingual DTP combines the talents of page design experts and native-speaking translators to ensure the audience can focus on the message, not the words or look of the piece.

The Multilingual DTP Process

To translate and format a document using multilingual DTP, we begin with the complete source-language file, such as an Adobe InDesign file. The text is exported to an interchange format, and imported into a translation tool.

The DTP specialist protects content and coding that should not be altered from the original document. They identify any embedded text – such as text-based graphics – to be handled separately.

After complete translation and proofreading, the DTP specialist imports the translated text back into the application. They then adjust the design to accommodate the translated content while remaining true to the document’s original message and feeling.

Common Challenges of Multilingual DTP

Some businesses recognize how important multilingual DTP is, but underestimate the challenges it poses.

Missing source files

One of the most common challenges DTP specialists face is a need for original source files. A business might design a brochure in InDesign, save it as a PDF, and use it for years before deciding they want to translate it for a new audience. By then, the InDesign file is long lost, or the designer who developed the file is no longer reachable.

The problem with translating a PDF is that it is not a source file. It is difficult – sometimes impossible – to edit the text and formatting in these files. That’s one of the primary reasons people use PDFs: to preserve a document’s appearance.

It could be less work to start over and create the brochure from scratch in InDesign or another design application.

Source files might also include graphics with embedded text, which is extracted separately for translation. Manually replacing this text can be time-intensive, particularly if it’s laid over a photograph. This manual process adds scope in terms of cost and timing to a project.

Quality assurance

Ambitious do-it-yourselfers have been known to copy their text into an AI-powered translator and then copy and paste the text back into their document with no quality assurance process.

Even if the machine translates all the words correctly – which is unlikely – it won’t make sure the design elements of the message weren’t lost in translation.

Does a reference to “miles per hour” resonate with an audience that uses the metric system? Do dates match the audience’s format, whether they use “day-month-year” or “month-day-year?” Were currencies correctly converted?

Interpro is ISO certified, meaning our Multilingual DTP specialists adhere to strict internationally recognized standards for quality to ensure mistakes like this don’t happen, resulting in a more accurate translation.

Designs are not intended for translation

You can make the multilingual DTP process much faster and smoother by keeping future translations in mind when you design your source-language document.

Incorporating simple layouts, grouped elements, white space, and other design techniques at the outset makes it much easier for a DTP specialist to adjust the layout later while preserving the original feel.

Some images may need to be completely recreated, because there isn’t a great way to localize the image to any language. This most often applies to creative materials, such as marketing campaigns.

That’s where your global marketing strategy should include a localization expert to help you create new ideas that are just as great as the original marketing campaign.

Choosing Your Multilingual DTP Specialist

A multilingual DTP specialist is just one step of the translation and localization journey. We’ve found if you need multilingual DTP, you need a translation partner. Especially if you want to create effective materials and not spend any more time and money than necessary on your translation projects.

As you can see, there are many things to remember before distributing your documents across cultures. There is a reason we encourage companies to take their multilingual goals seriously when selecting a reliable translation partner.

The ultimate goal of using multilingual DTP is to preserve your brand’s reputation and make information more accessible for your audience – wherever they may be.

Localization Strategy Consultation for Multilingual DTP Projects

Interpro is an established authority in multilingual DTP translation services. Since 1995, we’ve used expert linguists and tested methodologies to help companies effectively translate any file and spread their messages across the globe.

Interpro has an expert team of translators, DTP specialists, and engineers to ensure on time delivery of quality translations. Our multilingual DTP experts work in both Mac and PC, using the most popular authoring, layout, and graphics software on the market. We deliver documents ready for publication for all file types.

Multilingual DTP services are available in every language we work in, including difficult-to-format languages like Arabic, Hebrew, and Thai. Our ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 17100:2015 certifications guarantee our work meets the highest quality standards.

Give all your multilingual audiences the same brand experience by incorporating multilingual DTP into your translation process. Schedule a consultation, and take advantage of Interpro’s decades of localization experience.