Language Matters Spring 2007: Multilingual Typesetting

Dear Language Friend,

In this issue of our newsletter, we would like to introduce you to the know-HOW of desktop publishing work, describe WHAT some of the challenges are when dealing with multilingual documents and provide tips on how to make the typesetting process flow smoothly.

The WHEN topic of this newsletter refers to the arrival of spring and the WHY to the large numbers of blossoming trees in Vancouver.

Multilingual Typesetting / Desktop Publishing

At LingoStar, we have recently seen an increasing demand for multilingual typesetting. People refer to ‘typesetting’ in many ways: “drop translated text into a brochure, insert text, layout the text”, etc. Despite its many names, the well established name of DTP (desktop publishing) or typesetting refers to the same process:

Formatting a (foreign language) text into a format ready for print or optimized for web. At LingoStar we provide multilingual typesetting and DTP work as a continuation of our translation service.

With the ongoing and ever accelerating globalization, we have seen more of our clients having their commercial documents translated and typeset in foreign languages in order to communicate with customers in different countries around the world. A high demand for Asian and Middle Eastern languages makes the localization and layout arrangement of multilingual documents more challenging and complex and this is why:

The major complexity appears with languages that use a different writing system to the Roman alphabet. The fact that, for example, Arabic and Farsi read and write from right to left, doesn’t make things particularly easy. Also, Hindi and Punjabi use different encoding in their systems that is not always compatible with English. When dealing with these languages, which are different from Roman based European languages, the typesetting person needs to have the localized version of the software, or the characters may not be displayed properly.

Despite some of the mentioned typesetting challenges, we handle all major European, Asian and Middle-Eastern languages.

Creating Commercial Documents

Some people may think that a word processor such as Microsoft Word is good for doing desktop publishing. In fact the word processor is mainly designed to deal with text materials. Therefore any translation will be handled in MS Word. Even if we receive source files in PDF format, we will need to convert those into Word in order to carry out the translation task. However, it requires specialized DTP software if a project involves a high level of complexity. For example, DTP work for magazines, brochures, and promotional materials requires high-end professional tools since such documents are often multiple pages and need to follow a certain layout throughout the whole document.

Common typesetting/DTP software can be categorized according to the tasks it can handle. Currently, there are two high-end DTP software programs: Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress. These two are featured with extensive typographic controls and graphic handling functions and widely accepted by service providers and commercial printers. Other DTP software that is suitable for individuals and small businesses include: Adobe FrameMaker, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Ventura, Microsoft Publisher (2000 and up), and Serif PagePlus.

However, having top-end typesetting software does not guarantee professional looking documents. Moreover, if a document has to be printed in various languages, the English version of the DTP software may not work all the time especially when there are Asian and Middle Eastern languages involved.

Dealing with Multilingual Documents

If you have a document that will later be translated into multiple languages, remember to keep the layout simple and clean. Some languages, such as French and Spanish, take up more space than English, so make sure you leave enough space in case the translation text is longer than your source text.

If we are to typeset your document into a number of languages, we will need to receive the original graphic source files at the project start. These will most likely be English InDesign or Quark files that include all the necessary art work and fonts.

Once translation in MS Word is completed, the foreign languages will be typeset in the original graphic files. Subsequently, we carry out a post-insertion review whereas the typeset file is reviewed by the translator who ensures that all foreign language characters are displayed properly.

After this final proofing by our linguist, the documents are delivered to you for approval and ultimately a final PDF is created – either a high resolution PDF for print or low resolution PDF optimized for web.

And then you are all set up to promote your product or services across borders!

Spring Has Arrived!

Have you noticed that spring has quietly colored the city with various pink shades? Finally we have some nice and cozy sunshine after all the chilly winter rain!

The Origin of Planting Cherry Trees in Vancouver

The lovable pink flowers of cherry trees did not belong to Vancouver’s city landscape until the middle of the last century. Before the Park Board introduced cherry and plum trees to Vancouverites in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, the common planting choices were tall, long-lived and large shade trees, such as elm, maple, chestnut and plane trees. In the early 30s, 500 Japanese cherry trees were donated by the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama to the Park Board in the honor of Japanese Canadians who served in the World War One.

Cherry trees and their stirringly beautiful blossoms not only bring us the message of spring, but also symbolize the friendship and cultural exchange between the two nations.

It’s Time to Get Some Fresh Air!

This March the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival presented the Lower Mainland residents with the annual celebration of spring arrival. Interesting activities, such as Haiku events, photo and painting sessions took place in the participation of well known artists from the Lower Mainland area. If you want to experience the stunning beauty of the cherry blossom canopies, the Vancouver Cherry Blossom festival website ( provides viewing recommendations and information about tours. Most importantly, the pleasant and invigorating spring scenes are not limited to tourists. Put on your sneakers and take a short walk in your neighborhood – with the sun shining, you’ll find that spring is indeed everywhere!