What is multilingual typesetting?

Multilingual typesetting is a task required after the translation of text from one language to another. It is particularly necessary if the text is to be displayed on phones or mobile devices, such as apps, or on any kind of marketing material. It is in these situations where discrepancies in typesetting during the natural translation process can seem offputting to readers. 

What is the importance of multilingual typesetting?

Typesetting involves making sure that the visual presentation of the text is correctly preserved. This includes word spacing, punctuation, text direction, and line spacing are all correct for the language of the text that has been translated. It is particularly challenging the translation of languages with quite different writing systems e.g. any European language into Arabic, Thai, Hindi, Chinese, Korean or Japanese. However, it can remain challenging even for what might seem relatively similar languages such as English to German or vice versa. This is because of the different rules of punctuation and spacing between the two languages, magnified if the languages are much more different.

The Challenges of Multilingual Typesetting

Multilingual typesetting is often just a part of the professional translator’s job after doing the actual translation, editing, and proofreading. However, it also may be given to a professional typesetter with specific skills in typesetting text in a particular language. The aim is to make the visual appearance of a mix of text, images, and graphics seem as similar as possible between the original and target language pairs. 

Because of the particular challenges involved in any language pair where the writing system is totally different, e.g. right to left wording in Arabic compared to left to right in all European languages, it is more likely that multilingual typesetting services will be sought for this type of translation.

Note that some translation tasks may not require typesetting skills as much or at all.  For example, a scientific document published in Chinese can be translated by a Chinese / English translator without worrying too much about typesetting. Editing and proofreading skills for punctuation and spacing still need to be done, but the actual visual presentation is far less important than the actual accuracy of the content.


The Challenges of Arabic typesetting and Chinese typesetting

Some language pairs are undeniably more challenging when typesetting is required. Any language that uses pictograms like Chinese and Japanese, a script that is unique to that language, such as Thai, Laotian, Hindi, and other Indian sub-continent languages, or reverse order sentencing like Arabic will be more challenging than that of language pairs of similar languages like Spanish and Portuguese. Arabic typesetting and Chinese typesetting services are most likely to be specific services provided by a professional multilingual typesetting service.

Conclusion

Translation particularly of marketing material and app translation rely heavily on their correct visual appearance. It is important that any translation between widely different language types not only uses a professional translation agency but a multilingual typesetting service team as well.