Going Global, Part 2: First some basics: Any document consists of content and layout. The multilingual publishing process consists of recreating a document in the target language that is equivalent to the source document in both content and layout. So, the document translation process has two main subprocesses: content translation and layout adjustment. Content translation must be performed by native speakers of the target language, but the situation is different in the case of layout adjustments. If the goal is to produce translated print documents, the translated text often has to be forced into a predetermined, fixed layout. Due to time constraints, cost considerations, or other logistical factors, desktop publishers often find themselves confronted with the task of touching up a document of which they are unable to read a single word.
Nowadays, most of the DTP (Desktop Publishing) tools provide full language support—including spelling and hyphenation dictionaries—for most European languages. However these features do not replace the need for proofreading by a language specialist. It is always necessary to have a native speaker involved at some point in your workflow.
The Central and Eastern European languages have slightly different requirements from many of the Western European languages. These include Slavic languages (Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Russian and Ukrainian), Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian) and Finno-Ugric (Estonian, Hungarian) languages. These are complemented by Romanian and Moldovan (Romance languages), Greek (Attic), Turkish (Altaic) and Albanian. Most of these require additional character sets that support special characters.
The first concern a desktop publisher may have in formatting non-English text is to apply the right font. Not every font has characters, or glyphs, for every language. While many Western European languages use the same characters as English, there are many other languages, such as Czech, Polish, Turkish, Greek or Russian, that require additional characters not used in English at all. OpenType fonts are a good choice in general, but it’s important to check carefully. For example, the font Garamond Pro doesn’t contain the characters needed for typesetting in Russian. However Myriad Pro and Minion Pro are good choices for European languages. It means the label of “Pro” doesn’t guarantee anything about the characters the font may include.
You must be asking yourself:
“Why would I need something special for global text layout if the fonts I am using have all the right glyphs and letterforms that this language requires?”
For most basic left-to-right languages the regular version of the DTP tool will do an adequate job out of the box. However, many other languages require additional language-specific processing to display the right glyph in a manner acceptable to the readers of that language. Many Indic languages assemble multiple characters into a single visual “cluster” (sort of like a syllable), using complicated shaping rules. Some languages, notably Chinese and Japanese, do not even have spaces between words, and therefore need special attention just to get correct line breaking. Then there are right-to-left languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, which require further capabilities.
In the next posts, we will analyze some pitfall and workarounds when working with “special” languages. Stay tuned!