The Complexities of Translating the PDF File Format

Portable Document File (PDF) is a file used to present documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware and  operating system; encompassing a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, graphics and other information needed to display it.  

Going by this definition, the question as to if PDF a difficult format to sounds misplaced. By far and wide the PDF format translation to other languages has its equal shares of difficulties, despite the .pdf extension in the file name.

Professionally translators usually prefer original format such as power point or word because of their simplicity to process. Translation work gets very slow when PDF is the only available format. This task leaves the translators with a headache struggling with difficult files that isn’t the dream task for any translator.

Often enough many translators always seek higher rates for PDF translation works. This is not attributed to a higher thirst to make more money but rather to compensate for the extra work and headaches required in the translation process.

The use of computer- assisted translation (CAT) tools and translation memories to improve work efficiency is always rampant with professionals. Unfortunately, almost all those tools are always useless if the computer cannot read the text of the original PDF file, thus the main reason why machine translators can’t process all PDF files.

PDF file has two different type of tools used in editing; however this tools tend to be very expensive. Furthermore same difficulties, the technical difficulties with translator tools apply to the editors too. Some of the PDF files can be modified but not at all.

Sometimes with or without the use of an optical character recognition software the reading of any scanned and embedded texts is impossible for a machine. Take for instance what seems to be text of the human eye may not be text from the technical perspective, for example, scanned documents are technically images.

A plus to the PDF file format is its ability to be protected with a password. This simply implies that machines and tool cannot read the content without unlocking the file first, thus losing all the passwords at the time. Such a wasted feature for the PDF format.

At times, the only option left in terms of PDF translation is the manual translation from start to finish .This entails the process of reading, rewriting, translating, editing, designing and proofreading. This process requires a lot of time and increases the total translation costs. On the other hand, machine translation would have been the easiest way out, fast and cheap, but the layout and other visual information may be lost during the process.

All said and done, even if the translation process can be effected, the original layout of the document may never work for the translated content. PDF being a visual format, the layout is designed for the original language. A new language may require more or less space and therefore changing the direction of the text.

This narrative by now has portrayed the PDF file as the worst format ever. On the contrary it isn’t. PDF documents are very important in their own way, many of them being very clear and easy from the technical viewpoint. The greatest advantage of choosing a PDF format is that the document will look nice to everyone regardless. A very vital point to always factor is that PDFs are of many types and only a small statistics of them are challenging to translate.