The Complicated Task of Working with Scanned PDFs

Translation, as we know, is a task that requires many skills. Besides the more obvious ability to communicate text clearly and correctly from one language into another, professional translation also requires other skills, e.g. the ability to understand the context of a document, the ability to view different formats of a document and the ability to be adaptable to a given document. These are just some of the most important skills that a translator must have in today’s world.

In regard to the latter two, for a translator it is always more beneficial to translate documents that have a low level of technical complexity in their formatting (i.e., documents in MS Word, PowerPoint or Excel). Of course, it helps that a document can be translated as smoothly as possible. However, this is not always the case. Clients have their own demands, their own documents, perhaps stemming from the most unlikely sources (e.g. screenshots, a faxed document, printout, scanned images, etc.). In short, all types of documents may require translation.

Therefore, it is essential that both the translation agency involved in the translation process and the resources that the agency uses in the process must be able to adapt to the client’s needs. While the translation of a scanned document is tedious, if that is all the client is able to offer, then that is what must be worked with, exhausting all the resources that are at hand.

Take for example the case of scanned PDFs. These PDFs may come from very different backgrounds, even within the same project. Typically, the quality of these documents is quite bad. The text is often not very clear, illegible in some cases, especially if the text contains tables or charts, which are often damaged. All this, of course, adds to the difficulty of the translation.

To solve this problem, an alternative may be: converting the PDFs using a conversion tool (Abby Reader or Solid Converter, which can be downloaded from the Internet) and, once converted, smooth out any formatting issues through a Desktop Publishing process. Once any problematic text areas have been retouched and all text is legible, the document is ready for translation.

Of course, this procedure takes time and adds to the cost that must be considered when quoting the translation of such files. What is most important here is that no matter the format, with the necessary tools this task can be performed so that the translation can be done.

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