What are Text Expansion and Text Contraction?

When a text is translated from one language to another, in most cases, the number of words and, therefore, the space that the text occupies in a document usually change. This is because each language has its own grammatical and linguistic complexity, so more or less words are needed to explain the same idea. When the translated text contains fewer words, it is called text contraction. On the other hand, when the translation turns out to have a greater number of words, we call it an text expansion.

A typical case of contraction and expansion are translations of English to Spanish. English is a simple language grammatically, which, when translated to Spanish, always produces expansion. The latter language is more complex and has more specific structures and words. In a translation from Spanish to English, the text would definitely contract.

Another interesting example is German, where several words can be clustered into one. Stadtverkehrsverbindungen is a word made up of several words: city, transport and links. And then, there are the languages ​​that use ideograms, like Chinese and Japanese, where a single character can represent a word or a concept. When these are translated, the ensuing expansion is not surprising.

This is a factor that must be taken into account for all documents that have design elements, where the space for the text is limited. In the case of text contraction, there may be empty spaces that may distort the balance of the design elements. When a text expands, it may exceed the text fields and force the designer in charge of DTP to rethink the layout of the document. In both cases, the texts can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the size of the font, or by rearranging the design elements. You just have to have a little flexibility and take into account that the translated file may look a bit different from the original in terms of design and format.

If you have any questions or queries about this, please contact the Trusted Translations team, so that we can advise you and propose the option that best suits your needs.