Before beginning a translation project, it is important to let the client know what format the files to be translated should be in. Clients likely are not up to date on the techniques and programs used by translation agencies—nor do they have any reason to be. It is for this reason that, often times, informing them about file formats helps everyone involved save time and money.
In order for a file to be translatable without having to add additional, prior steps (e.g. pre-DTP, transcription, pre-edition, etc.), it is best to have the original, editable format of the file. In agencies, these are commonly called “source files.” Editable files include those in Word, Excel, and InDesign formats, among others. Receiving a file other than the source file will make the process longer, and will also require more personnel.
This does not necessarily mean that the entire process will not require any post-DTP stages, but it does make it much easier and faster to process and send it to the translator, in addition to reducing risks that may jeopardize quality.
When we receive files in PDF or JPG format (e.g. scanned documents), they must first pass through a conversion stage by using OCR software to make the file editable and to be able to produce an estimated word count. When the file is not of good quality, even after having been converted to an editable text, a translator needs to perform a transcription or pre-edition before sending it to be translated.
Often times, the process becomes complicated when a client sends a PDF file in for a quote that is actually an InDesign file. In this case, it needs to be converted with OCR software, and the file becomes quite different from what it would have looked like in the original InDesign format. Generally, the client has the source files on hand and can send them in without any problem; it is therefore very important to ask and to maintain dialogue with them in these situations.
Therefore, before selling and beginning a project, it is of utmost importance to be certain that the client has the files to be translated in a format that is useful to everyone, helping us to facilitate and improve the work of all those involved in the process.