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A-Z of Translation – the letter G:

Letter G focuses on the nitty-gritty, for a change:

Graphics – In an increasingly visual – and technically advanced – age, even short texts will often feature graphics to get a point across or back up an argument with figures. For the translator, this is not always good news.

There are two main problems: specialist software and space constraints.

Often, the graphics will have been created using sophisticated software that not everyone has access to, so translating text items contained in the graphic becomes difficult or impossible. The customer themselves may also not have access to the necessary software – because the graphics were produced by a different department within the organisation or by an external agency, for example. The best option will normally be to provide the client with a neat table showing the text items in the original language and the corresponding translation, which can then be forwarded to the relevant person/entity.

Even trickier are graphics that cannot (easily) accommodate translated text items that are longer than the original language. A designer working on a graphic in English showing the results of a survey will typically allow just enough space for “Agree” and “Disagree”, for example, which causes problems in a language like German because “Stimme zu” and “Stimme nicht zu” are significantly longer. Reducing the point size or increasing the size of a text box can solve some space problems, but there are also cases where the entire graphic will need to be adapted.

Graphics may also include a list of countries or cities that have been carefully arranged in alphabetical order to avoid upsetting anyone. Putting the translated names into alphabetical order would normally be a routine task for any translator (albeit not a hugely enjoyable one), but if each line in the table contains multiple data items things can get messy – and risky. It’s not much use having a non-offensive alphabetical list if the readers are being given the wrong data because of a copying error.

To sum up, there is usually more to translating even quite simple graphics than meets the eye. In complex cases, considerable effort can be required to ensure a professional result.

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