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Language facts: Croatian

Croatian is a South Slavic language used primarily in Croatia (where it is an official language) by Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in neighboring countries where Croats make up autochthonous communities (e.g. the Serbian province of Vojvodina, Molise in Italy, or Burgenland in Austria), and generally the global Croatian diaspora. 

It is sometimes classified as belonging to the Central South Slavic diasystem (also referred to as "Serbo-Croatian"). Croatian is spoken by 4,800,000 native speakers and approx. 6.5 million people around the world and uses a three-letter code: HRV (= hrvatska/i) for international recognition. It is also one of the official EU languages since Croatia became an EU member in 2013.

Croatian: a language with mixed origin

The modern Croatian standard language is a continuous outgrowth of more than nine hundred years of literature written in a mixture of Croatian Church Slavonic, or worded differently the Serbo-Croatian variant of Church Slavonic (i.e. Old Slavonic that was, for a brief period, also an official recognized language of the liturgy) and the vernacular language. Croatian Church Slavonic was abandoned by the mid-15th century, and Croatian as embodied in a purely vernacular literature (Shtokavian dialect literature) has now existed for more than five centuries.

Nowadays the Croatian language is an important symbol of national identity, but suggesting that Croatian language equals or is fully intelligible with Serbo-Croatian is still a sensitive subject to bring up. In fact, the differences between Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian language are (sometimes much too intensively) highlighted due to political reasons. The fact is that Croatians, Bosnians and Serbians generally understand each other, similarly to or even better than Czechs and Slovaks.


The Croatian alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet with special characters ć, č, đ, š, ž, dž; it does not have q, w, x, y.

A B C Č D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž a b c č d dž đ e f g h i j k l lj m n nj o p r s š t u v z ž

Language flavors: Dialects vs. languages

In terms of localization and also marketing customization of written content (e.g. in catalogs, websites, or promotional material), professional translation providers should be able to adjust the language and its style to match specifics of a region, ethnicity, or even a social group. But what is a dialect to begin with? And how does it relate to a language?

Localizing to dialects vs. localizing to languages

A dialect can be explained in two ways. It can be a subordinate language variant of a regional or national standard / official language, where the variant is, interestingly, not derived from, but related to the dominant language. However, the term dialect is also used to define a variant of a language that is characteristic to a certain group of language speakers. In this point of view, it is actually a matter of a scientific linguistic debate where to draw the border between a dialect and a language. There is also anopinion, that it's not possible to exactly determine where a dialect ends and a language begins. And here we come to the essence of professional and high-quality localization: knowing what language variant and form to use to grasp the essence of the locale. As languages and dialects evolve similar to living organisms, influenced by a number of factors from geographical and social, to historical and political, it is sometimes highly delicate to determine how to translate content to maximize impact.

When dialect is a language and language is a dialect

Yes, dialect and language can mean different things around the world. Let's take Chinese language, for example. All its variants share the same writing system, but in terms of mutual interchangeability e.g. the Cantonese and Mandarin dialects relate similarly as Spanish does with Italian, or Czech with Polish. The same goes for Arabic language and its dialects. 

The understanding of a language as dominant over the dialect can also be reversed so that even though the language is considered "standard" or "official", the dialect of the target area or social / ethnic group is emphasized and "wins" over the language. Recognizing that this is an ongoing process, these days often accelerated by political forces, the translation industry needs to react in a flexible way and target evolving dialects, especially those that one day will turn into independent languages.

Language facts: Greenlandic

Greenlandic is a language spoken by the Inuit people in Greenland. The main dialect, Kalaallisut, of Western Greenland belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut family (closely related to other Inuit languages, e.g. in Canada and basically accross the Arctic area). 

It became the only official language of Greenland when it gained autonomy from Denmark in 2009, after abandoning the Danish language. Greenlandic has around 58,000 native speakers.

Parents don't understand their kids – literally

It is not exactly known what language was spoken in Greenland by it's original inhabitants, however, the roots of today's Greenlandic was brought to the island around 13th century (by the ancestors of Inuits, the Thule people). There was no mention of the language in written form until the 17th century and the process of Greenlandic grammar constitution and the introduction of dictionaries accelerated with the Danish colonization of Greenland. The very first Danish-Greenlandic dictionary was introduced in 1750, and the first grammar followed in 1760.

Interestingly, similar to colonialism also the independence tendencies boosted development of the language. Since a home rule agreement in 1979, Greenlandic is the only language used in primary schooling and also by a lot of media, causing many young people to be bilingual in both Greenlandic and Danish, while their parents are monolingual in Danish. Modern Greenlandic has loaned many words from both English and Danish, but when adopting new technologies, attempts are made to construct words based on Greenlandic roots. Today, the language is regulated by the Greenland Language Committee and is still considered as "vulnerable" by UNESCO in terms of its endangerment. 


Greenlandic is written in Latin script since it became a Danish colony in the 1700s. The alphabet is very short, consisting of just 18 characters, but it uses the letters b, c, d, h, x, y, z, w, æ, ø and å to enable spelling of loan words from Danish and English.

Manage your very first translation project like a pro: Is know-how important?

If you are the lucky one assigned to manage, say, translation of an annual product catalog, and you have never managed any translation project before, don't panic. 

  1. Search for translation resources. You could save a lot of effort.
  2. Map the suppliers thoroughly. The difference is night and day.
  3. Document your company's language management.
  4. Establish a translation management workflow in your company.

In our mini-series, we already explained the first steps of the process regarding translation resources search as well asmapping and choosing your translation supplier

Now that you know the who and the where, it is important to define how.

3. Define your company language.

Every company has its own terminology and specific company jargon. Special terms and their meaning are defined in a glossary. If you have not built a glossary yet, this is an undertaking that can be part of the translation process. You can then request your translation supplier to use specific terms and expressions to achieve correct meaning (e.g. “battery” in certain languages needs to be translated differently depending on the subject matter and intended use) – this is a standard process that should be included in a company's translation resources. Also, you should be aware of many language and cultural specifics that must be taken into consideration when translating, such as text formatting rules, use of diacritics and numbers. Many companies often have specific rules for publishing text, which are not always the same, and they of course differ for different languages. They are collected in so-called style sheets or style guides.

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Fortify and defend your translation management workflow and preserve it for your successors.

Once you have managed to get a translation project delivered, don't let this be the end. To relieve others in your company and possible successors from having to repeat your hardships (remember, next time it could still be you who has to do it again!), you need to establish a written protocol for managing translation projects in your company. Don't forget to:

  • Get your translation supplier on the company map – include them in the list of vendors, store contact information for the project manager you communicated with and visibly record these. A good idea is to share the contacts, e.g. with your purchasing department.
  • Write down why you chose your current supplier (price, services, feedback on handled translations, etc.).
  • Leave instructions about using created translation resources and where to find them.

There! Now you are set to professionally handle translation projects, and impress your managers and potential clients with translated text that will promote your company and save your day.

Manage your very first translation project like a pro: Who should be your supplier?

If you are the lucky one assigned to manage, say, translation of an annual product catalog, and you have never managed any translation project before, don't panic. 

  1. Search for translation resources. You could save a lot of effort.
  2. Map the suppliers thoroughly. The difference is night and day.
  3. Document your company's language management.
  4. Establish a translation management workflow in your company. 

In this mini-series, we already explained the first steps of the process and the issue of translation resources search. Now, let's focus on the second point – mapping and choosing your translation supplier. 

Map your potential suppliers. It matters more than you think.

There are numerous suppliers out in the market and they are available virtually by a few clicks on the Internet. The general issues, however, are quality, rates, as well as workflow and featured services, and then of course for what purpose the translation will be used. For anything you want to publish and which will be used in the public domain, make sure you make the right choice. 

There are basically 4 types of translation suppliers companies tend to choose from (although sometimes the final choice might seem – and often is – illogical), including these general pros and cons:

A. Friend, or friend of a friend, who speaks the target language 

+ usually friendly price

+ no need of thorough market research

- not a professional translator

- no translation software or CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools

- no complementary services, aftercare or indemnity insurance

- usually no non-disclosure agreement

B. In-house employee who speaks the target language

+ no extra cost

+ no need of thorough market research

+ familiarity with subject field

- not a professional translator

- often no translation software or CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools, or lacking experience if a license is bought

- no complementary services, aftercare or indemnity insurance

C. Freelance translator

+ professional translator

+ potentially uses some CAT tools (although usually to limited extent)

- the rates depend on the language and sometimes also the project scope

- no complementary services, aftercare or indemnity insurance

- limited availability (think sickness, holidays, family issues)

D. Tanslation agency/LSP

+ has access to qualified professional translators

+ often apply a quality assurance process (the top standard is when every project is translated by one native professional translator, reviewed by another native professional translator, and then proofread and checked using CAT tools and internal LSP employees)

+ usually includes complementary services including translation resources, such as creation and storage of memories, DTP and layout services, or aftercare services (post-editing, back translation, professional project management, etc.) as well as other attractive services like indemnity insurance and other assurances.

+ usually attractive pricing for volume projects and regular work.

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How to pick a suitable translation supplier?

It is pretty obvious which type of supplier we would recommend.

If you have cooperated with an LSP before and you find their current services and rates attractive, this is the cleanest option for optimized handling and probably the easiest way to manage the translation process. If you handle translation differently, do your homework and carry out a market research, while focusing on: 

  • rates and prices in general
  • LSP's references, certifications and terms & conditions
  • services included in the price (mainly translation memory and access to glossaries and special terminology)
  • ordering process

A lot of LSPs offer to supply you with a free quote and an estimate of delivery terms. Requesting a quote is a natural way to engage with potential suppliers, find out the necessary facts and get supportive reason for making a decision.

To know more about establishing an efficient work-flow for your company's translation management, read our next blog --->

Language facts: Greek

The Greek language (or Modern Greek or Hellenic as it is sometimes called) belongs to the Indo-European language family and is the continuity of Ancient Greek. Both languages share almost the same alphabet, grammar, syntax and vocabulary. Latin language and all the Latin-derived languages were influenced by Ancient Greek.

Nowadays Greek is spoken by over 17 million people around the world, mainly in Greece but also in the U.S.A., Canada, Germany, Brazil, Australia, etc. A dialect of Greek (Greek Cypriot) is also spoken in Cyprus. Greek is the official language in Greece and Cyprus as well as an official EU language. 


Greek is the language that in it's own way has helped to define today's Western culture. Not only is it the oldest recorded living language in the world (written down in clay around 1450-1350 BC), but it is also the core of Ancient literature and knowledge, such as Homer's epic poems Illias and Odyssey, Platonic dialogues, the entire work of Aristotle, even the New Testament – all were written down in Greek. During the time of the Antiquity, Greek was the lingua franca of the Mediterranean and together with Latin (then the language of Romans who competed and eventually overcame the Greeks) it has been the subject of an entire discipline of studies, the so called Classics. 


The Greek alphabet is considered to be the earliest European alphabet (since about 9th century BC). Greek language and it's ancient forms used in fact three writing systems in the course of history – Linear B (a set of 87 syllabic signs and more than 100 ideographs that signify objects and it is believed these ideograms had no phonetic meaning), Cypriot syllabary – closely related to Linear B, but abandoned during the Classical era to be replaced by today's Greek alphabet (current variant is the so-called Ionic). 

Today's Greek writing system has 24 letters, whereas English has 26. 


Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω 

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Demystifying machine translation: Do translators need to worry?

"See translation". Two increasingly visible words in the digital environment. Whether it's about built-in machine translation (MT) apps and gadgets in social media, browsers, or even the soon-to-be-available wireless earplugs connected to smartphones that translate human speech as we speak, machine translation is all around us. Machines are learning and improving exponentially, and attentive translators could be increasingly bothered by the fact that some mystical Joe Bot takes over their potential income. There are a few reasons, why translators don't (yet) need to worry about their remote future and well-being. Not just for general or Shakespearean style translation, but also many other fields.

Three reasons favoring human translators

  1. Machines think logically, while human language is not logical.

Global human language as a generalized form of any human communication is like an organism. It's highly complicated, imperfect, evolving and even somewhat illogical if the intention is to to rewrite and transfer the written word into the rigid, binary world – ergo the language of machines. Over seven billion people with various historical and cultural backgrounds have accumulated such a vast number of fuzzy content to deal with that even with increasing computing capacity and advanced artificial intelligence, today's MT solutions are still unable to deliver satisfying results.

  1. MT discriminates.

The more "logical", in-use and exception-free a language is (English and Spanish are good examples), the closer it gets to the thinking, or processing, of MT bots. Frankly, sometimes it's rather disturbing how accurate MT gets with translation into English, but the more complicated rules and exceptions and illogical nuances a language has, the more desperate results the translation apps return. Eventually, it's always the human brain that puts the pieces together and one can probably conclude that the less narrower  your language focus is, the longer you can laugh at what Google and other service bot translators deliver, albeit with some exceptions.

  1. MT can slow down the translation process.

Simple, short segments, mainly of general text and even technical stuff, constitute an area where MT can be very helpful if the work-flow of the translation environment is well designed. With well-prepared translation resources, MT can save time for  translators as it can correctly translate a fair deal of content. However, the "fair deal of content" – of course depending on the language – really does not make up (based on our internal data and experience) much more than about 10-15% of the overall text mass. Longer segments are still a challenge for translation engines, and often they deliver unintelligent results that can take a lot long for a translator to straighten out than simply translating such segments from scratch.

Together with translation memories and glossaries, translators have an arsenal of content at their disposal, which of course can help but this can also distract and cause loss of time when the translator tries picking his/her best options among all given resources. Decision paralysis, or work obstruction for lack of a better word, are well-known to translators working with MT.

They need to make numerous decisions for each and every text segment they work on: which fuzzy match would be best for the segment, is the machine proposal acceptable, does glossary proposals interfere, is grammar correct, etc.?

Summing up, we have a paradox where certain types of work-flows with MT intended to speed up the translation actually does the contrary and slows down the process as a result of overinput, human hesitation, a quest for perfection and vagueness and inconsistency that a human trained translator has learned to avoid. 

The main argument talking against MT is the way we interact and think. Yes, machines can beat the human brain in terms of volume and sheer processing power, but until MT actually becomes able to reflect human intuition, work flexibly and with an ability to improvise, impress and excel, real quality – which is what matters most in translation – namely the art of translation will still rest with us humans.

Future of MT

The question then is if there is a future for machine translation. The answer is a definite Yes. It will without doubt become a valuable tool to professional translators working in scientific fields. Once we learn to tame the output and recognize the short-comings, there is a good chance it can boost productivity.

Language facts: Slovak

Slovak, also known as Slovakian, is an Indo-European language belonging to the West Slavic languages (together with Czech and Polish). The language is very similar to Czech and the two are mutually intelligible, with the exception of some dialects in East Slovakia that have structural differences and is hardly comprehensible to those familiar with the official version. 

Slovak has been influenced by many languages, including Czech, Polish, German and Hungarian. It's the official language in Slovakia and Vojvodina (in Serbia), as well as an official EU language, with over 5 million native speakers in Slovakia and small minorities in the USA, Czech Republic and Serbia.

Language – a tool of failed revolution

Slovak is a descendant to Proto-Slavic language, from which it started to differ around the 8-9th century after inhabiting today's area of Slovakia. In 863, the first script – the Glagolitic alphabet – was used to write down the "Old Slavonic" (language of Slovene – the Slavic inhabitants of the area) after the arrival of Constantine and Methodius (brothers and Byzantine theologians and inventors of the script). The brothers even pushed through Old Slavonic as the fourth liturgical language. This was however abolished in 885 and the area got back to using latin script.

Slovak was not constituted until the middle of 19th century and its codification itself marks the era of a strong national movement against former Hungarian supremacy. In the European revolutionary years of 1848-1849, the group around protestant literate Ľudovít Štúr promoted the use of Slovak language in their publications and engaged in the nationalistic brawl (which was logically followed by reprisals from Hungarian government). After Austria-Hungary was established in 1867, the government forced a strong Magyarization including conversion of all Slovak schools (from elementary to universities) to Hungarian, while Slovak language was allowed only as a foreign language with very limited extent of one hour per week. Slovak language was not officially recognized until 1918, when Czechoslovakia was established.


Slovak uses the Latin alphabet with diacritics. It is a common practice to change the spelling of foreign words into Slovak to establish a new Slovak word (e.g. weekend = víkend, dubbing = dabing, etc.).


A Á Ä B C Č D Ď Dz Dž E É F G H Ch I Í J K L Ľ M N Ň O Ó Ô P Q R Ŕ S Š T Ť U Ú V W X Y Ý Z Ž

a á ä b c č d ď dz dž e é f g h ch i í j k l ľ m n ň o ó ô p q r ŕ s š t ť u ú v w x y ý z ž

Brexit and translation industry: What's next?

Somehow over the past decades, we have become used to increasing interaction of nations and cultures and some things seemed almost certain. Such as the common European market and its focus on tearing down existing barriers. By June 24th, the (business) world got shocked by the decision of a narrow British majority to leave the European Union. What does it mean for the translation industry?

Today, it's hard to predict anything. But as global translation business – estimated to be worth USD 38 billion in 2015 by CSA Research – thrives from multinational interaction and global as well as European business growth, a USD 1.4 billion translation market aiming to raise the barriers and cut off the common EU market is hardly something to be happy about. 

idioma as an overseas member of the UK Association of Translation Companies, can only agree with the concerns of ATC that Brexit will damage not only the United Kingdom, but also the European translation industry, the question is of the extent and duration.

"A survey of the UK’s language service providers, which are responsible for more than 12,000 jobs, showed that (...) more than two thirds said their businesses with EU-based enterprises will be compromised by a UK departure, while 50% revealed nearly one third of their current revenue is generated from customers based in other EU countries."

Geoffrey Bowden, General Secretary of the ATC (more here).

Sterling on it's knees resulting in increased sales on UK Amazon probably won't compensate for decreased investments and international trade, and eventually there could very well be a necessity to optimize the input factors (= more streamlining, reducing pays and vacancies) in the long-term development of the translation industry and/or raise fees in lieu of lower volumes.

It seems that the question of the day is how to come out of this pickle only bruised, not cut. And it looks like we will have to wait for the answers quite a long time – for several years if we should trust statements from the EU's own bureaucrats.

Language facts: Polish

Polish is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. It is most closely related to Czech and Slovak, sharing the region of Central Europe. 

It is spoken by around 55 million people around the world, primarily in Poland (around 38 million), and by immigrant communities in many countries in Europe, the UAE and USA (there are 11 million Polish Americans and a vast diaspora lives also in the UK). It is also one of the official EU languages. 


Polish language appeared around the 10th century as a result of an emerging Polish state. Until accepting Christianity and the Latin script, there was no alphabet to write Polish down so it existed only in spoken form. Despite a very complicated history of Poland and Polish people, and many attempts to suppress the language, its literature still developed. Nowadays, Polish is the second most widely spoken Slavic language in the world (after Russian), even surpassing Ukrainian. 

The language has some quite interesting grammar rules. Polish is highly inflected with seven cases for nouns, pronouns and adjectives. It also has a complex gender system, but uses only three tenses. There are no definite or indefinite articles in Polish. Interestingly, when formally addressing someone (even in direct personal communication), Polish switch from second to third person and use the pronouns pan (Mr.), pani (Mrs.) or panstwo (plural - equivalent to "ladies and gentlemen").


In addition to the standard Latin alphabet, Polish uses 9 special characters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż; Ą, Ć, Ę, Ł, Ń, Ó, Ś, Ź, Ż) and special character pairs (ch, cz, dz, dż, dź, sz, rz) which represent sounds not available in the Latin alphabet. 


a ą b c ć d e ę f g h i j k l ł m n ń o ó p r s ś t u w y z ź ż

Translation ordering: Stop drowning in emails

You need to translate a document. You write an email with the request to your translation agency. Then another one, because the project manager has issues with your document, and you then end up writing a third one to approve or negotiate the estimated price and delivery term. After the project has started you realize your forgot to attach a glossary or reference material, and you end up emailing yet again. Each mail message naturally involves delays on both sides and attention diversion. Besides they unnecessarily fill up in your inbox.

Eventually, because of this communication ping-pong, the actual launch of your translation project gets postponed by hours, possibly even days. And you of course realize you are wasting time and effort on an issue that should be so simple, not to mention your translation could have already been halfway done.



The answer to straightforward requests for translation estimates and subsequent order placement is automation and the concept of self-service. Think about an online solution that is globally available 24/7. It should allow upload of all the materials to be translated in dozens of supported file formats at any time of day. You could attach your translation resources (e.g. glossaries, translation memories, style guides, etc.) and the estimation would even respect text reuse from fuzzy matches and repeating segments to reduce cost and delivery time. You would choose the source language and select  the target languages needed. A checkbox for express delivery would be the icing on the cake. All the email hassle and endless waiting for estimates from your translation agency would be gone, instead replaced by a simple button click. You know you could have an estimate in less than a minute. To place your order, you would click an Order button and the translation shuold start at that very moment.

Time saved on both sides, all projects in one place. Where to get it? 


This level of self-service is provided via Stream – our state-of-the-art estimator platform designed to reduce the time for getting translation price offers and start translation projects instantly through online ordering. 

Check out and see the difference :)

Language facts: Swahili

Swahili (or Kiswahili) is a language from the Niger-Congo branch, included in the group of Bantu languages. It is spoken in several East African countries, even reaching across the Mozambique Channel to northern Mozambique and is considered a lingua francain the area of the African Great Lakes as well as other parts of Southeast Africa. 

Swahili is the official language in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Comoros. It is spoken by tens of million of people, possibly even by more than one hundred million people, either as a primary or secondary language.  

Lingua franca of Southeast Africa

This language dates back at least 1,000 years, being in fact the first language of the Swahili people, and originally spread mainly in coastal region by fishermen. During the colonial period, it has been much influenced by German, English, Portuguese, French and even Arabic. It was in fact the German colonists who declared Swahili as the general administrative language in mainland Tanzania (back then Tanganyika). English colonists had similar plans with Swahili in Kenya, but without any official conclusion. However, after the British took over Tanzania – the former colony of the defeated Germany – they instituted Swahili as a common language for lower levels of education and administration in all British colonies in the area (while secondary education and governance would be in English only).

Since 1928, when a conference in Mombasa was held in order to standardize Swahili language and provide it also with a written form (the language uses the Zanzibar Swahili dialect Kiunguja as a basis for standardization), the language has been regulated by the National Swahili Council in Tanzania. Today, Arabic language is gaining influence in Swahili language evolution due to the large amount of Arabic-speaking Muslim inhabitants in the region's east coast.


Swahili has two writing systems: Latin and Arabic. While it used to be based on the Arabic scripts, Latin script is common today.

Latin version:


a b ch d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v w x y z

Translation tips: Importing IDML files into CAT tools

Translators can be faced with many file formats that require translation, from simple text files to complex DTP files. These more "exotic" files, such as .mif (FrameMaker file format) or .idml (InDesign format) sometimes bring hell on earth for translators trying to import texts from such files into their CAT tools. 

In particular, one of InDesign's neat features – layers and conditional text – allows users to create different versions of a document. However, the presence of more layers or text conditions in an InDesign file may easily become a confusing factor when importing text into a CAT tool. Text may become "lost" at various stages.

InDesign: Where to find relevant text 

Let’s take a look at some InDesign features that might contain relevant (and sometimes hidden) text: 

  1. LAYERS 

An .idml document can be organized by placing text (and objects) onto different layers. It's possible to show and hide those layers to display relevant text. 

TIP: To show and hide the layers palette in InDesign, go to Windows > Layers (or press F7). With the layer palette displayed, layers can be hidden and unhidden by toggling the “eye” icon on and off. 


This is content within a document that is meant to appear in some renditions of the document, but not other renditions.

In InDesign it's possible to create text conditions and then apply them to text just like it would be done with character formatting. 

TIP: Similarly to layers, certain text can be shown or hidden by toggling conditions on and off. In InDesign, go to Windows > Type & Table > Conditional Text to show the Conditional Text palette. With the layer palette displayed, conditions are hidden/unhidden by toggling the “eye” icon (just like you’d do for layers). 


There is yet another place in InDesign where irrelevant text may have been “parked” by the author of the document – the pasteboard. The pasteboard is that blank area around InDesign layout pages. Make sure to clear the pasteboard, otherwise any text that is found there may end up in translation!

One last useful TIP: Translation companies and translators should ask document authors to hide all unnecessary layers and conditional text in InDesign documents that should be translated. This will allow the translators to focus only on the intended content, which saves clients' time and money.

Translation tips: Tags in translation

Everything evolves. 30 years ago the translators worked on typewriters, now we work on computers with special translation applications that offer a lot more than delivery of translated text. Today, the delivery includes almost ready-to-publish text that hardly need any reformatting. This is becuase in modern translation, text from source documents is imported into special translation memory applications (for example, we use our in-house developed tool iQube at idioma, which we offer for free to all the translators and linguists that work with us). And besides importing the source text, a translation memory product also imports text formatting. This formatting includes standard commands such as font and font size changes, variables, cross-references for e.g. indexes and pictures, etc. The formatting commands are referred to as tags, and when placed correctly they decide how the translated text will look like in final format.

In most cases, the translator places the tags in the corresponding places in his translation so they more or less match the tag placement in the original. For standard text, this is a process that does not take much time – in fact, the process is highly automated and in many cases tags are put where they should be without human intervention.

Too many tags = loss of concentration

 While convoluted formatting commands get compressed to dense, single tags, they can still cause a lot of frustration and make the translation work extremely tedious. There are cases where text in an original can contain so many tags that the text segments can hardly be translated, while trying to simply understand the text can be a challenge (as seen on the screenshot below).

extra tags

Extreme tag example: Pink tags represent Bold On and Bold Off. Blue tags are redundant with letter spacing info, which is not an issue in translation.

In some cases, especially with OCR text or text that has been edited a lot (in e.g. Word or originate from RTF files), such tags can’t even be seen with the naked eye. This issue can therefore be easilly missed by clients submitting text for translation. However, the tags show up in the translation environment – and they can create such a mess that translators lose their concentration and make mistakes they would normally not make (just try to read the text on the picture :) ).

Cutting down on tags improves translation 

So especially with these kinds of files that allow you to get (sometimes excessively) creative in terms of formatting, it is a good habit to apply a general font, style or neutral text format to the texts before submitting the document for translation. This will remove most unnecessary tags and only keep those that are relevant.

The translator can then focus on his translation, choosing the right words in the context and making sure the message in the original is passed on to the foreign reader.

At idioma, it is a habit of ours to inform clients when they submit documents with tag clutter. We inform how tags can be reduced and we see it as a way to ensure quality is consistently high and the translator can do what s/he is actually tasked with: translate instead of doubling as a layout person.

Official languages of international organizations

Not just in today's globalized world, but whenever more cultures or nations sit together behind one table, languages surely represent a very important part of national and cultural identities to be respected among all partners. Usage of languages, or the constitution of official languages within international organisations or treaties, suggests the importance and respect to each associate, and also reflects their history and "genesis".

But it also indirectly underscores the trouble of translation, interpretation and localization of official material into all the "official" languages of a particular organization. Not just within the regular operation of these organizations – such as the United Nations (UN), or European Union (EU) – but also in lesser contexts by manufacturers and language suppliers who wish to supply to such organizations face headaches. A case in point is all the languages they need to describe their products in when trying to sell in the EU. 

So what languages are these?

Languages of the United Nations

There are currently six official languages, used in all official documents of the UN (the documents are not even published until available in all official languages), as well as in meetings of the various UN organs, such as the General Assembly, Security Council, etc.: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English (British), French, Russian and Spanish.

The UN supplies mutual interpretation of the above-mentioned languages during these meetings, but if a state representative wants to speak in another language, one needs to provide translation into one of the official UN languages. The truth is that English has been preferred in communication at the expense of omitting the other five languages, an issue that has been subject to continuous public criticism. Focus on the language parity and multilingualism was supported even in the adoption of the Resolution on Multilingualism by the General Assembly in 2011.

Languages of the European Union

The number of EU languages rises whenever the Union expands, although the number of member states does exceed the number of the official languages. The first official languages of, at that time, the European Community (1958) were Dutch, French, German and Italian. Interestingly English was excluded then and did not become an official EU language until 1973.

Currently, there are 24 official EU languages, but also several others with the status of so-called co-official or semi-official language (Basque, Catalan, Galician, Scottish, Welsh).

Unlike the UN, when meetings are held among EU member states, all participants are allowed to use their own language – this is because the EU maintains the policy that every EU citizen has the right to communicate and access all EU documents in one of the official EU languages (this extends also to consumer information, e.g. in product manuals, safety information, etc., turning these into an additional cost issue, albeit with great marketing potential, to manufacturers entering the huge European Union market).

The European Commission itself actually operates the largest language service in the world to cover all the aspects of this language policy. A service that is very open to the general public with shared documents in almost any imaginable field and often a treasure trove to language aficionadi.

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