Working with PDF Files

Some clients send me translation projects that include PDF files. Unfortunately, I cannot always automatically convert them into editable files.

What would you do in this case?

It is easy to retain the original format when working with editable files. After reading and reviewing them, you upload them to your CAT tool. Once you have finished, you download the translation. And while proofreading the translated files, you will also adjust the format if necessary.

The challenge often arises when the original document is only available as a scanned document. That means you will not be able to edit it as a text file. Scanned documents are like images. And you might have taken design lessons, yet your work as a translator essentially involves text, not images. That is, you do not provide DTP services.

The optical character recognition (OCR) function is often helpful in retrieving text from non-editable PDFs. However, it does not always work as you would expect. At times, it may not detect the entire text, or it will render a text full of typos.

Unless you have hired a graphic designer, you may want to recreate the PDF as a text file. Unfortunately, that can take hours. That is why I always charge this service separately.

If a client only wants to pay for a translation service, they must provide a document that is ready to be translated!

My secret is to use tables in my text editor to recreate the original document as fast as possible. That allows me to create templates for similar projects in the future, which helps me to save time.

There is another advantage of using tables. After uploading the document to be translated to your CAT tool, the text will be segmented correctly.

Some translators refuse to work with non-editable PDFs because it involves work that is out of their scope. Yet, since I can type up to 100 words per minute and use text editors proficiently, I like to put in the additional effort to make it easier for my clients.

That is why I agree to translate non-editable PDFs — as long as the contents are legible!

What about you? How do you handle translation projects that include non-editable files?

I look forward to reading you in the comments below.


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