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The Challenges of Multilingual Typesetting Services

A typesetting service is essential for any global business. UK typesetters work alongside translators to prepare the translated text for printing on paper. This includes reference markups, formatting, and composition — also known as page layout – and ensures this language typesetting service adheres to the country-specific typographical conventions of your target language.

At Renaissance Translations, we have a team of professional UK typesetters and offer multilingual typesetting services to clients worldwide. However, this doesn’t come without its challenges! Here are some of the difficulties we constantly face during our language typesetting process.


1. Typesetting Service: Non-English Languages

Many non-English languages are difficult to typeset. Some are used in small geographic areas by a limited number of people. For example, the Khmer language is written only in Cambodia. People outside this tiny geographic area would not generally use Khmer resources or typesetting.

Others have specific characters or writing systems that are particularly difficult to work with from a technical standpoint. Russian has a large number of speakers worldwide. However, it can be particularly challenging for our UK typesetters to work on because it uses both Cyrillic (a writing system derived from Greek) and Latin alphabets.

Sometimes, a language rarely appears in printed text, and some are used almost exclusively in digital media. These factors introduce more challenges for language typesetting. Only a company offering a professional typesetting service can overcome these non-English language challenges.


2. Technical Limitations 

Other issues UK typesetters consistently face are technical limitations. Many languages have characters that cannot be laid out in the same way as English. For example, single-letter words cannot be placed at the end of a line in Polish.

Some typographical elements, such as italics and underlining, are also unavailable in some languages. As such, letter spacing, kerning, and typographical elements must be adjusted according to the font size and language used. A native speaker will know the proper spacing rules and technical limitations when providing a language typesetting service.


3. Left-to-Right Scripts

Your language typesetting will be pretty straightforward if you’re working with a left-to-right script. We use Latin letters (Roman script) in English, Spanish and German, to name a few examples of left-to-right scripts. When you are typesetting a book or a brochure, you won’t have trouble sourcing a typesetting service for any of these languages.

However, some languages don’t fall neatly into this category. For example, the Arabic language is a Semitic language that uses the Arabic alphabet. The Arabic writing system is from right to left! To properly set the layout in these documents, UK typesetters must completely alter the layout, including mirroring the direction of images and tables.


4. Complexity of Hyphenation

The next challenge in a professional typesetting service is the complexity of hyphenation. While English text only has one set of hyphens, some languages, like German and Spanish, have two sets. Depending on the circumstance, they have both a soft hyphen (¬) and a hard hyphen (-).

A soft hyphen means that it breaks a word at that point without altering its meaning, whereas a hard hyphen breaks the word so it cannot stand alone without changing its meaning. In other words, with German as an example, die-selben (the same) becomes diesel¬ben (the same). When typesetting, the use of a soft vs hard hyphen makes all the difference in the meaning of the language!

There are then some languages that do not hyphenate at all, such as Arabic. If a typesetter left hyphens in the content from a UK business looking to enter the Arab market, the text wouldn’t make sense to Arabic speakers.


5. Foreign Languages and Web Pages

In most cases, the language that requires a typesetting service uses a different alphabet from English. These include JapaneseArabicKoreanChinese and many others. In these cases, it is crucial to ensure that the typesetting renders the text in a way that preserves its natural integrity. This often requires hiring a native speaker with experience working with foreign typesetting.

These languages employ character sets significantly more extensive than European and Middle Eastern languages. Typesetters unfamiliar with these character sets might mistakenly omit certain characters or insert unnecessary spaces.

Even when all characters are present, improper rendering can significantly impact the quality of the typesetting service you receive. The text might not be legible, and accents and character marks might not be clear. Only typesetter experts qualified in typesetting can quickly identify improper rendering, ensuring your content is read as well in the UK as it is in Japan.


Professional Typesetting Services from Renaissance Translations

Language typesetting and formatting can be a challenge for some agencies to get right. But at Renaissance Translations, we have expert designers working closely with our professional translators to deliver an error-free document in a timely manner.

Your partnership with Renaissance Translations comes with professional memberships such as ATC and SDL LSP Partner Programme. Our professional typesetting service has helped hundreds of companies working abroad with accurate typesetting for their brochures, leaflets, books and other documents. Join our happy customers and contact our project managers today to discuss your project, or request a quote online.

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