How to Manage Text Contraction and Expansion in Translation

Working on a project, bringing new ideas, and setting the plans in motion is time taking process. Working alongside designers means you have to be patient with them to make it all work. But what if something goes wrong in the middle of the project? What if the balance of sentences and words is not a great fit in the Chinese language as you thought, translation just didn’t work and thus you have to rewrite everything again? Such buzz kills!

Translation can be tricky. A perfect eye-catching pamphlet won’t do a thing for the audience if they can’t read the letters right? Whenever you visit a multilingual website, you focus on the theme and how beautifully the content is laid out, and each section; page is well balanced with the right amount of text. If you compare a brand’s multilingual website you will find distinct differences in the structure, layout, and sometimes designs and images used on it.

The reason is, every language is different. You need to understand the differences before running a multilanguage campaign so that translation doesn’t make it sound clingy or boring.

How translation works – text expansion and contraction

Each language is unique. Their grammar, letter, words, meaning, speech, etc. might be somewhat similar but altogether you can highlight the differences too easily. When you translate content from one language to another, you witness the expansion and contraction of text (highly depending on the type of language).

For instance, you wrote a report of 1000 words on how effective face masks are in English, once converted into Arabic, the word count changed to 1200. Do you see the difference? The word count increased by 200. This is known as text expansion.

It is important to understand how the text expands or contracts because of translation. How does a translator know what the word count for the document will be? Translators are native linguist experts, they horn their skills over the years and they can give a rough estimate about the word count at most.

What payment to consider?

Due to the differences in language, some translation companies charge clients per target words (payment is based on the final translated document). Sometimes the translation service provider company charge per source word. Before engaging with a translation service provider it is useful to have an idea about the cost of the translation project. This brings one major problem in focus; the document given for translation may not necessarily be in the format that allows them to calculate the word count.

For instance, keeping the word count is important (payment depends on it) but when a document has a graphic image or handwriting, it makes the hard to count the number of words involved in the source document. This affects the payments as well. With no formula to calculate the expansion and contraction in a text, most agencies are likely to charge you against the target

language, so be prepared to pay a good amount.

Website and app translation

Most of the updated CMS platforms are lenient and flexible to use for translation, they support the expansion and contraction of text and are built to handle the language change.

Similar to readymade items, developers are keeping up with their efforts to create a ready app at a global level that will be designed to accommodate the languages and cultures accordingly. Once you come around the first phase of the localization review, you can evaluate how much space is being required and whether the website and app are working properly or not.

Voice over and subtitles

Expansion and contraction are not limited to written documents but also apply to voice-overs and subtitles as well. Why is it so some sentences sound longer in one language than the other? It is because they have more word counts, one syllable may take longer or shorter to pronounce in a language than in the other.

If the word count increases in subtitles, it becomes a bit challenging for the viewers to keep up with the video; either they can read the subtitles or watch the video. Sometimes the time pace between the video and subtitles rules out and subtitles are either moving extra fast or slow in comparison to the video, again making it hard to catch up with the video.

Professional translation service providers understand such a dilemma and therefore the voiceover experts or subtitle translators make sure to translate according to the original meaning of the content.

Things to remember during translation

Translation impacts the size and format style of the document as well. To get the desired results you need to keep a few pointers in mind that may work with translation.

1. Leave ample space during translation, this gives you enough space and the text does not appear crowded either.

2. The use of functional tables makes it easier to adjust the text after translation.

3. Make wider columns when making tables so that the translated text fit (if expanded).

4. Be careful when using abbreviations, you may have to mention the acronym in the target language, which will result in text expansion.

5. Use a proper format for paragraph styles, for consistent use.

6. Avoid embedding text tightly in the graphic; the translated text may not fit the image as originally planned etc.

Always leave space, it’s vital for translation

Regardless of how you might plan things, unpredicted changes can occur during the translation process. You can find some interesting online videos on how to overcome the difference between text expansion and contraction. If you are an amateur freelancer such tutorials will be a real help for you.

For the best results, it is better to take help from specialized personnel. Hire a professional translation service, with their expertise and experience they are familiar with the transitional changes that are bound to occur when translating content.

These subject matter experts know how to adjust the changes and conduct proper research before starting the project. Their understandings of text expansion and contraction have an impact on the final result.

Here at CCJK, we are providing seamless translation and localization solutions in 120+ languages. Get in touch to know more!

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