Friday, July 31

Translation Woes

A while ago I mentioned how I had created translation grids for the rules for all my games to make it easier for volunteers to translate the rules of my games into other languages. It seems to have worked. I've had a lot of translations done of my rules and this week I've received a couple more (Sumeria into Hungarian and Carpe Astra into Spanish).

So far all well and good. The translation grids work a treat, and make the layout of a new version pretty straightforward. Until everything goes wrong!

Several weeks ago I received a translation of Carpe Astra into Russian. Great! The same guy (thanks Yegor!) had done the other games too, and I'd already done Sumeria, so I started on Carpe Astra.

The translation grids make it really easy to just drop the translated text into the original Adobe InDesign document, using the same images and fonts. At least they do until you pick a stupid font. I'd used Agency FB Condensed, a narrow font that looked vaguely sci-fi, for the Carpe Astra rulebook and cards. Sadly this font did not support the cyrillic alphabet - when I pasted the translated text into the document all I got was little empty rectangular boxes where each character should have been. So I switched to Arial (it's not that important that the font is correct after all).

While this fixed the initial problem (Arial supports the cyrillic alphabet) it's a much wider font than Agency FB Condensed and the Russian translation was normally longer than the corresponding English text - so the translation no longer fits in the same number of pages. My first attempt at fixing this was to drop the font size from 12 point down to 11 (and fix all the layout problems this caused). But after a bit more cut-and-paste it was clear that 11pt wasn't small enough so I went down to 10pt (and fixed all the layout problems again). Guess what? Still not small enough. Running out of patience I shelved the translation and I admit it has been a few weeks since I last made any progress.

The arrival of the new translation grids forced me to go back to it however, and today I finally nailed it. The solution was finding out that InDesign allows you to change the width of a font - effectively allowing me to create an 'Arial Condensed' - a narrower version of Arial. This meant I could change the font size back to 11pt and nail it. It still took a bunch of work and a lot of fiddling to get the diagrams and their captions laid out correctly but the job is finished and off to the translator for proof-reading. This means I can concentrate on the other two translations over the weekend.

The moral of this tale? I'm not really sure, other than learn the abilities of InDesign so that I can fix this problem the right way first time!


Jon said...

I'm sure you know, but in case not, you could try playing with the kerning. That's the gap between letters. You can do this as part of your normal character formatting, so if one sentence didn't just fit, tightening the kerning on those few words might work without looking terrible. Equally, spreading the kerning out is a good way of balancing a headline or title.

Jack said...

Hiya Jon,

Yeah, I know about kerning. Unfortunately, I needed to make the text a lot thinner throughout, so had I tried to do it with kerning all the letters would have overlapped!