PDF files are bad source documents for translation?

By | 2011-10-12

While reading my latest copy of Multilingual magazine, I found an interesting assertion about creating translation-friendly source documents. One article starts its discussion by stating this:

Whenever possible, avoid using PDF files as the source document format
for translation. Always try to provide the original file format … [because]
PDF files cannot currently be edited in some programs and instead have to
be transformed into another format (usually Word) before translation.

[Multilingual, Oct/Nov2011, “Creating translation-oriented source documents,” p. 43]

This statement makes sense in some ways I suppose. For example, I don’t usually think of PDF files as being easily editable, and perhaps translation tools don’t usually understand the format. However, being somewhat new to the PDF format, I’ll ask that you please forgive my ignorance, but I do have some questions, especially if you are a translation or translation tools company:

  1. Do you agree with the author’s statement. If so, why?
  2. If PDF files do fall into this category of being difficult source documents, can translation tool vendors do something about that? What is possible?
  3. If you get a PDF document to translate, what do you do? Return it? Does it fit into your translation workflow and toolsets?

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