Preparing files for translation – 5 questions to ask yourself before hitting “send”

Here’s a short, but helpful, checklist to reference before sending to your language service provider for translation to ensure that the process goes smoothly.

Subscribe to our blog

We’ve all been there. You’re preparing files for translation (i.e. getting them together to send over to your language service provider) and doing a frantic search to find the FINAL file. The one that doesn’t have red pen or tracked changes all over it. The one you fought to get seven different people to approve. Somehow it got up and walked out of the folder you’re sure you saved it in…

When it comes to sending files to your language service provider for translation there are a few questions you can ask yourself – a little checklist, if you will – before sending on to ensure that the process goes smoothly. 

If you can answer the first three questions with a confident “yes” well, you’ve just topped our BFF list! But in all seriousness, preparing files for translation in just this simple way will result in less headaches for everyone involved.

Are all your files to be translated complete i.e. the final and approved versions?

While we fully understand the organized chaos that is “work” sometimes, one of the best ways to ensure quicker turnaround times and better consistency (not to mention lower costs because less time is spent making changes mid-translation) is to send the complete and final file for translation.

This step in preparing files for translation allows your translation partner to:

  1. Provide you with the most accurate cost estimate; 
  2. Stick to the agreed upon timeline as any changes thrown in mid-process will cause delays; and
  3. Save you money by utilizing your translation memory (TM), giving you the most bang for your buck.

This doesn’t mean that if you do send a working file to your language service provider that the translation cannot be done – here at AMPLEXOR anyway! We can accommodate changes and updates to files whenever it’s needed. We just caution having too many changes as this can slow the translator down or sometimes be cause for inconsistencies.

Are your files editable?

This may seem like a silly question, or maybe not. But having a file in which the text or content can be extracted is crucial to the language service provider’s process of preparing files for translation, too. 

Translation these days isn’t as simple as a linguist sitting down with a PDF and translating word-for-word. Technology is a beautiful thing and sophisticated language service providers, like ourselves, use technology to quicken the process! Plus, tech as savvy as ours can save enormous amounts of money too! 

Usually you will be requested to send source files as these are the best way for the translation vendor to segment content for translation. However, we understand there are instances in which the source file cannot be found but perhaps you have an editable PDF – this is ok! While it’s not ideal as the file will require recreation to allow for pre-translation processing, editable files are much easier (and quicker) to work with than images or scans.

Are your files source files?

A source file is the original format of the work you need translated. These files are usually application files – from a program like InDesign or a word processor – in which the designer or copywriter uses to create the original design or content. 

But, why are the source files needed? 

Believe it or not, the source files offer context. And context is crucial. Language is subjective. In translation, linguists must decipher the subtleties in the language and the original author’s intent to be able to accurately translate it. Seeing content formatted and laid out as intended can help understand the perceived meaning of the words. This ensures the final deliverable will be of higher quality and closer to the original message. 

Another even more crucial reason source files are ideal when preparing files for translation is so you get the full power of your translation memory. This not only speeds up the process but acts as a quality check as well.

Will you be sending any packages? (The digital kind)

If you don’t work in the design world at all this might sound… odd. Similar to zipping multiple pieces together in a folder to send digitally, packaging files means the program will compile the various elements used in that file together so that source links, graphics or specific fonts accompany the file. 

This is especially common for InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop or other such programs where many pieces (graphics, photos, designs, fonts, links, the list goes on!) are used to create a beautiful brochure, infographic, magazine spread or advertisement. It’s important for your language service provider to have these elements so that the final translated result can be reconstructed to your exact specifications.

Packages are like source files on steroids. They too provide context. 

Plus, if you would like the translated result to be reconstructed via something the industry refers to as “desktop publishing” – or “DTP” for short – then having the packaged elements is necessary and will improve the quality of the end product.

What is your preferred return format for your files?

Typically, standard process dictates that whichever file format you send will be the file format you receive for your translated work. Obviously this gets much more complicated depending on the nature of the project and complexity of content, but you can expect this general rule of thumb. 

However, you should confirm – every time – in which format you need the files returned to you. Keeping an open line of communication as to your expectations and needs for your projects will make it easier to get what you need, how you need it, every time.

So, are your files ready for translation?

Have any questions about preparing files for translation?

We know this is a very general overview for those of you who may be just getting your feet wet in translation and localization. Do you have any other questions about preparing files for translation? 

Or for those who are seasoned pros at this by now, what are your tips for the newbies? 

We’d be happy to talk more best practices with you or offer advice on making your process more efficient. Email us at


Published on    Last updated on 27/11/2019

#Translation & Localization

About the author