How to translate PDF files

The PDF format is truly ingenious – documents in the PDF format will appear exactly as originally created and intended across all platforms, be it various versions of Windows, MacOS, Linus, Android, you name it.

Their only disadvantage is that they are not editable, or difficult to edit at best. This was probably the intention of Adobe, i.e. the manufacturer of this software, so that nobody could change the contents of such a document. They achieved this by effectively removing all information regarding the document’s structure. So you cannot load a PDF into your MS Word or SDL Trados. Sure, the computer must still know what to display and how to format it, but in case of PDF, it seems that such a document is optimized for viewing and printing, not for editing. And it takes some pretty clever algorithms to convert it back into an editable format. Even Adobe doesn’t seem be able to fully reconstruct the documents back into an editable form – parts of text might still remain ebmedded as images.

And as you can imagine, as soon as you try to actually translate such a document, a PDF format can be a major pain in the ass.

So let’s take a look at how this can be actually done.

How to translate a PDF document – step by step

First things first: You certainly don’t want to be translating it by opening the PDF, looking into it and then writing all the text into a Word document, manually formatting it and copying all the images… that would be very exhausting and would take an eternity to translate….. with you ending up working for a ridiculous rate per hour. So you need to automate this process a little bit.

Convert into an editable format

  • The first step is to actually convert it into an editable MS Word format (doc/docx). There are numerous programs and websites available, but I would recommend this one:

It’s free and has pretty good results. In case you need to deal with some complicated document formatting, you can also try Adobe’s

This will allow you to convert a few documents free of charge, so it’s ok if you translate just a few PDFs here and there. Unfortunately, PDF to Word conversion is highly in demand, so paid services are not too cheap.

  • Open the website and upload your PDF document.
  • Your document will be converted. Click the button to download.

Translate in a CAT tool

6. Depending on how difficult the PDF’s formatting is, you might need to check if all text on your PDF has actually been translated. Open the original PDF on one side of the screen, the translated MS Word on the other and carefully compare them if everything has been captured by the converter and then translated by you.

7. And that’s it! Congratulations, you have just translated your very first PDF document!

Please watch this video to see the whole process in action:

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