Some time ago, an internationally active company approached us with a request to translate a crossword puzzle, which was to be used as a recreational training tool for the employees. It rapidly became clear that this wasn’t going to be an easy job, since a localization project of this kind poses many special challenges. First, the words in one language are hardly ever the same in length as their foreign counterparts, and the intersecting letters of the words must be adapted so that the words overlap at the correct position, yielding the correct solution at the end. Second, the job also involves careful consideration of specific features of the target language, for instance informing the German readers that umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and the “ß” character (sharp S) can’t be used. In his instructions for solving the crossword, the customer also defined how many words go to make up the solution term – this detail was also to be given in the translation.
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For such a project to be successful, the crossword must be designed in such a way that it can be swiftly adapted to different languages without having to create it completely anew. From a realistic point of view, translating crossword puzzles can succeed only when the number of solution words is limited and when they are not too closely interwoven. The imperative aspect is that the customer takes the idiosyncrasies of the various languages into account as early on in the draft phase as possible – and that’s where we can be of assistance!
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