Text translated into a foreign language will usually be a different length to the English original. In languages such as Chinese you can be confident that it will be shorter, but in many languages the translated text will be longer. This can cause problems for the unaware multilingual typesetter or designer.
Text translated from English to French often provides great examples of the issues. One sentence might be of a very similar length while another might double. A trivial example of this amused me when I was about to tuck into a lime dessert by a well known “decadent” pudding maker. The bilingual lid was labelled:
For use by date see side of pack
Voir sur le côté de l’emballage pour la date limite de consommation
No problem if, like my pudding makers, you have a whole lid to write it across – but a whopper if you’ve designed a tight fit round the English.
You might expect this in German or Russian where you can immediately see lots of long words. But French? A conservative but safe assumption is to add 50% for length when designing a layout that will have French typesetting dropped in later.
As for the lime pudding? Needless to say, wry French typesetting smiles and use by dates aside, it was a case of “bon appétit”!