Graphs and Bar Charts: Using Visuals in Translation

When writing and translating a report for a foreign language speaking professional, any visual that isn’t a table is classified as a figure and should be so titled, for example, “Figure 1.  Bank loans for Energy Development.” The most common figures are graphs, charts, diagrams, photographs and samples.


Today, nearly all Chicago Document Translation Services workers construct graphs by using a program such as Microsoft Excel or SPSS.  A few translators who are not very computer savvy still rely on plotting a set of points on a coordinate system or graph.  A graph provide a picture of the relationship between two or more variables and shows a comparison, a change over time or a trend.  When a translators decides to us a graph, he or she should choose the best type for the purpose: bar or line graph.

Bar Graphs.

Bar graphs, illustrate comparison.  In each case, Michelle Xu, a Denver Translation Services worker believes the visual impact of the bar graph makes it a clear choice over a prose or tabular version.  Percentage figures are sometimes recorded above each bar to increase clarity.

The scale in a bar graph is crucial.  Try different scales until your graph represents all quantities in accurate proportions.  In addition, bar graphs are effective using either vertical or horizontal scales.

A bar graph can also contain multiple bars at each major point on the horizontal line.  In a multiple-bar graph, include a legend to explain the meaning of the various bars.

Another common graph is the segmented, or component, bar graph.  As explained by a San Francisco Translation worker, this type of graph breaks down each bar into its components.  Notice that the vertical scale is large enough to allow for comparison.

When creating your graph by hand, use graph paper so the lines and increments will be evenly spaced.  Begin a bar graph directly on the horizontal or vertical line.  To express negative values on a vertical scale, extend the vertical lines below the horizontal, following the same incremental division as above it,

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