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Best Way to Translate a Scanned Document PDF (2024)

Translating scanned documents is notoriously challenging. So if you’re looking for the best way to translate scanned PDF files for your company, we’re not surprised you can’t find an effective online scanned document translator. There are multiple problems people commonly encounter when attempting scanned document translation online.

Want to translate a scanned document ASAP? Check out the scanned PDF translator Pairaphrase.

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Firstly, there aren’t many scanned document translation software programs that will translate a scanned PDF for you (a document that was scanned into a computer). They exist, but there aren’t many. Secondly, many scanned PDF translator tools online won’t translate large PDF files.

Thankfully, we’ll point you in the right direction in this post.

First Things First

Before you purchase a top-notch translation system, you must figure out how to make your PDF text readable by the platform. And once you do figure that out, it’s about trying to get the most accurate translation.

These are just two of the factors involved in figuring out the best way to translate a scanned document PDF. 

You’ll also want to preserve the formatting (as much as possible) so that you don’t need to reformat an entire document. This includes retaining font properties, image placement, spacing, line breaks, paragraph breaks and more.

Read below to learn the best approach to translating a scanned PDF to solve these issues as best as possible. We’ll also recommend the best scanned PDF translator online.

scanned document translation

Tips for Translating Scanned Document PDF for Quality & Time-Savings

1. Determine the Type of Scanned Document You’re Translating

The first step toward finding the best method for translating a scanned document PDF accurately (and while retaining formatting) is to determine the type of PDF you’re translating.

Yes, there are two types. And yes, it does matter!

The two types of PDF’s that exist are image PDF’s and text PDF’s. The type of PDF you have will affect your translation quality. Knowing the type of PDF you have will help you ensure that you take steps before translation to ensure the most accurate and well-formatted translation possible.

This saves you time and money in the long run.

How to Check Your PDF Type

A quick way to check if your PDF is image-based or text-based is by clicking and holding your mouse or trackpad while dragging it over the text.

If you see a text cursor appear and you’re able to highlight the text, this indicates that your document is a text PDF. In this case, there are no more preparation steps to take before running it through translation software (skip to #3 at the bottom of this post).

If you drag your mouse or trackpad and it shows a cross, it is an image PDF. In this case, continue reading from here to learn the best way to translate a scanned document PDF.

2. Apply OCR to the Scanned PDF

Similar to how machine translation is never going to give you as accurate of a translation as human translation (or a combination of both), scanned documents in image format are never going to translate as accurately as other types of documents will.

This is because when you scan a document to turn it into a PDF, it’s usually going to scan in as an image. In this case, the text is unreadable as is.

The best way to translate a scanned document PDF accurately and to retain formatting is by using optical character recognition (OCR). OCR will recognize characters in your document and convert them to digital text.

The most convenient tool is a scanned document translator with OCR built-in.

3. Use Translation Software Optimized for These Types of Files

Speaking of a document translator, this is one of the most crucial tools for translating text of documents that have been scanned into digital format. You need to choose translation software that is not just compatible with scanned PDF files, but is also optimized for them. 

Recommended Online Scanned Document Translator 

To achieve the best scanned PDF translation, use Pairaphrase. It will translate your scanned document text in a way that gives you higher-quality results compared to tools that are not optimized for scanned PDFs.

translate scanned document

The video below explains how Pairaphrase will actually OCR your files for you. Watch the video to get important pointers for receiving the highest quality scanned document translation results possible. Pay close attention, as this video will save you a lot of time and head scratching.


It’s important to understand that retaining the formatting of a scanned PDF is very difficult in comparison to retaining the formatting of an original digital PDF (the one that ended up getting printed).

Why Use Pairaphrase?

  • Easy-to-use online scanned document translation software
  • Built specifically for organizations & enterprises
  • Helps your team manage translations and collaborate with colleagues across the world
  • Learns your words and phrases so that you never need to translate the same text segment twice
  • Saves you a significant amount of time and money in the long run
  • Encodes your files to retain as much of the formatting as possible
  • Reduces the instances of displaced images, lost font properties or erroneous spacing
  • Keeps as much of your formatting as possible–more than other software systems do
  • Secures your data so you don’t need to worry about sending your data through an unsecured tool
  • Outputs the translated text in a Microsoft Word document so that users have an editable file to work with

With Pairaphrase plans, your files and data are encrypted. Not only that, but we never share, index or publish your data. It remains 100% confidential.

Pairaphrase Tips

When you use Pairaphrase as your scanned PDF translator, always follow the steps outlined in the video above before you upload your document. This will help you to retain the most formatting possible and achieve the most accurate translations.

For ultimate accuracy, we strongly recommend using a human translator to edit your translations once you run it through Pairaphrase or any other computer-assisted translation tool, for that matter. Also, take advantage of terminology management.

Note: Machine translation can never be as accurate on its own as translations that are machine translated and then edited by a human translator. This will also enable you to benefit from our translation memory technology, which requires editing your translated text in order to store your words and phrases for future use.

Get Started

Now that you’ve learned the best way to translate a scanned document PDF for enterprises, why not get started with Pairaphrase? It’s the AI-powered translation management system for teams who value faster, smarter and safer translation.

The Pairaphrase translation management system supports more than 100+ languages and 10,000 language pairs. Additionally, it performs file translation for 22 file formats.

This way, you can translate a scanned PDF to English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Hindi, Swedish, Dutch, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, and more.

Schedule a demo or share this article with a colleague. 

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