Translating content for products is a must in today’s world. Since your customers are not contained in one country or language, your technical materials should not be either. But translating instructions and technical documents is a complex endeavor; that requires knowledge of the subject matter, experience in technical writing, and following best practices to achieve precise technical translations. Here’s what that means.
What are Technical Translation Services?
One of the fastest ways to frustrate your customers is not to give them adequate instructions on how to use your product. But a word-for-word translation of an instructional booklet ignores the differences in grammatical structure and nuances between languages, resulting in instructions or other technical documentation that don’t make sense. This is where technical translations are critical.
A technical translation is a translation that takes into account not just the syntax and grammatical differences between the original and the target language or languages but also understands the importance of clarity and precision in writing. Technical document translation services combine the subject matter expertise of a technical writer with the linguistic and cultural knowledge of a professional technical translator. These professional translators have a deep understanding of language and scientific or technical knowledge. Managing the pertinent vocabulary and the correct equivalent terms.
Materials that would qualify as a technical translation include any technical documents, such as:
Best Practices for Technical Translation Services
When working on technical translations, there’s much to control. The easiest and safer route to go is to work with a translation agency that offers professional technical translation services and has teams of technical translators classified by their skills and areas of expertise.
Below we share best practices to facilitate the execution of your technical translation projects:
Technical translation projects require planning. It takes time to plan for your technical translation services. If your company needs content translation, that should not be an afterthought. From the conception of the document and manuals, your employees should be aware of managing content for a multilingual audience and designing the content that will be subject to translation with the translation process in mind. Gather information: Which are the target languages? What is the technical terminology that is not going to be translated? Do you want to follow a particular style in translating technical documents? You might want to bring the technical translation agency early in the planning phase.
Assume your customers are starting from zero. You know your product inside out because you work with it daily, but you can’t assume that a customer knows the basics. The most useful technical manual translations are the ones that explain every piece of a product or software, even the parts that seem simple and intuitive. Technical documents are made to inform, and user manuals are the first place a customer will turn for answers, so make sure you cover every question. Translate technical documents thinking about your customers, culture, and vocabulary. Manage your budget to include all your technical documents that will facilitate comprehension.
Understand your target audience and the languages of the country you are aiming for. This may seem simple, but even if your company only operates within one country, such as the US, other languages might be needed. If you study your market, competitors, users, and potential clients you might be able to increase your market by offering content in other languages. English is the most prevalent, but Spanish is right behind, and not having Spanish translation for your technical documents might present problems for the users of your products and services.
If you don’t know the specific languages of your target countries, a technical translation agency can help you navigate that.
Include visuals. Pictures, diagrams, graphs, and other visual images can be beneficial to your customer in user manuals or other technical documentation, and usually contain less translatable text but aid the understanding of your users. Use software that produces file types that are easy to translate.
Watch your font size. This may not seem like a translation tip but having a large enough font size makes your materials accessible to all ages. Additionally, text expansion and contraction are common during translation, and planning for this in advance is important.
Ways to Reduce the Cost of Technical Translations
Of course, technical translations are a skilled trade, and costs can add up when you’re translating lots of materials and different file types. But there are ways you can reduce or lower the cost of your translation services – without outsourcing to machines or receiving poor technical translation services.
Create and maintain a glossary of terms. A glossary is an index of common terms in your business and industry. That bilingual or multilingual glossary approved and agreed upon between the client and the translation company is one of the first activities of your technical translation project. Having this set of terms on hand helps your translator tremendously for two reasons; they don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have a culturally appropriate and accurate translation, and it saves them from having to go back and forth with you with questions about specific terms. A good glossary helps your translator learn your business inside and out and helps consistency in all your content and documents. This is particularly important in cases of technical translation when specialized, or niche terms are used.
Send the proper file types. The correct files are ones your translator can easily edit and modify. While the final product for many technical documents may live in a PDF, original files or source files are needed. Send a complete package to your translation company, including PDF, and all source files. If your translator can’t edit within the file, they’ll have to recreate the copy in a new file – adding cost and time.
Send the final version the first time. Any edits or changes in the copy on your end mean more time spent re-translating and managing the project on the translation company’s end. By sending the final version of your copy the first time, you allow the translator to use the time efficiently, and you know time is money.
Send all of the materials before the technical project start. If your project manager has to spend time chasing missing documents, they can’t spend that time working on the control and quality of your translation. By providing all of the necessary material for the translation in advance, you can ensure the translation agency can get right to work and not need additional time in re-work. Additionally, if you have enough work, you may receive a bulk discount – but only if the company knows the workload in advance.
Send high-quality print materials. In today’s digital world, almost everything can be done online. But there are still some industries and projects for whom paper copies are necessary, and when this is the case, quality matters.
Have a designated point person. Just as you’ll have a project manager from your translation company to answer your questions, it saves everyone time and energy to have a designated point person within your company. Even with all of the materials provided up front and the final version of the copy on hand, questions may still pop up. And when they do, you’ll be glad to have someone designated to answer in a timely manner, so it doesn’t hold up the process. Having also the in-country reviewers per language participate from the beginning of the project is good practice to have all the responsibilities defined early.
Plan for text expansion or contraction. This is a common phenomenon in translations, but it can throw a wrench in the works of the design process if your team isn’t prepared for it, particularly for technical documentation. Understand whether your translation will expand or contract your copy, and plan the original design accordingly. Defining at the beginning of the project who is the party responsible for the adjustment of expansion or contraction on files is important to define roles, costs, and sequence of activities during the technical translation services.
Work with a technical translation service provider. At the end of the day, the right technical translation agency will be able to help you with every step of the process and deliver a translation through a process that ultimately saves you money. A reliable translation service provider will understand what you need to provide upfront, the nuances of technical translation, and how to make the process run smoothly for everyone.
Translating technical documents is a complex process, but it can be made easier by working with an experienced technical translation service provider. Even if you don’t know where to start, the right language service provider can provide reliable technical translation services at a fair market price. At JR Language, our technical translators are subject matter experts who understand technical writing and technical terminology. We go the extra mile to translate technical documents with results that exceed your expectations with workable turnaround times. Contact us for a quote today— we’d love to hear from you.
Jackie was born in Venezuela. Jackie has a BS in computer engineering; As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments.
She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs.
Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.