It has never been easier to do business internationally. The internet has made new markets more accessible than ever before, but as with everything in business new opportunities throw up new challenges and new markets call for new solutions.
Technical translation: whose job is it anyway?
Nowhere is this truer than in the world of technical translations. It can be so simple for a business to simply assume that by just supplying a technical document in one language the onus is on the translation agency to make it work in another. After all, it’s their job, isn’t it?
As ever the ‘easy’ solution is not always the ‘smart’ solution. It’s not a recipe for success but a recipe for added expense.
Here’s how your business can prepare its technical documents and manuals so they are translation-friendly. Follow these tips and you will save time and money and help minimise any localisation errors in the process.
Technical translation is a two-way street: find out how you can make it an easy ride.
5 tips for technical translations without the technical hitches
Before you hand over that file, and consider it job done, consider these simple ways you can best prepare your documents for the translation process.
1. Idioms are for idiots
So your document is ready for translation, right? It’s spellchecked and written clearly with perfect grammar. That’s great: now read it again and weed out the following:
- Idiomatic expressions
- Cultural references
- Terms that are unique to your country (such as National Insurance Number, VAT, HMRC and so on)
- Any symbols that may not be used in the markets you are translating into
The risk you carry if you do not do this is that the translation used will hold different meanings to those intended.
2. Space: the final frontier
Most technical documents and manuals do not consist of words alone: diagrams and images will take up a lot of their space. And herein lies a problem: space allocated for diagrams and text in one language can radically alter from language to language.
Bear in mind that, as a rule of thumb, most written languages are 20 percent longer than English and you will be able to make allowances for this when allocating space for textboxes, columns and accompanying text for diagrams.
3. Watch you returns
Another space issue that can easily create problems and confusion is the use of hard and soft returns. Habitually we insert these to help make our content fit the page layout, but the resultant broken sentences can cause wasted time and trouble for your translator.
4. Graphic design
When creating images or graphs or charts for your document try to avoid embedding text in them: use captions instead. Or, at least leave instructions for the text to be translated and a new image to be created.
5. Everything in its place
So you have proofed your documents ready for translation, you’ve thought about spacing, watched your returns and checked your images but there is still one big mistake you can make. How you deliver your files to a translator can greatly alter the amount of time needed and the margin for error.
When providing technical documents always deliver them in an editable file format, with accompanying clear instructions for what is needed for each file. If it’s a large project consisting of many files you should provide a hierarchal file structure that is easy to navigate and understand.
Don’t get caught out on technicalities
It’s a great habit to get into: follow these five, simple tips and your technical documents will take less time to translate and as a result cost you less money. They will also be simpler to localise and, as a result, work harder for your business.
And that’s a ‘smart’ solution.