An organization with global aspirations will need to translate technical documents, eventually. We acknowledge this is not easy. Manuals, user guides, data sheets, SOPs are examples of materials that need to be reproduced in different languages with the expansion of overseas operations. Such content is very technical and detailed. Accuracy and quality are of utmost importance. We want to share these four tips based on our experience. These items can be addressed before files are sent to a language service provider (LSP) for translation. If you use these tips, the process will run more smoothly.
1. Perfect the source
If you’re translating technical documentation, first get your source language text right. These means making sure content is clean and free of errors, typos, and grammar mistakes. (FYI – LinguaLinx partners with Acrolinx. We can run your English content through this software as a free service before we begin!) It is a lot easier to clear up any mistakes with the source content rather than multiple files translated into multiple languages!
2. Use Plain Language
We like to say: “Write translation-friendly content.” But what does that mean? Keep sentences short. Use simple words. Avoid “unusable text” such as adjectives, nouns, adverbs, etc. Also, be precise. Don’t incorporate flowery language into steps and procedures. It is helpful to use bullets, outlines, and lists to organize information rather than large paragraphs of text. Also, use active voice. (The subject of the sentence performs the action.)
3. Take Care of Images
Images should be of high quality; users will need to read diagrams, legends, and related notes clearly. Provide layered source files for images if there is text embedded in them. Make sure images are labeled properly and are relevant to the content on the page. Also, consider image choice in relation to culture. Will your image choice work? For example: a manual showing how to drive a car. If the driver is driving on the right, this will not work for Japan, where people drive on the left side of the road. Also, your LSP partner can act like a cultural consultant when deciding if an image presents a cultural issue. After all, you don’t want to damage your brand’s reputation! (We covered images and graphics in a separate post “Great Tips for Graphics in Technical Communication.”)
4. Use the Right Software
Make sure your LSP partner uses translation memory tools. The TM stores all of your previously translated terms and segments in a database. Technical translation tends to be repetitive. The TM will ensure that terms used are consistent over time. Also, terms are discounted based on repetition. Translation memory is a savings for clients for both cost and efficiency. (For more on this, see a previous post, “Translation Memory 101 with LinguaLinx.”)
If you have any questions about our technical translation services, contact LinguaLinx today.