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مايو 15, 2019 |

How to Overcome Challenges in Technical Translations

Technical translations make up a significant slice of the language services industry, as most translation work involves technical documentation. From software strings to study reports and patents, companies in all sectors need professional translators when introducing new products to the market.

But technical translation isn’t just about rewriting instruction manuals in multiple languages. Technical translators need to know the market well and the specific requirements of each industry. It’s the only way they can produce the documentation necessary to have a product accepted and adopted in international markets.

Why Technical Translations Require Attention to Detail

Generally, technical documentation is reserved for smaller audiences than, say, literature. The public is familiar with the terminology and has the industry knowledge necessary to understand the content. At the same time, that means they can tell pretty quickly if the translation isn’t accurate.

If you’re trying to impress potential international clients with your technical documentation, you need a professional technical translator. It’s the same when you need authorization approvals for introducing your products to local markets.

Any translation error can lead you back to step one. This will only add up more costs and slow down your global expansion. You need to work with linguists and translators who know how to format your technical documentation and what details to include to comply with local laws.

There are also user manuals, information sheets, and other similar documents. They don’t target the subject matter experts who can spot an error from a mile away, but usually the general public. In this case, your inaccuracy could lead to having your products inappropriately used.

When buyers have to learn how to use your product from poorly translated instructions, they’re more likely to cause damage or not get the expected results. It turns into a poor user experience that can lead to bad reviews and a bad reputation in the local market.

Technical translations come with specific challenges. Not only do translators need to have a high level of subject knowledge, but they should also have excellent communication skills. That’s because they’re often compelled to respect rigid industry rules when communicating specific information and technical details.

Consistency, Accuracy, and the Right Tone

The main challenges of technical translations are consistency, accuracy, and the right tone. All these elements are essential when looking to respect industry standards and meet the public’s expectations.

Consistency

This includes using the correct terms throughout the text, as in technical translations, there’s little-to-no room for synonyms and idioms.

It’s unacceptable to translate a technical term using different words in your documentation as this can cause confusion.

If the right name for your product is “software,” it may be wise to provide a limited list of alternative words to use, such as “program” or “management system” and their correct correspondents in the target languages.  

Accuracy

Accuracy means always choosing the correct term in the target language. People use words in a different way to refer to the same thing. But you shouldn’t fall into this trap when handling technical documentation.

Professional technical translators are aware of the correct meaning of each term and use it accordingly. That’s why it’s essential you give your translators the best possible insight into industry jargon and specific terminology.

The Right Tone

The right tone in technical translations means understanding what makes your brand unique and how to translate it into multiple languages. If your target market includes mostly cooking aficionados, you may want to adapt the technical details of your cooking equipment.

This approach can help you reach your public’s level of understanding so that every consumer gets the most out of using your product correctly.

All these elements are equally important when looking to achieve quality in technical translations. To overcome these challenges, you need to work with a professional team that has the right tools and workflows in place.

The Importance of the Glossary in Technical Translations

Terminology is almost certainly the essential element in any technical translation. If you’re thinking about saving time and money on your project, this isn’t the right place to cut corners. A translation that doesn’t use the correct terms can have severe consequences on a product’s success.  

Each industry operates with a series of standard words, and translators should know how to use them in both the source and target languages. Otherwise, they’ll end up with a poor translation that can even put people’s health and safety at risk.

Think about inaccurate indications about the chemical composition of a product, for example, and the damage that could cause. Whether it’s engineering, the pharma industry, or any other field, a technical translator must dedicate sufficient time to researching industry-specific terms.

A glossary of terms can help you overcome this challenge, and is a vital resource in the technical translation of documents. It establishes a “unique language” that all your translators can use as a reference, regardless of the pair of languages they’re working with.

Not only will the glossary help translators maintain consistency in the terminology, but it will also speed up turnarounds and minimize errors. Ideally, you should create a glossary of terms before starting the translation project. This way, you can guide every translator and ensure the same quality for all your translation, regardless of the target language.

As your company grows, your technical translators can help you update your glossary and keep it relevant for your company and the industry. You can add new terms and more languages, as well as update the terminology to keep up with technology and progress.  

The Takeaway

Technical translations are among the most challenging, regardless of the industry you operate in. But you can overcome challenges and provide the right information to all international vendors and clients.

An accurate and relevant glossary of terms can help you achieve accuracy, consistency, and the right tone of voice for all your materials. At the same time, if created right from the start, a glossary can minimize translation errors and speed up your translation projects.

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