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نوفمبر 8, 2019 |

What Manufacturers Should Know about Translating User Manuals 

Most manufacturing companies today have expanded outside their countries to supply companies and households in multiple countries. For them, translating user manuals and other technical content is a key element in the process of going global. 

The quality of these translations can make a difference for companies that need to achieve compliance in every target market. Whether their products are designated for industrial or domestic use, companies should make sure instructions and manuals are accurate and easy to understand in all languages. 

Product Certifications Depend on Translation

Translating user manuals is part of the certification process that manufacturers go through when looking to gain access to global markets. That’s because authorities who release these certifications and approve the selling of a product require companies to provide clear information about it. 

For the states in the European Union, for example, all machinery should have instructions in the official language (or languages) of the region where it can be purchased. Moreover, the EU also requires that the instructions in user manuals be either original or translations of the original. In the second case, the manufacturer should also provide the original content together with the translated version. 

In this context, it becomes essential to work with professional translators who have experience in technical fields. Skilled language experts are more likely to rewrite the text in a new language without altering its original meaning.  

When a company is looking to comply with local laws, there’s no place for misunderstandings or creative interpretations. Any translation error in technical documentation could become a threat to the safety of the end-user. 

Manufacturers should hire translators that have excellent language and writing skills, as well as high-level expertise in the subject matter. They should also make sure that the translation process includes reviews and proofreading by technical experts that can validate the accuracy of the translation. 

Translating User Manuals Means Helping Customers

Besides achieving compliance, translating user manuals is a way for manufacturers to show clients how much they care about the user experience. When customers have straightforward instructions to follow, they’re more likely to use the product correctly and benefit from the purchase. 

Few things are more frustrating than reading instructions that make no sense in your native language. Even if the end-user has access to the original instructions and is able to read them, that doesn’t guarantee a full understanding of the text. Either way, an inadequate translation of user manuals could lead to improper usage of the product, with potentially dangerous effects on the product’s performance and the user’s safety. 

How Manufacturers Can Maintain Quality in Translation

So, if translating user manuals is so important for manufacturers, how can they ensure quality? As a guideline, companies should get involved by providing support and context to language service providers throughout the translation process. 

Here are some of the things manufacturers can do to help language experts with their technical translation:

  • Provide context about the company and the product, maybe even a demonstration of how the product works
  • Give details about the end-users: age, location, education, how are they expected to interact with the product
  • Support the creation of a glossary of terms
  • Maintain communication channels open so that translators feel free to ask questions and speak about challenges
  • Ask for reviews and proofreading by native speakers of the target language 
  • Set reasonable deadlines, as working under time pressure could increase the number of translation errors

Freelancer vs. Agency: Which One Is Better for Technical Translations?

When translating user manuals, the fewer translation errors, the better it is for a manufacturer’s reputation. Companies can’t gain the trust of their customers when they deliver products with hard to understand instructions. So, the goal should be an error-free translation that reflects professionalism and attention to detail. 

Both freelancers and translation agencies could deliver accurate translations. Choosing the right collaborator is a matter of budgeting and how much time companies can wait for the translation. 

If going for freelancers, manufacturers should choose translators with proven working experience in the industry. Someone who has translated user manuals before and is familiar with the niche in which the manufacturer operates.

The freelance translator should understand what makes such a translation flawless and be ready to respect style guidelines. When collaborating with a freelancer, companies could get a better price deal, but they may have to accept slow turnaround times, as a single person does the complete translation. 

On the other hand, agencies can put more resources into translating user manuals. They can work with several language experts at the same time to meet tight deadlines. They could also have better translation tools to work with, to ensure consistency and accuracy. The downside is the higher translation cost.  

User Manuals Should Be Localized

When translating user manuals, language experts should do more than a plain transcription from one language to another. Localization is a crucial part of the process and consists of adapting the translated version of the text to make it easier to understand for local customers. 

Language experts are aware of how people speak and can deliver instructions in a language that doesn’t confuse end-users. This way, manufacturers make sure that their customers can understand how to use products correctly and don’t put their health and safety at risk. 

Final Thoughts

User manuals contribute significantly to the overall user experience, so they should be accurate and easy to read. Grammar errors, syntax mistakes, or unnatural language can easily distract users or confuse them. In some cases, this could cause malfunctioning of the product or incidents.  

Manufacturers should be aware of the importance of technical translation in the process of going global and support language service providers with context and guidelines. Translating user manuals isn’t an easy job that any translator can do. It requires a subject matter expert who also has excellent communication skills and knows how to make the content readable.

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