A Guide to Technical Translation for Manufacturers: Part 1.
It’s impossible to ignore the global nature of successful contemporary business and technology, the role translation has played in contributing to these success stories cannot be underestimated either. Taking steps to guarantee that your message and brand identity are communicable to a worldwide audience is a vital part of expanding your reach and client base, increasing your recognition and ensuring that your business is able to reach a position amongst the market leaders in your sector. One of the key growth sectors around the world is manufacturing and translation again has a key role in supporting its international development.
When working within the manufacturing industry, it is not at all uncommon for publications to contain a great deal of specialised language, this typically means technical writers are employed to ensure the highly nuanced concepts and technical terms are communicated as concisely as possible. In doing so, this significantly reduces the likelihood of critical misunderstanding of important documents (safety and compliance information is of particular note here) and the subsequent risks associated with such misunderstandings. The complications surrounding technical communication are amplified further when information is required to be understood by a diverse workforce that may not speak the same native language. So what is a technical translation?
The definition of technical translation
Technical translation is a form of specialised translation involving documents typically produced by technical writers (owner’s manuals, user guides, etc.), or more specifically, texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts that deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information. Technical translation covers the translation of many kinds of specialized texts and requires a high level of subject knowledge and mastery of relevant terminology and writing conventions.
Technical translation differs from conventional translation in that fluency in the target language is not sufficient on its own. Some estimates have placed the proportion of specific technical terminology in texts typical of the manufacturing industry at between five and ten percent. In order to ensure that this important information makes it to the finished localised document, technical translators must possess direct industry knowledge to guarantee a level of understanding and maintains compliance with any key sector regulations. Another key area of relevance to manufacturing is an understanding of CAD machinery and drawings, and any specialist linguist involved in providing technical translation should be fluent in the interpretation and explanation of these diagrams.
With this in mind, then, it is little surprise that the translators themselves will be supported by other professionals to guarantee that the most effective outcome is reached. The linguists in question will likely work with both the original technical writer(s) of the document as well as a technical validator to ensure that even the most complex content and meaning has been preserved in the translation process. One way that these supporting individuals may assist the translator is through the co-operative production of a bilingual glossary of key technical terms. These are often living documents that expand over time through multiple jobs and allow the translator to ensure that they are presenting the translated information consistently and in the way that the original author(s) intended.
Beyond their working fluency in the target language, technical translators are typically aided in their task by a number of other resources. One primary tool at the disposal of technical translators is translation memory software; each individual translator will have their own preference for a specific piece of software but the underlying fundamentals remain consistent. These programs allow the translator to build and maintain a repository of frequently-occurring words and phrases – some sources estimate that across document types we can see up to 40% of key phrases and ideas being repeated. The software allows translators to keep track of these repetitions to improve both the quality of the final translation through increased consistency and the efficiency of the entire process itself.
Indeed, much attention is being paid to how technology might influence and ultimately improve the field of translation. One such innovation being studied is machine translation – automation of the translation process by a computer. Whilst this does have the potential for significant time savings there are caveats. To preserve the meaning of technical terms that are especially apparent in the kinds of documents used in manufacturing, analysis of entire phrases rather than individual words is required to ensure that vital information is not if you will pardon the cliché, lost in translation. Machine translation really comes into its own when large volumes of translation (typically in excess of 5 million words) are required that focus on a narrow topic (such as in the case of automotive instruction manuals for example), these sorts of volumes allow systems to be trained in a way that increases the accuracy of statistical translation far beyond that of general use services like those provided by search engines. As such, a more favourable solution if your required volumes are significantly smaller may be to adopt a combination of automated translation and human intervention to maximise efficiency whilst producing a text that still reads as if it was written by a person as opposed to a computer.
Technical translation requires more involvement than simply presenting a linguist with an original text and expecting them to output it in the desired target language. It is a multifaceted, collaborative process, and the delicate and complex nature of technical source material only heightens the importance of a nuanced approach on the part of all who may be involved.
At K International we recognise the care and consideration required to guarantee the best possible translations. This commitment to the highest standard of service provision is evident through our accreditation with ISO 9001:2008, the regulations governing quality management systems for any organisation irrespective of function or product. K International’s pledge to uphold the requirements set out by ISO 9001:2008 ensures that our service is one you can trust; we constantly monitor our translation process so we provide a service that fits our customer’s needs and adheres to relevant sector regulations.
We understand the importance of ensuring that complicated literature – whether this is safety information, assembly instructions, industry-specific marketing copy or anything and everything else – can be transmitted to an audience of non-native speakers in a fashion that is easy to understand and correctly conveys the specialised information of the original document. We are proud to offer technical translation services to clients both public and private, irrespective of the size of the operation and the job at hand.