Machine Translation, Translation, Translation Culture

Surefire Ways to Reduce Your Cost on Technical Translations

reduce cost of translation

Technical translations are a niche translation market. While “technically” the translation of technical writing is still just translating words and ideas from one language to another, there are some special challenges associated with technical translations.

Most technical translations fall into the category of owner’s manuals, user guides, scientific texts, or journals. These texts utilize specialized language and come with an expected application of technical or scientific action as a result of the writing. The texts are often complimented with a wide variety of graphics, charts, tables, and information schematics. Further, specific layouts and templates are often expected or demanded.

Where Does the Money Go?

When translating a technical document, there are several items that must be taken into consideration:

  • Jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms that may be common to your field in English will likely not translate well. This is especially true if the target language does not use a variant of the Latin alphabet. These elements may save time when writing in your native language, but they will add time, complexity, and likely confusion to your translation.
  • The text must be exact and consistent. Technical texts do not have room for flowery language or creative use of idioms. Words need to say what they mean and mean what they say. Consider the adage that each term should be used to represent only one concept and multiple concepts should never be linked to the same term. For example, when talking about the concept of the “Enter Key” that same term should be used to refer to the concept throughout the document. Do not start calling it the “Enter Button” or “Return Key”. On the other side, if you are going to use the word “run” to reference the running of a program, don’t use the word run in any other way.
  • When a source language is translated into a target language the text will expand or contract. This can cause huge issues with tables, graphs, charts, and page alignment. Even more difficult is the alignment of text on templates that must be exact in order to be correct or accepted.

In technical documents, there is considerable time spent ensuring terminology is correct and buzzwords and jargon are properly translated so that the intent of the writing is maintained. Many times, however, a large amount of time and effort is spent formatting the documents after conversion. Many translators estimate that up to half of their time can be spent repositioning text or reformatting graphics due to the expansion or contraction of the text.

How You Can Save Money

  • The first way you can save money is by having a clean text. As noted above, technical texts should have one word per concept and you should limit the number of idioms, buzzwords, and so forth. If the text has them, the translator can make the adjustments, but this is going to take time and money. Great amounts of time are saved when the translator does not have to find several ways to say the same thing in a target language that simply does not have that flexibility.
  • The second way you can save time and money is by updating a termbase and translation memory prior to the translation process. Many technical texts are perfect candidates for machine-assisted translation with human post-editing. The texts are perfect for this sort of translation since they typically contain significant amounts of standardized and redundant text. Note: in this usage redundancy is a good thing and should not be confused with unnecessary text. It simply implies that the one-word one-concept rule has been followed.

A termbase is a specialized glossary that matches your technical words with the correct translation in another language. Since computers cannot detect your meaning, the one-word one-concept rule is essential. A translation memory is similar to the termbase, except it deals with phrases and concepts. Instead of translating “format” “your” “hard” and “drive” which could be translated in different ways based on the meanings chosen for the homophones “format, hard, and drive, the translation memory stores the one-time translation of “format your hard drive”. So long as this phrase is used consistently in the document, the translation will be correct and accurate.

It also pays to have a concordance run on your document to extract the terms and phrases that are used in the document and have them updated in the termbase and translation memory prior to translation.

  • One of the greatest ways you can save money on your technical translations is by leaving enough wiggle room in your graphics, tables, charts, etc. for the expansion or contraction of the text that will take place during translation. Attempting to fit “el acto de escapar de prisión” in the same space allocated for “jailbreak” is going to cause formatting issues unless some white space has been left for that purpose. This is especially difficult when translating into languages like German, which has a tendency to combine phrases into one gigantic word, or the Asiatic languages that incorporate symbols that may not use the same horizontal and vertical spacing as the Latin alphabet.

By taking some time to prep your document for translation, talking to your translator about things like translation memory and machine-assisted translation, you can save a lot of time and money on your translation services.

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