What are the ‘Ingredients’ to Effectively Manage a Multilingual Technical Publication Supply Chain?

The idea of technical document translation might sound like a tedious task, but it is one of the most important types of translations. Many kinds of documentation fall under the technical category, including user, operating, and technical manuals, health and safety materials, legal materials, clinical trial documentation, material safety data sheets, and ethics and compliance documentation.

As with other localization projects, there are steps that can be taken in the document preparation phase to make the translation process go more smoothly. Here are some tips that we recommend to help with getting technical documents ready for the next step:

Focus on the Basics
Regardless of the kind of content you are having translated, always remember to focus on some fundamental best practices:

  • Avoid using idioms, since they can be misinterpreted.
  • Keep your sentences concise and simple, avoiding dependent clauses.
  • Steer clear from phrases that are not universally understood.
  • Be consistent with terminology and make sure that all words are used correctly.

Create a Translation Glossary
Technical texts are often filled with words that are generally used only within the industry and are not found in the target language. As such, the translator must know what the jargon and abbreviations mean and how and why they were used, then be able to select the proper replacement in the target language. Creating a translation glossary can easily address this issue. Businesses can select jargon and abbreviations they would like translated in a specific way, then store those terms in a dataset. From there, a computer assisted translation (CAT) tool will identify and decipher the terms throughout the translation process.

Carefully Select Graphics and Symbols
Technical writing is rife with symbols and signs specific to the discipline. However, these same signs and symbols are used in other fields, but with different meanings and usages. Some of these signs and symbols translate directly, while others do not. It is imperative that the translator not only knows what the signs and symbols represent and how they are being used, but also understands how they translate into the target language. In addition, although incorporating graphics with the content can be beneficial, it is critical to make sure you are choosing elements that will resonate with the target market.

Allow for Flexible Formatting
Since technical writing typically consists of short, concise segments of information, it is easy to forget that the translated content could increase or decrease in space. For example, Hebrew text might come out 40-50 percent shorter than English. To ensure your content will be properly formatted following the translation, consider selecting a new font, shortening your content length, and carefully planning your design and image selection. In addition, text that is embedded in graphics or tables may throw off the formatting or render the graphic unreadable based on the text changes during translation. Further, text that must be next to or offset from a graphic for reasons of information or illustration may be moved due to the expansion or contraction of the target language translations. The translator must be able to accommodate for these issues.

Pay Attention to Cultural Nuances
Just as important as the translation of linguistic elements, if sometimes not more so, are issues of culture. It does not matter how perfectly the text is translated if it is deemed offensive, inappropriate, or culturally irrelevant. Because of the significance of cultural nuances, choose a language service provider (LSP) that hires translators who are native speakers and are fluent in both the source and target languages.

Be Clear About Your Goals and Objectives
Establishing open communication up front with your language services provider will make the translation process flow more efficiently. Let your LSP know the scope of your project and what you want to achieve with your translated documentation.

Allow Your LSP to Plug into Your Content Management System (CMS)
When your language service provider plugs into your CMS, it makes the translation process significantly more seamless. Using a content management system for translation ensures quality work, time savings, and efficiency, and it eliminates many manual tasks.

Opt for Globalized Editing
Globalized editing of the source language pair before beginning the translation process ensures that irrelevant content is removed, making the translation process more efficient. The main objective of globalized editing is to run the source materials through a series of cultural tests to deliver the content in a way that makes sense to the target market before it is translated. A niche service, only a select few LSPs the world over have the capability to offer it.

The level of detail often present in technical documents requires that the translation be meticulous. Even one poorly translated word can make a significant difference in the document. Professionally translated technical documentation by a highly qualified LSP ensures you achieve your business goals.

At Ulatus, we offer a wide range of document translation services that can help you localize your content, while being contextually impactful for the region.

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