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How to Reduce Translation Costs with Controlled Natural Language
by Terralíngua      Posted in  February 6, 2018

How to Reduce Translation Costs with Controlled Natural LanguageIf your company produces a high volume of content, you know the costs involved in writing, editing and translation can be high. Global companies can have documentation translated into more than 20 languages. So a common concern is how to produce documents at a lower cost without losing the clarity and quality customers expect.

Many companies seek to repurpose as much content as possible, especially with instruction booklets or product descriptions. A solution many utilize is a Component Content Management System (CCMS) which can efficiently manage content by minimizing volume and, therefore, reducing the costs. With a CCMS, the amount of content that can be repurposed is affected by the format, industry standards, and the system used.

It is important to ensure that the content is structured and that style sheets are created to improve the publishing process. Many authors shy away from this method of content creation because it lacks flexibility, but, by using a template, you can ensure conformity. This method also means that accidental new material created by authors is avoided. New words and phrases cost money to create and translate. By ensuring authors use the same terms and expressions, accidental content will be reduced and therefore related costs will also go down.

For example, you may have various authors writing safety instructions that convey: “Don’t disconnect until the green light is illuminated.” Each author may write this instruction in a different way, such as “only disconnect when the green light is on” or “when the green light is illuminated, you can disconnect”. If each author would implement the same wording, you would have conformity across all the documentation and, therefore, it would be easier to reuse content. Instruction manuals, brochures, product descriptions and marketing materials would all use the same phrasing.

Many find that, by implementing a Controlled Natural Language (CNL) style, this can be achieved. Examples of styles are ASD Simplified Technical English, Caterpillar Technical English, and IBM’s Easy English. These CNLs are not only used to increase the readability and quality of technical documentation, but, also, to reduce the amount of required translation, optimizing the process. These rules have restrictions such as using short sentences, avoiding pronoun use, using only the active voice and utilizing only dictionary approved words.

By using Controlled Natural Language (CNL), you can improve the consistency and quality of a technical translation. Conventional CAT tools will pick up matches at a higher rate and this, in turn, will make human translation faster. CNL’s are efficient because they use less than 1% of vocabulary, bringing the number of words that can be used to between 2,000 and 10,000.

The advantage to this method is that the limited vocabulary means authors use fewer words, so the text is sharper and easier to understand. Ambiguity and confusion are avoided, and the technical information produced can be used by professionals and layman alike. Whether it is a user manual, instructional leaflet or marketing brochure, the content is clear to the customer.

Using tools such as a content management system and a controlled language will improve consistency and quality, as well as lower the overall costs of producing technical documentation and translating content for the global marketplace.


Terralingua is a professional ISO certified translation company specializing in localization and desktop publishing. We have been working with many of the world’s industry leaders. To see how we can assist with your company’s global communications, please visit our website for further information.

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