In earlier times, many businesses and companies would restrict themselves to their local region, and develop a customer base only in that area. In today’s competitive world, businesses no longer rely upon a local market of loyal customers to secure their profits. Most companies look to expand beyond their known community, and many choose to sell their services, or goods in foreign countries.
This necessitates providing user guides and other supporting literature in local languages, so that customers can make sense of the products they buy, and may also encourage others to buy the same. This leads to the need for technical translation of manuals into several international languages.
English forms the source text from which manuals are translated into various languages. Having technical user guides in local languages enables international users to troubleshoot any problems they encounter when using a particular product, before they seek help from the company.
If your company chooses to use a vendor for technical translation of its manuals, there are several important things you must keep in mind to make the process as smooth and productive as possible.
You need to be clear about the purpose of your manual in the hands of your target audience. When approaching a vendor you must know what kind of turnaround time you are expecting for the translated manual. If you need the translation done very quickly, you need to be prepared to pay additional fees.
Also, you need to clearly point out to the vendor if the complete source or only certain parts need to be translated. Clarity on your side will help the vendor give an accurate estimate. Decide if you want drawings and images to be handled by the vendor or only the text. Formatting of drawings will push the price up, so if you can handle this yourself, you will be saving on the cost.
Request for company specific words to be left as is in the translated manual. Words on switches or screen or equipment should match with the words in the manual, so users can co-relate the two when using the product and the user guide. Request the vendor not to translate those words.
Ensure that the vendor creates a glossary of translated terms in the manual. This glossary can serve as a reference for other documents developed later, and help to ensure consistency in terminologies. A key point to remember is, once you find a technical translation agency that has done a good job with your manuals, don’t change your agency. You can ensure consistency that way, which is crucial in technical documentation.
When translating, following a few rules like the ones below can be very helpful in increasing the readability of your document.
• Language used in technical translation should be straight-forward and uncomplicated, and free from fancy words.
• Use the present instead of the future tense, wherever possible. For example. You must write, ‘When you click on the link, a new page opens’ and not ‘When you will click on the link, a new page will open’.
• Use active voice rather than the passive voice. In other words, emphasize the verb and not the noun. For example, Use ‘Roll the mouse over the image’, instead of ‘The mouse needs to be rolled over the image’.
• Prefer verbs with one word over verbs with more number of words. This not only simplifies the language, but also makes the meaning less ambiguous, especially for an international audience.
• Directly address the user with ‘You’ .i.e. the second person pronoun, instead of the third person. For example, use ‘You can choose from any of the 3 options’, rather than, ‘The user can choose from any of the 3 options’.
• Avoid deadwood phrases, jargon of any kind. Keep language simple, sentences concise, and terminologies precise.