Technical translations might not be thought of as the most glamorous localization projects – IFUs, data sheets, and user manuals aren’t many people’s idea of “exciting.”  

But they’re important, and no matter how mundane they might seem, technical translations need to be done properly to prevent problems for the end user. Technical documentation is localized for a number of reasons, and can be used for product manuals, drug instructions, training materials and safety manuals, among other things.

Like any other localization project, technical translations can run into common bottlenecks during the translation process. Here we’ll look at five tips to help you increase your efficiency when localizing technical materials.

1 . Be Mindful of the Little Things

No matter what type of content you’re looking to have translated, it’s always important to stick to basics of successful content creation: Don’t use idioms; make sure your sentences are short and simple; and avoid the use of phrases that are not understood universally.   

2 . Leverage Terminology Management

A translation glossary allows companies to pick and choose specific jargon they’d like translated a certain way and store that terminology in a dataset. Once stored, a Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) tool will recognize the terms during the translation process and decipher them as such.

This creates consistent translations and is especially beneficial in the technical realm where industry-specific terminology is common.

3 . Prep Your Text for Design Changes

Although technical writing is usually made up of short, digestible segments, a translated version of your content could expand depending on the target language. In some cases, there could be a 20-30 percent increase in text length.

You can accommodate text expansion before the fact by trimming your content length, changing font sizes or planning design and images accordingly. Text expansion is extremely important when concise tech manuals are limited to a certain number of pages.

4 . Be Careful of Visual Aids

Incorporating symbols or helpful visual aids can be a great idea for how-to or tutorial content, but it’s important to use designs that will resonate in the market you’re intending to reach. For example, a “thumbs up” sign in the US is seen as a positive gesture, but can be found offensive in other cultures.

5 . Make Your Objectives Clear

Be clear and up front with your Language Services Provider (LSP) regarding what your project scope is and what you want out of your end product. Facilitating strong communication between LSPs and clients at the outset of a localization plan will make for a predictable and consistent experience.

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Sticking To The Script

Following these tips before sending your technical documents off for translation will save you time and money. If you stick to the script by using concise and simple language, prepare for design changes and leverage a strong translation glossary, your final product should turn out as planned.  

Be sure to be cognizant of cultural differences that may exist in the market you’re targeting. This seems obvious, but it’s important to do your research before you start a translation project.  

Keep in mind the importance and implications of localized tech documents, too. The purpose of these materials is to provide easily accessible and understandable content to end users. If the translations aren’t correct, the products they’re associated with will not be used properly, and this can lead to severe consequences.

For more insights into localization best practices, visit the ULG Daily’s strategy page.

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Jake Schild

Jake Schild

A former newspaper reporter and native Minnesotan, Jake Schild is a staff writer in the marketing department at ULG.

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