Eilon is a Customer Success Manager at BLEND. He helps global brands find the best localization and translation solutions for their business.
Translating technical documents is markedly different from standard translation. A technical document translator not only needs superior multilingual skills, but they also need to demonstrate keen insights into a particular industry or subject to deliver accurate results.
Understanding how to write a technical document is only half the battle, with many struggling to produce accurate translations for new audiences. However, translating technical documents doesn’t need to be that complicated. By adhering to a few key principles, the entire process can be streamlined, delivering superior technical translations as standard.
Technical translation of documents involves the conversion of complex and specialized content from one language to another, maintaining accuracy and preserving the intended technical meaning. This type of translation pertains to documents such as scientific papers, user manuals, engineering specifications, medical reports, and more. It requires in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, specialized terminology, and a deep understanding of both source and target languages.
Accuracy is crucial to ensure that the technical information is correctly conveyed to the target audience, which could include professionals, researchers, or end-users. Technical translators not only translate words but also convey precise technical concepts, making sure that the translated document still retains its integrity and usefulness in the target language.
Translation projects are complex at the best of times, especially if a non-native speaker is taking charge of the translation itself. Things become even more complicated if a translator doesn’t understand how to write a technical document. When it comes to technical translation, using a native-speaking translator or someone with native language fluency is the only way to go.
Native language fluency is important, but alone, it’s not sufficient for producing first-rate technical translations. As well as the linguistic skills to deliver a translation project, a translator must have a firm grasp of the subject matter itself. As well as a background in technical writing experience, a good translator should be able to demonstrate industry-specific insights.
Take software technical documentation as an example. Translating technical documents like these requires an intimate knowledge of specific jargon and terminology. If a translator doesn’t understand the source text, they’re not going to be able to produce reliable results.
As well as raw text to work from, a technical document translator should have ample reference material provided to them. An experienced translator will understand how to write a technical document and have a reasonable understanding of the subject matter. However, there’s also the chance that there will be gaps in their knowledge. Further reading and supporting materials can help plug these knowledge gaps. These resources streamline the process and provide much-needed context when translating technical documents.
Translating technical documents well requires a high level of accuracy. A technical document translator knows how to procure clear and concise content that’s easy to digest. Technical translations should be free of fluff and superfluous content. This kind of content has no place in technical documentation and should never be added during the translation process.
A skilled technical document translator should also know when to take the initiative. When translating technical documents, a translator may encounter complex sentences that won’t read well once adapted to a new language. When tackling a software technical document or legal translation, a translator should actively be looking for ways to make things clearer for the end-user.
To translate technical documents effectively, a translator should never work from guesses. If the original message is unclear, a good technical document translator will reach out to ask for clarification to ensure the final message is on point.
Even if you’re working with a native speaker who knows how to write a technical document, accurate results can only be achieved if there’s a high-quality source text to work from. Source materials should be easy to read and strictly adhere to the key principles of technical writing.
Short sentences not only make technical documents more accessible, but they also make it far easier to translate technical documents. As a rule, technical documents shouldn’t include things like cultural references, slang, or idioms. Furthermore, complex sentences should be avoided. Although there’s sometimes a place for them, they often lead to ambiguity.
Before sending an assignment to a technical document translator, it’s worth taking the time to review the original documents for clarity and context. An experienced writer who knows how to write a technical document can identify any major issues or room for improvement. Any changes should be implemented before work on translating technical documents begins.
This step is important to improve quality for the end-user. However, it also removes any ambiguity that might cause delays in the translation process itself. Before someone starts actively translating technical documents, they should read through the source text first and make notes. If any red flags need addressing, it’s best to respond to this before someone begins to translate technical documents.
All of this dramatically speeds up the translation process. For machine translations requiring human review, the process can be shortened to just a few hours. However, a streamlined process can make same-day turnarounds possible, even if the source text is particularly complex, like a software technical document or in-depth user manual.
Translating technical documents well requires high-quality source texts that follow the fundamentals of technical writing. A key aim of translating technical documents is to ensure that translated texts maintain the same levels of quality and detail as the original. In short, no compromises should be made during the translation process. The same key message needs to be successfully conveyed while maintaining the same level of simplicity and clarity for the end user. For best results, employing an experienced translator who knows how to write a technical document confidently is the way to go.
To improve quality, translators must strive for best practice standards in technical writing. To effectively translate documents, instructions should be kept simple and concise. Active voice helps here. Subheadings and bullet point structures should also remain consistent throughout the text. This makes it easier for the end-user to digest the information in front of them.
It’s also important to be consistent when using industry-specific terminology. Some people who translate technical documents have trouble with this. It’s tempting to get creative with vocabulary choices, but creative flair has no place in technical writing or translating technical documents. A technical document translator should settle on a single word for each term and stick to this throughout the text. Even the occasional synonym can confuse.
Never translate technical documents on a word-for-word basis. This approach is not only time-consuming, but it’s a surefire way of sacrificing context and misinterpreting the source text. A robust localization strategy is essential for anyone looking to translate technical documents.
Admittedly, it’s important for a technical document translator to accurately reflect the content of the original text. However, it still needs to be adapted in a way that makes the translated text relevant to a new audience using a different language. Think of a localization strategy as a way to tailor content, rather than reimagine it. The core information remains the same, but the way the content is presented makes the technical text far more relatable for new markets.
For the best results and peace of mind, always use professionals for the technical translations services. Remember, a technical document needs to be able to demonstrate more than multilingual skills. A superficial knowledge of the subject matter or second-rate language fluency may eventually deliver a satisfactory result, but the translation process will be needlessly complicated. What’s more, even a small error with a technical translation can derail an entire project.
When it comes to technical document translation, leave no room for misunderstandings. The complex text calls for specialized knowledge and talented technical document translators that understand the importance of process and localization. With more than 25,000 professional translators and subject matter experts working in over 120 languages, BLEND has all the resources you need for successful technical document translation.