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How to improve technical translation accuracy

Kimberley Stephens

Author: Kimberly Stephens
Marketing Coordinator, LanguageWire

Technical translation accuracy

There's zero margin for error when it comes to technical translations. Read on to find out how you can enhance your content workflows and improve technical translation accuracy.

It would be easy to start this blog post with viral ‘funny translation errors’ to highlight the importance of not cutting corners in your translation process. From menu mistranslations that put you off your food completely, to back-to-front ‘rules and regulations’ that are not covered by your travel insurance, there is plenty out there for the ‘funny translation’ error enthusiast.

However, when it comes to technical translation, errors are no laughing matter.

Why technical translation mistakes aren’t funny

Firstly, because the translated text might relate to health and safety information, machine operation or the correct usage of a product, accurate translation is vital.

Secondly, there’s nothing particularly amusing about a machine spare part with a slightly misspelt name or mislabelled manufacturing material. It barely registers as a mistake unless you’re a specialist in the field.

Both cases highlight the importance of a technical translator’s skill set and knowledge of your industry to safeguard the success of your business and the safety of your customers.

What makes technical translation so… technical?

Technical translation is a fine art that revolves around the specificity of the language requirements. The selected translator should not only be a language expert, but an expert in their chosen technical field.

Compliance with international regulations

All documentation - be it technical manuals, datasheets, health and safety regulations, operating procedures, and even online content - must adhere to strict regulatory controls. These controls will vary not only from language to language on a linguistic level, but country to country depending on the stipulations of local regulatory bodies. There is no margin for error in word selection if you need your documentation to comply in foreign markets.

From a translation point of view, this means that there is often only one certified term for a translator to use, in other words, there is no way to work around technical terminology if you aren’t an expert. In short, you can’t fake it: either you know it or you don’t.

Fast-moving terminology

Language is constantly evolving together with the launch of new products and technologies. With sectors such as manufacturing, technology and engineering developing so fast, terminology needs to move fast to keep up. At the same time, it has to keep up with language developments in key and emerging marketplaces.

To translate technical content is like aiming at a very small, constantly moving target. What’s amazing is that there are translators who can do this, translators whose industry knowledge and expertise set them apart.

Three indispensable tips for technical translations

1. Work with a translation platform that knows your industry

The obvious place to start is finding the right translator for the job. Technical translators will have their specialities and chosen fields of expertise, so there’s never a ‘one size fits all’ solution. But how do you best find a technical translator for your translation needs?

For precise, reliable translations, choose a translation platform that already works with companies whose content requires highly accurate technical translation.

A good solution should have:

2. Take care over the source material

One of the most commonly overlooked ways of improving the accuracy of any translation is the work you can do before the content reaches your translators. It’s important to note that your source material affects the quality of the translation.

If a word-perfect translation is the aim of the game, you will improve accuracy and consistency by carefully preparing the source content and, where appropriate, by writing translation-friendly content in the first place.

3. Get a PIM system

Product Information Management (PIM) systems allow you to have complete control over all the content that is destined for manuals, product directories, packaging and website.

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PIM systems have ended the days of copying and pasting the same information across multiple products in vast, unruly spreadsheets. PIM systems ensure all product information is pulled from a central source so that data is always consistent across all platforms.

Some language platforms offer integration solutions for PIM systems, so what goes directly into your PIM gets automatically translated and returns to you in the same format in as many languages as you need. Such integrations automate previously manual tasks, improving quality and speeding up time to market.

The right technology and people

When it comes to technical translations, there’s no time for funny business. Instead, translation projects must be accurate and meet local expectations to ensure traction and market growth.

As demands for localised content increase, it’s important to work with a team of content experts and technology solutions to ensure translation workflows can scale as your business expands into new markets. 

Choosing a modern translation platform, making sure your source content is 100% ready for translation, and storing your content in a PIM system will help you achieve your technical translation goals.

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