Why it’s important that translations of technical documentation and instructions are precise.

Translations of technical texts have their particular finer points and must be approached with care. This is the only way to avoid client dissatisfaction – and you’ll go up a notch in their eyes. Read what pitfalls you may encounter with this type of translation and why it should only be done by experienced translators.

What are technical translations and what fields are they used in?

From a cursory glance, it may seem that translating user manuals or commercial terms and conditions doesn’t require any special knowledge. However, if you think that it’s enough to approach someone who merely has a sound grasp of English or German, it’s likely that you’ll run into problems down the line. These documents contain many technical terms and only a translator knowledgeable in the given field will be able to render them correctly into a foreign language.

A technical translation is most often used when translating user manuals or operating instructions, technical specifications for devices, and textbooks. The purpose of these documents is to inform readers how to use the given product, what to do in the case of a defect, or whom to contact when a problem arises. Generally, the following fields make use of technical translations:

  • medicine and pharmacy
  • nuclear energy
  • law
  • construction industry and architecture
  • engineering and the power industry
  • IT and telecommunications
  • environment and other areas.

Why are high-quality technical translations important?

You’re right in supposing that in these types of translations the smallest inaccuracy can cause major damage. In the best case scenario, it may lead to a device being damaged, in the worst case, it may cause harm to health. Medicine is especially sensitive to such mistakes, but even your everyday mobile phone or computer user wants their device to function properly.

No expert in their field enjoys wading through a deluge of meaningless text rife with semantic blunders. For this reason, we avoid cooperating with translators who lack the specialist experience, even if their price for a translation is reasonable. A high-quality translator who’s been active in the field or studied it will be able to adapt a text for a local readership so that it will be comprehensible and clear without throwing in the kitchen sink.

What should be uppermost in your mind when dealing with a technical translation?

Before submitting all the material to your translator or agency, prepare yourself for any obstacles that may appear on the way. Obviously, prevention is the optimal strategy. For this reason, you should know how to prepare the source text for translation. Even as you create it, think about the intended target group, and adapt the original to them. An experienced translator will advise you on cultural differences and customs in the given country.

To avoid pointless, unexpected costs, check the original document several times. Making changes to a text when it’s already in the hands of the translator is not cheap. Moreover, even small mistakes in the original will multiply across all your language versions. Also, don’t forget to:

  • choose the right programme for creating documents that is able to work with both text and graphics,
  • select suitable file formats,
  • use specific expressions for each term, avoid synonyms.

You make a translator’s life much easier when you provide them with an internal glossary. Simultaneously, you ensure your technical translation has consistency in terminology and style.

Need a translation for your technical instructions, user manuals, or specialist publications? Aspena will furnish you with a technical translation into English, German, and more than 200 other world languages. Contact us for a free quote.


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