Technical Translation: Best Practices to Avoid Losing Quality

Technical Translation: Best Practices to Avoid Losing Quality

Technical Translation: Best Practices to Avoid Losing Quality 4000 2720 Sergio Guillén

A Brief Guideline to Accurate Technical Translation

The need for quality technical translation is experiencing a surge recently as it is one of the most sought-after services after legal translation in most of the European countries. Accuracy, clearness, and simplicity are some of the terms that define quality for this type of translation services.

The Good Practices of Technical Writing

The 2018 edition of the European Language Industry survey reveals that manufacturing, life sciences, and automotive occupy one of the first places for the demand of translation in the responding 55 countries, some of which are located outside Europe. The survey also shows that quality requirements are one of the leading challenges for language service providers both as a translation company and as a freelancer.

An answer to the increased demand in terms of quantity and quality is to provide a highly competitive technical translation by following the best practices of technical writing. A technical writer aims at:

  • Clearness
  • Simplicity

According to the definition given by YourDictionary, “A good technical writer can make a difficult task easy and can quickly explain a complex piece of information”.

To guarantee an accurate translation, a technical translator has to make sure that the same concise message is transferred to the consumers who do not speak the original language of the technical text by adopting the best practices prior to and during the actual translation of a technical document.

Best Practices Prior to Translating a Technical Document

In his book Translating Technical Documentation Without Losing Quality, Marc Achtelig advises technical translators to pay special attention to the text prior to its translation.

Quite often, the translator is one of the first readers of the technical content and can therefore give an authentic evaluation of the text. If some of the instructions sound unclear or ambiguous, the translator needs to ask the author for clarification.

The aim of the translator is to produce a translated version of a technical text that is simple to understand by the end user. Any ambiguity should be avoided in the translated text, and that starts with a critical reading of the provided original.

If in doubt, the translator must contact the client until all issues are resolved and the actual translation process can start. Good communication between the parties is the base for a high-quality end product.

Any terminology or other useful references should be provided to the translator in advance as well. A glossary of terms can be incorporated in a translation memory that can be used to curb costs for further translation projects.

Best Practices While Translating a Technical Document

Technical translation is not as fancy as literary translation, and its primary aim is to inform and instruct the end user. Simplicity and clarity go hand in hand to guarantee the quality of the translated text.

The best practices in providing technical translation services aim to avoid ambiguity and convey a clear message in the form of instructions that are easy to follow by the user. This is achieved by:

  • Avoiding long and complicated sentences. The aim of the technical text is to give clear instructions. The content needs to be presented in short and simple sentences that use simple grammar constructions. It is contra productive to use fancy and complicated constructions to convey the same message that a simple phrase will do.
  • Avoiding misunderstanding by using active rather than passive voice and making clear what you refer to. Do not use strings of nouns, as quite often they will leave the reader confused.
  • Using the same terms, phrases, and parallel constructions. You do not have to show your language knowledge by using synonyms in a technical translation. It is perfectly okay to use the same word twice in a sentence or in two consecutive sentences as long as this contributes to the clarity of the message. Parallel constructions are also helpful for the readers as they make the text predictable and hence improve its readability.
  • Being consistent. A quality technical translation comprises of consistent grammar, spelling, and semantic structures. When translating several documents for a given client, the translators need to make sure that the technical terminology used in them is consistent as well.
  • Avoiding wordiness in the form of multi-word expressions, redundant expressions, pompous writing, or meaningless modifiers.
  • Adding syntactic cues like word or punctuation marks that will help avoid ambiguity. That is one of the few instances when adding additional characters contributes to the quality of the translation by improving its readability.

Elements of a Good Technical Translation

Technical translation is a type of specialized translation that deals with texts having practical application of specific information. Hence, the translation needs to present the end user with a content that enables them to apply the given instructions in practice without feeling insecure about the meaning.

There are certain elements that can differentiate a high-quality, accurate translation from a poor job. The top five aspects to observe in a technical translation are:

  • Clear, short, and simple sentences
  • No ambiguity
  • No cultural references
  • No humor, slang, idiomatic expressions
  • No fluff

A proper technical translation will reduce your time-to-market and speed up your global growth. If you want to find how to select the best translation company for the job, check our 40 Questions to Expect from a Translation Agency.

Sergio Guillén

As the CEO of Accelingo, I believe in a globalized world where businesses flawlessly share their message across different cultures. I strive to empower startups to scale up globally and take over the world by providing compelling multilingual content that preserves their brand’s message and identity while increasing their reputation and visibility among global clients and partners. If you’re an ambitious startup hungry for international success, get in touch with me today and let’s find out how your startup can benefit from my expertise!

All stories by: Sergio Guillén