“Technical translation” is a term covering a wide range of industries. The user manual for a toaster, the safety data sheet on ingredients imported by a cosmetics company, and the patent for a bicycle lock: all fall under the category of technical translation, but each requires a different type of knowledge.
In this article, we will examine several industries that benefit from professional technical translation services, as well as the types of documents that technical translators often handle.
Manufacturing and Heavy Machinery
For manufacturers who sell heavy machinery, a modest investment in translation can yield excellent ROI—the purchase of just one machine may cover the cost of translating brochures, web copy, and operating manuals.
But when customers are spending significant amounts, they expect precise, easy-to-understand documentation. Using professional technical translation services ensures that target language documents—such as installation guides—are clearly written and use terminology that employees in the plant will understand.
Manufacturers looking to sell their products in other countries also rely on professional technical translation services to ensure that their product packaging, documentation, and marketing collateral are translated accurately.
The European Union requires products to have packaging and documentation in the language of each country where they are sold. Similarly, consumer goods sold in Canada need to have bilingual labels (English and French).
Relying on machine translation or even a human translator without specialized knowledge can lead to head-scratching directions such as the ones on this eraser. Worse still, they can lead to user injury, as in the case of a bread machine sold in Germany. Mistranslated directions advised users not to worry if the device emitted smoke when the original had used the word “steam.” The result? The product was recalled, and some owners had to be compensated for damages.
Multiple languages are often involved in the process of producing a car. Consider the Mazda CX-30: its parent company is based in Japan, but the cars sold in North America are manufactured in Mexico.
That means that communications between Mazda headquarters and the Mexican plant may need to be translated from Japanese to Spanish. Similarly, employee training and safety instructions need to be in Spanish. Owner’s manuals will need to be printed in the language of each market where the car is sold—including both official languages of Canada. Dealers will need promotional material that their target customers can understand.
In an interconnected world, telecommunications companies often do business in multiple countries. For example, Verizon is based in the United States, but German pharmaceutical company Bayer outsourced its global IT network to them. Since Bayer has sites in over 91 countries, a project like this will require professional technical translation services for contracts, installation guides, and internal communications.
Software companies want to make their products available to a global user base. To be successful in any target market, they need to translate the user interface into the language spoken there. Because of cultural adaptation and in-language QA requirements, they will benefit from professional technical translation services.
They will also need translators to handle supporting material such as help documents and marketing collateral to ensure a complete user experience.
Professional technical translation services are vital for chemical manufacturers hoping to sell their products overseas. Documents such as safety data sheets (SDS, also referred to as MSDS in North America) need to be translated into the language of each target market. The translated document must meet the regulatory requirements in each country where the product will be sold.
Documents related to oil and gas as well as alternative energy require professional technical translation services to ensure accuracy. For example, the Mexican subsidiary of an American energy company will need to translate reports from the field and licenses issued in their country. The American headquarters might also negotiate a contract with a solar power company in Brazil and need to translate the contract itself into English for executives to understand.
The energy industry has many different sub-fields, each with its own terminology. For documents to be translated accurately, companies need to work with translators who are also subject matter experts.
Types of Documents That Benefit from Professional Technical Translation Services
Documents for Employees and Contractors
As companies expand globally, they need to translate employee-facing documentation into the language of each market where they operate.
Employees need to be able to access training, including e-Learning opportunities, in a language with which they are comfortable. If mandatory training is only available in their non-native language, they are less likely to absorb the content of the material. Professional technical translation services handle the language component and adapt the material to be appropriate for the target culture.
Companies also need to ensure that other communications are accessible to employees who do not speak the language of headquarters. It might be a good idea to translate email alerts, HR systems, and employee satisfaction surveys to increase employee engagement—and ensure that the headquarters understand what is going on in the field.
Lastly, it is essential not to forget contractors in the field. If they install or repair equipment, they need to have manuals and safety labeling in a language they can understand.
Using professional technical translation services helps ensure that employees in the field use the same vocabulary as the team at headquarters, minimizing confusion.
Corporate communication is a broad category that includes press releases, marketing materials, financial disclosures, and other publications, such as newsletters and magazines. These documents use less jargon than other technical documents, but they still benefit from professional technical translation services. Because they are typically public-facing, mistakes can be very costly.
In the 1980s, a wire article about the struggling Community Illinois Bank hinted at a rumor that a Japanese bank might take it over. But when the article ran in Japanese media, the word “rumor” was mistranslated as “disclosure,” implying that the decision was final. Startled, Japanese investors quickly withdrew funds, leading to a run on the bank.
Not only is accuracy vital, but creativity also comes into play on the marketing side. Companies need professional translators who can make their ads understandable and appealing to their target market, whether they put up billboards or run a TV ad campaign.
Professional technical translation services are also necessary for legal matters.
One of the most common is patent translation. The World Intellectual Property Organization reports that companies spend $1 billion on patent translation each year. Patents follow a particular format, and an error can set back the patent application process. Worse still, a mistake can invalidate a patent altogether, as happened to a Swiss drug company that filed a poor English translation of an Italian patent in the US.
In addition to patents, companies also need to translate contracts with manufacturers, employees, and other entities with whom they do business. The most qualified translators are not only familiar with legal jargon but also understand the legal systems of both the source and the target country.
Customs documentation is another legal niche where professional technical translation services are vital. To export your goods to another country, you may need to have inspection certificates, bills of lading, and other critical documents translated into the target language so customs officials can read them.
Technical documentation is often written with the end-user in mind. For example, when a pool owner purchases an automatic pool cleaner, they receive a user’s manual containing warnings, installation instructions, and guidance on troubleshooting problems. It also includes a liability disclaimer so that the user understands their responsibility when using the product.
Similarly, many products include a warranty that needs to be translated so that the purchaser can easily understand the term and conditions.
When customers purchase digital products, such as software, there is a bevy of documentation that needs translation. The user interface needs to be translated so that they can navigate the product. Additional content such as the knowledge base or help docs must also be available in the same set of languages as the UI. All documentation that is expertly translated can cut back on support requests.
As this article shows, many industries require professional technical translation services for production, marketing, and customer service.
However, in each case, the best results come from working with a team of technical translators and editors who are subject matter experts. They know the terminology, understand the goal of each document type, and ask intelligent questions to ensure they know exactly how each product or process works.
At Art One Translation, we pride ourselves on having assembled just such a team. Each of our technical translators is also a skilled technical writer, and we have also developed proven QA procedures that ensure the integrity of the translated document.
Contact us to learn more about our technical translation services.
Comments are closed.