Tips for Translating your Technical Materials
As a professional in the process industry, expanding into new language markets can be challenging. You have marketing materials, product catalogs, manuals, instructions, SOPs, MSDS’s, and more on a laundry list of technical materials that need to be translated. Your concerns for translation are normal – cost, turnaround time, and above all… accuracy. The recipe for a smooth process involves a combination of preparation and communication before, during, and after the translation process. Based on our experience, here are some tips to help you out.
Step 1: Write translation-friendly content
Keep your writing clear, concise and consistent. Keep sentences short. Idioms and slang are hard to translate, literally! They do not always make sense in every language.
Step 2: Use automation
Manuals typically contain Tables of Contents, Indexes, cross references, or links to pages within the document. Using automation when creating these will definitely help the translator since the information will automatically update, which is great for accuracy and turnaround time.
Step 3: Link your images
Linking your images has a few advantages. When you link, any change made to the image in Photoshop or another design program will automatically update wherever the picture is embedded. This helps when placing localized images back into the file and for future updates. This also makes the file smaller, meaning it will open faster and send more easily via email.
Step 4: Text expansion
Text will expand or contract when translating from English into certain languages and vice-versa. Asian languages and character languages will typically contract. European languages such as Spanish, or French have a 20-30% expansion rate. This will affect your layout, as the number of pages could change. Also, areas of spatial restriction such as tables, charts, and text boxes might need to be resized.
Now, you have created materials and you are ready to have them translated. You will now reach out to a language service provider (LSP) for a quote. The process continues.
Step 5: Provide source files
Editable source files are on the wish list of every translation agency – they help both of us. When we say source files, what do we mean? Well, everything. If the documents were created in Microsoft Word, provide the Word files. If they are created in a design program, provide the design files. A PDF is not a source file. The term “source files” is very important regarding images. A lot of technical materials have screen shots, CAD drawings, etc. where the text is embedded in an image. The text in these types of images is uneditable without source files.
What if there are no source files? That happens sometimes. We will get files that contain scanned PDFs. In this case, all of the text will need to be rekeyed and images will need to be recreated before the document is ready for translation. LSPs have design and layout teams with multilingual training so they can handle this work. It will just lead to a significant increase in time and cost for you as the client.
Step 6: Provide instructions
Communication is key. Let your LSP what you want. Tell us the scope of your project; how will these materials be used? What format do you want for deliverables? Are there some images or pages you do not want localized? Do you have a glossary of term preferences? A good account manager should ask these questions, but if you feel that they haven’t, be sure to let them know. Also, if you are concerned about quality, why not ask for a sample beforehand?
A successful strategy can go a long way in making your materials world-ready. If the long-term objective is “going global,” keep that objective at the forefront when creating content. A little bit of thought on the front end will go a long way in developing a smooth translation process.
For more information on language translation tips, visit LinguaLinx Inc.
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