If you need a technical document or text translated into another language you will be looking for accuracy, speed of delivery and good value for money. While translation projects can feasibly be translated by an automated computer-mediated translation tool, it is highly unlikely that your translated document or text will be accurately translated even though it will hardly cost anything and may even be free as well as being quick.
The fact is that technical documents cannot be left to automated software alone yet without the real risk that accuracy will be compromised. Of course, you won’t know just how accurate the translation is unless you are bilingual yourself, but you will certainly find out when you get a response from whoever it is around the world that you are sending your translation to.
Automated Tools are Now a Common and Useful Translation Tool Under Human Control
The good news is that technical documents and text generally does lend itself to a certain amount of automation and this can save you money, but you will have to help the translator a bit to achieve the savings. The reason that automation can be of use in technical translation is that the language used in technical documents tends to be precise.
Specific words have a specific meaning. Specific terms have a specific meaning. Much of the text in a technical document is what is called in translation jargon ‘redundant.’ This doesn’t mean that these chunks of text are not necessary. It means that they are repeated so many times that the translator does not have to think of the meaning every time.
How Savings can be Made with Glossaries and Translation Memory
Savings can be made, especially if you use the same translator or agency more than once by providing a glossary and a style guide. The glossary is like a dictionary that the translator can use to dip into or programme translation software with. It includes all the words that you want to keep absolutely consistent in their meaning. The best translation in the target language is then matched to those words. The glossary keeps the translation absolutely consistent from one document to another as well as ensuring language conversion accuracy.
This is particularly important if your technical document is to be translated into more than one language and if the project is large enough to be worked on by more than one translator. Translation consistency within a team of translators will be maintained. The time taken for dealing with the translation will be reduced and this will ultimately save you money.
Similar to a glossary, but more for the use of terms and phrases than individual words is translation memory. This is a facet of automation that allows the translator to digitally ‘remember’ text that is often used more than once or which involves very repetitive (redundant) text. Again, the saving in time translates eventually in savings for you and your organisation.
Style Guides Save Time and Money by Removing Guesswork and Unnecessary Confirmation
Style guides are more about formatting than the language itself. They contain the preferred way that the text should be formatted and includes things like preferred units and abbreviations. This is particularly important where units and certainly abbreviations are different in the countries where the translated documents are going to be sent to.
For example, British units are still a mix of Imperial and metric, whereas most of the world is metric. The U.S. exclusively uses Imperial units. Currencies also need to be converted into the currency of the country for which the document is destined. Time zones need to be considered. Abbreviations must be converted so that they can be recognised. For example, the U.S. would be E.U. if in Spanish (Estados Unidos).
By providing a glossary and style guide as well as helping build translation memory it will save time and money as it reduces the amount of necessary communication between you and the translator. Without these aids, the translator will be forced to spend time either guessing what should be used or contact you for confirmation.
Thinks About Graphics and How Much Space you Need for Them Before Sending a Document to the Translator
Last but not least, especially if the technical document you need translating has a lot of graphics, such as pictures, graphs and technical drawings, you will have to take into account the fact that languages often differ, sometimes markedly, in the space, they take up.
For example, the text of language X may only take up two-thirds of the physical space of language Y it is to be translated into. As most graphics are designed to wrap around or fit the space between chunks of text, this can play havoc when the text is translated as there may be either too much space left or too little.
Prior communication with the chosen translator before the translation commences can save you complications later on. In many cases where there is a mixture of text and graphics in a translation task, the translator can spend up to half of his / her time trying to sort out how to rearrange it. This is all going to be added to your bill, so it is best to think carefully about all those lovely images before you send the text to the translator. It is safer to have more space left over than too little.