Special Challenges Require Special Expertise—The Keys to Accurate Technical Translation.

Multilingual technical translation is a special challenge for translation experts and often their clients. Unlike other types of translation projects, the goals for technical translation require that translators understand more both about the target language, culture, and market and about the subject matter itself.

This special challenge for multilingual technical translation means that highly skilled technical translators contribute value that goes beyond merely a one-to-one translation of words from one language into another. In one sense, high quality technical translators blur the lines between content editing and content creating.

When today’s global consumer looks for information, they want to easily find answers to their questions in their own languages. But many technical and support documentation teams struggle with inefficient translation and localization systems that lead to inaccurate or confusing translations. To satisfy consumers around the world, it’s crucial to find a translation expert with the necessary expertise.

What are the best ways to ensure that your multilingual technical translation is high quality across the board?

What Counts as Multilingual Technical Translation?

The first step in this process is figuring out what type of translation project you have on your hands. If you are looking for help with marketing translation or product descriptions on an ecommerce website, you many not need a translator with a technical background. In this case, look for translators who specialize in marketing products to consumers for best results.

You will know that you need a technical translator if your documents contain specialized terminology. A technical document is anything that contains text related to technological and scientific information and technological subject matters. Technical translators translate documents such as user guides, owner’s manuals, instructions for use, and other documents written by technical writers for products and services.

This means in addition to being able to translate key terminology accurately, technical translators must understand and stick to writing conventions, while using their subject matter expertise to inform the language choices they make. Elements such as the usage and application of the document in the target language, the specific locale and market, and how to present the content in a way that sounds natural, while avoiding literal translations of the subject matter are all part of the technical translator’s toolbox.


Now that we’re clear on how to classify documents as in need of multilingual technical translation, let’s consider some of the challenges and ways professionals deal with these challenges.

1. Explosion of new terminology.

The rapid increase in tech companies around the globe paired with new scientific discoveries is leading to an explosion of the introduction of new terminology in many industries. Of course, this level of innovation is uniform in all parts of the world. So, accuracy is not simply a matter of keeping up with tech and biotech start-ups. It also requires understanding the recorded names being used in other parts of the world.

2. Subject matter expertise.

There’s no way around it. Technical translators must have subject matter knowledge in order to provide translations that meet companies’ content goals. Without subject matter expertise, translators are unable to do the appropriate research into understanding a term’s deeper meaning. Often the best technical translations have no direct relationship to the original language, so a translator who is merely skilled in speaking both languages will struggle with technical documents.

3. Stylistic considerations.

Differences in style from one language to another can also be a challenge for multilingual technical translation. While it may seem that every person who unboxes a laser printer will benefit from a manual written in the same style, consider that the class and background of a typical laser printer user in one country may differ from the class and background of a typical laser printer user in another country.

4. Technical translation requires precision.

Unlike translating prose, technical translation requires extreme focus on accuracy and precision. What’s important is preserving the document’s technical content. If someone is using an assembly manual, the user of the translated document must be able to follow the specific directions exactly in the same way her equivalent speaking the original language would do it.

Considering just how difficult it can be to follow the instructions for putting together IKEA furniture translated from Swedish to English, this is not at all an easy translation task. Removing words and using as many pictures as possible is not always the best strategy. Multilingual technical translation requires choosing precise, appropriate, and plain vocabulary in the target language.

Technical Translation in the Global Business Context

Not every translator is trained in the fine art and science of technical translation. It takes unparalleled linguistic knowledge and a very particular set of skills to do this work well. It is important to ask your language service provider to provide you with information on your translator’s technical background. If you are unsatisfied with what you find out, suggest a sample translation piece and have a colleague in one of your foreign offices check it out before agreeing to the completion of the full project. In addition, as with all translation projects, make sure your translator is aware of your official vocabulary and style guides.

Text length can also be an issue when it come to the business context. The same concept or idea expressed in different languages will likely require at least slight variations in the number of words or characters. For example, English phrasing will generally be longer when translated into German, Italian, or French. This could definitely affect the number of pages in a manual, its layout, and printing costs.

What about Machine Translation?

Many companies with technical translation needs assume that they can get away with using machine translation. Because accuracy is crucial for technical translations, using an experienced professional is a must. However, while software can never replace a human translator, technology can make it easier for technical translators to do their jobs.

For example, translation memory (TM) databases containing whole sentences translated from one language to another can assist translators by speeding up repetitive work. And of course, project-management software helps to keep clients and their service providers all on the same page.

There’s no substitute or shortcut for hiring the right translator for your multilingual technical translation project. At Alpha Omega Translations, we carefully match our translators with our clients’ projects considering experience, expertise, and training. We ensure that your projects are handled with the highest level of accuracy and customer care. Contact us today for your free quote.

Category: Translation Services

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