Why Technology Matters in Technical Document Translation

  |  January 17, 2018

Why machine translation is not a substitute for accurate technical document translation.

In today’s world, it seems like technology can easily solve all of our problems. But this isn’t entirely true when it comes to technical document translation.

While companies like Google and Facebook tinker away in their quest to make machine translation seamless, this method of translation is still a long ways away from providing accurate, technical translation that meets the needs of manufacturing firms.

Technology such as translation memory, however, can play a key role in technical translation, as it helps streamline the translation process.

Read on to learn why using machine translation for your technical document can prove disastrous—and how to leverage translation memory to speed up the process and reduce costs.

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The Limits of Machine Translation in Technical Document Translation: No Subject Matter Expertise

Machine translation cannot account for context, nuances, and gender voice. Accurate, technical document translation requires a human touch and subject matter expertise.

That’s because only a human with a full understanding of the specialized language and industry-specific terminology needing translation can effectively and accurately convey your message as originally intended.

Otherwise, you may end up with a machine translation full of grammatical errors, mistranslated terminology, and language that’ll confuse, insult, or cause potential injury to the end user.

Additionally, machine translation does not understand the regional and cultural nuances of your target market. It’s only capable of word-for-word translation that sounds mechanical at best and cannot capture the subtleties that are vital to convey your message as originally intended.

The Limits of Machine Translation in Technical Document Translation: Fewer Supported Languages

While translation software technology may come in handy while visiting a restaurant in Paris, for example, it is extremely limited in its ability to accurately translate a complex or lengthy technical document.

The leading translation software today can only support 80 languages—compare that to the thousands of languages spoken worldwide. ILS offers expert translation services in 180+ languages.

There are other language-related issues to consider, too. In certain languages, such as French for example, there is gender usage—a male or female voice. In Thai, the word “I” can be translated at least 10 different ways, depending on gender and context. Only a professional translator would know how to differentiate context, nuance, and cultural customs to ensure an accurate technical document translation.

A Good Use of Technology: Translation Memory in Technical Document Translation

Translation memory should not be confused with machine translation. While only a professional translator with subject matter expertise can guarantee the most accurate technical translation, leveraging translation memory can speed up the process and ultimately reduce costs.

Translation memory is a database that stores words, phrases, statements, and even paragraphs that have already been translated by a professional human translator, specifically for your company.  Text that is repeated throughout the source document—or through multiple documents—won’t need to be retranslated for every occurrence, saving substantial time and helping speed up the translation process.

Language that’s repeated often in your documents, like the “fine print” related to your company’s mission and legally required information, is translated once then pulled from the translation memory for reuse in all subsequent cases.  It is quicker, and also assures consistency, for the translator to simply accept or edit the database-provided translation for proper usage in each context.

While technology can help solve many of today’s problems, it can only go so far when it comes to technical translation.

Before choosing your professional translation partner, make sure they’re using client-specific translation memory as part of their processes. This will ensure your translation is done quickly and efficiently and will help reduce overall costs for your current and future projects.