When we think of translation, we think of words, but numbers and measurements matter, too. Localization of translation means making sure measurements and other numbers are translated into the correct units for the area and formatted correctly for the language.
Without a keen understanding of the numerical standards in a given country, you run a substantial risk of including inaccurate terminology or metric translation. That’s why it’s essential to give careful consideration to numbers in technical translation.
Let’s look at a few areas where this is particularly important:
Technical Translation for Measurement
Measurements are often a key part of technical documents, such as instruction manuals or product details.
The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t use the metric system for measurements. That means that any documents translated from American English must have measurements carefully converted to their metric equivalent.
The International System of Units is the standard for most countries and what end users are fluent in. Effective technical translation ensures the final translated product accurately reflects the original document’s meaning and any pertinent measurements.
Technical Translation for Currency
There isn’t a universal sign for money, and many cultures do not put commas in the same place when separating numerical values. More often than not, translators must do more than simply convert money from one currency to another.
Nations refer to currency in many different ways. For example, in India, money is referenced by numeric designations of lakhs (hundred thousand) and crores (ten million). During technical translation, it’s important to not simply convert U.S. dollars to rupees, but also to phrase the translation in a way more understandable to the target audience.
In several Middle Eastern cultures, “cents” aren’t offset with a period, but rather a comma. It’s also important for technical translation companies to understand how similar looking numbers have entirely different values. For example, an American zero looks very similar to an Arabic five. A misplaced comma, dot, or numerical value can create major problems for international users of technical documents.
Technical Translation in Time Measurement
Translating times and dates can also become challenging, and if done incorrectly, can result in significant discrepancies in your translated document.
For example, many countries do not put dates in the same order. Looking at 6/12/15 can either mean June 12 or Dec. 6, depending on the country. In the United States, a person hearing the phrase “half ten” would likely think of five. However, this means 10:30 in Great Britain.
While time in the United States is classified in multiple time zones, the same cannot be said about Asian countries such as India and China, where there is only one time zone, despite their large size.
Eastern, Central, and Pacific time may leave many people in these countries scratching their heads if the translation does not match their understanding of time zones.
Paying attention to the intricacies of numeric-related terminology and measurements is one other key aspect of a technical translator’s work—and a demonstration that no stone is left unturned when it comes to effective translation.