Ensuring the accuracy of technical translation is always important. Perhaps nowhere is this more critical than when doing technical translation for instructions on product use. Your customers simply can’t experience the full value and benefits of your products if they don’t understand how to use them correctly. Worse, inaccurate technical translations that lead to incorrect usage of some products or machinery can result in liability, especially if a customer becomes injured as a result.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of your technical translation services vendor to ensure the accuracy of your translation. But there are steps manufacturers can take to reduce the likelihood of mistakes and help the technical translation project go faster.

1. Write clearly.

Make sure your original product instruction manual is written and professionally edited in plain English by a qualified technical writer. Avoid using unnecessarily complex jargon or acronyms that won’t be understood by anyone from outside of your organization. A good rule of thumb is to write for a 6th grade reading level, when possible. Also, it helps to avoid using words that can have multiple meanings. Following these guidelines will reduce the chances that the translator misinterprets something you have written.

2. Provide a glossary or reference guide of key technical terms in English.

Doing so will give the translator a head start and provide greater clarity toward understanding key technical terminology unique to your industry and company. This will also save time and help keep your technical translations accurate. One benefit of having a reliable technical translation partner is that they can help maintain this glossary or reference guide, incorporating new terms as necessary, and maintain consistency across your projects by keeping track of your preferred translations.

3. Find out if your in-country personnel have preferred technical terms in their language.

Let’s suppose a U.S. company hires a translation services company to translate a document into German. A few weeks later, German-speaking personnel in Germany read the document and complain that they don’t like or agree with some of the terminology used. There may be nothing wrong or inaccurate in the technical translation. But this can happen if the in-country reviewers have strong opinions or personal preferences for using certain terms over others. One way to avoid this is to solicit their input and feedback on preferred terminology upfront – and let your technical translation services provider know so that they can incorporate this input into the project.

4. Make sure your technical translation services provider is ISO-certified.

Technical translation services providers that have this certification are committed to following globally recognized standards and best practices that ensure quality outcomes. They work with independent third-party firms to audit their internal processes to ensure ongoing compliance with ISO standards. Any potential technical translation process problems identified are vetted and corrected as needed. Manufacturers who use an ISO-certified translation services provider gain an extra level of confidence that their final technical translation or product instruction document will be accurate, reducing the chances of misunderstanding or product misuse.

5. Verify the translator’s subject matter expertise.

When hiring a technical translation services firm, it’s critical that the translator assigned to your project be a native speaker of the target language. For manufacturers needing technical translation, it is also critical for the translator to have experience and knowledge of your industry. They must be able to comprehend your subject matter in the source language and communicate your intended message, as you wrote it, to your audience. You wouldn’t want someone unfamiliar with manufacturing terminology to mistranslate something as simple as the word “belt” to mean a clothing accessory instead of a conveyer belt used in a factory. That’s why it’s important to make sure your translators have industry know-how as well as a firm grasp on your source language, giving them the ability to differentiate the multiple meanings of specific words.

6. Work with a technical translation services vendor that keeps good records of past projects.

A good technical translation services provider that works on multiple projects for your organization will keep your files indefinitely. There are many benefits to this, particularly with respect to helping you with document version control and future updates. They should maintain a “translation memory” on behalf of your company. If discrepancies or uncertainties arise about which terminology is correct, your provider can look back and see what terminology has been used by your company previously. This will also ensure accuracy and consistency, as well as money and time savings, in your technical translations going forward.

Remember that accuracy doesn’t just impact the quality of your documents. It also helps keep your customers satisfied and boosts your company’s brand image. Knowing these tips can help your company maintain a competitive edge.


The Manufacturers Guide to Technical Translation

Learn all you need to know about technical document translation, key questions to ask, and critical pitfalls to avoid.