Many people approach the technical translation process with the idea that success means getting their document translated at the lowest-cost possible with the fastest turn-around time.

However, this mindset misses the point of translation. For most companies, the true motive behind a technical translation is to use the translated piece as a way to increase revenue by selling their products or services in a global market or to ensure safe operation of their product. Therefore, the measurement of success shouldn’t be whether a translation was fast or cheap, but how well it succeeded in helping your company meet its goals.

Shifting Gears for Technical Translation Success

Technical Translation Takes Time

A good technical translation takes time, particularly if the document is lengthy or filled with industry-specific terms. Expecting a two-day turn around on a 100-page manual is not reasonable. While you may find a translation service that will commit to such a short timeline, it almost always guarantees that they are cutting corners in ways that will affect the outcome.

Whether the translation company is using machine translation (highly inaccurate) for the first round of translation or using a team of round-the-clock translators, there is simply not enough time to complete the necessary quality checks that ensure accuracy and consistency throughout the document.

The consequences can be much more costly than simply investing the time and money to do it right from the outset. Not only is your brand is at stake, but in some cases, there can be serious legal repercussions when a technical translation is inaccurate.

Shift Your Mindset

To achieve true success, you must shift your mindset. Instead of looking for the cheapest and quickest way to translate a document, look for a translation partner who understands and shares your company’s underlying goals, such as selling your products globally or relaying critical operating instructions.

Especially for technical translations, where the subject matter is difficult – even in the source language, extra consideration should be given to who is translating your document and their process. Without the right processes in place you’re much more likely to incur mistranslations or inconsistencies embedded throughout the document.

Look for a Partner

To ensure your technical translation is high quality and will help achieve your goals—whether you’re looking to sell more products or clearly explain operating procedures, warranty issues, etc.—you want to seek out a translation partner.

Look for a service that will talk through the project with you. Find out if they are ISO-certified, which includes regular third party audits of their processes and shows firm commitment to producing quality translations. Finally, ask critical questions to determine if they have the right processes in place to assure accuracy and reduce miscommunication throughout the project.

For example, ask:
  • Do they assign project managers to streamline client communications and have the tools in place to ensure consistency throughout the translation process and across multiple languages?
  • Do they have a second qualified translator edit and review the translation for accuracy?
  • Are their translators native speakers of the target language?
  • Will they contact you if they have a question or will they just blaze ahead with their best guess?

When the answers point to a thorough and well-defined process, you can feel confident you’ve found a partner who will help you achieve success. This doesn’t necessarily mean time and cost are not factors; they always are, on some level. But, looking beyond those considerations will ensure you find a translation service that delivers the overall best value.

When you stop viewing translation as a quick job, like getting your car tuned up, and more as a critical factor for your success, you’ll be much more likely to achieve your real, long-term objectives.