While getting an accurate translation is always the goal, for technical translations accuracy is critically important. If your technical translation is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors or the intended message or tone is off, it will not only fail to communicate effectively with your audience, it can damage the perception of your brand or product, and in some cases even cause legal repercussions.
Inaccurate technical translations can also be costly when they affect other investments. For instance, think about the time and money you may have already spent in preparing for a training or tradeshow. If your translation can’t effectively convey the message you want, it’s not just your investment in the translation that is wasted, it’s your entire investment in the specific event. Or, consider the cost of printing thousands of manuals only to find out the translation is of poor quality. You’ll not only have to pay to have the document translated again, you’ll incur expensive reprinting costs.
For some technical translations, such as medical devices or industrial equipment, there are also potential liability or safety issues that can arise when translations are not precise. The cost of dealing with these types of legal concerns will quickly skyrocket past the cost of paying for a quality, accurate translation. And here again, these types of issues can seriously damage the perception of your brand and your products, resulting in lower sales and a reduced bottom line.
So how do you guarantee accurate translations?
To start, you need to approach translation projects with the same care and concern you do other important projects. You need to hire professional translators to do the job. Preferably a translator or translation company that is certified and has subject matter expertise in the type of technical translations you need. Additionally, you will want to be sure the translator is a native speaker of your target language.
Providing a glossary or reference guide of technical terms can also help keep technical translations accurate. Even if the glossary is in English, it will provide clear definitions of your key technical terms, giving the translator additional clarity.
Finally, you need to plan your timeline in advance so the translation service has the necessary time to properly translate your document. You may find a service that agrees to translate your 100-plus page manual in three days, but chances are that the quality and accuracy of the document will suffer significantly.
Translation is a meticulous, skilled process. A good translation is not a literal interpretation of the document, but one done in the spirit of the original document. To understand complex technical terms and to find the best way to replicate the tone and content in another language is a process that requires significant effort and thoughtfulness on the part of the translator. Often, there will be research involved or requests for clarification. And, for projects that are being translated into multiple languages, the process is even more complex—a single change must be disseminated across teams of translators and proofreaders for each language.
Budgets have to be respected, but they should be built around ensuring accuracy and quality results. Simply going for the lowest cost translation service may backfire with the cost you pay in the end being much higher than getting it right in the first place.