Now more than ever, companies are being launched with a global mindset, and existing companies are seeking to expand their markets to other countries. Support materials, manuals, and product descriptions need to be in languages that all target audiences understand. This has led to a rise in demand for technical translation.
However, the technical translation process can sometimes be hectic, especially if the project is complex. To avoid having to redo an entire translation project, one needs to have a few critical steps in mind. The following is a list of 15 vital technical translation steps that will help you have an easy process.
1. Have a Detailed Plan
No translation project should start without a well laid out plan. Whether the documents to be translated are few or you have a pile of reports needed in a different language, it is essential that every step to be taken in the translation process is clear from the start.
Planning ensures that a technical translation project is done efficiently. It also helps to make the decision-making process easy. With a well-outlined plan, someone else can easily step in if something happens to the lead instructor. This makes sure that the translation process is not delayed.
It is also easier to control a project whose plans are definite than controlling one with an idea of a plan. An idea of a plan is that which is not formally outlined; hence, in most cases, only the project lead can articulate it and sometimes not as accurately as they thought they knew it. Planning is, therefore, the most critical step of a technical translation process. Without a plan, problems within the project will seem more significant than they really are.
2. Be conversant with any Legal or Professional Requirements
Technical translation differs from other types of translations by the complexity of the terms and information to be handled. The data is specialized per industry and might only be understood by people who either work in related environments or are studying about the same. With this in mind, it is essential to note that different technical papers might have professional or even legal requirements.
For example, some medical documents mandate that a professional or someone who is a certified medical documents translator strictly translate them. The legal implication differs in different countries; therefore, you should check if the country’s language you seek to have a translation made has any legal or professional policies.
Generally, any technical translation needs to be professionally done to ensure that the company’s reputation is not misrepresented. Therefore, whether there is legal implication on the form of translation or not, it is still advisable to always maintain a professional mindset when dealing with technical documents.
3. Who Is Your Target Audience?
Now that you have a plan and have cleared out any necessary legal requirements, the next thing is to think about are the people who are going to use the documents. Given that they are the main reason for the process, you need to make sure that you understand what they expect and how they expect it to be delivered.
This is where you do your research on cultural effects in language translation and any other forms of changes that happen as a result of transitioning from one language to another. Sometimes a country’s culture dictates the type of media to be sold or distributed among its citizens. If the technical work you want to translate has images and videos, this is one aspect you should not miss out on your checklist. Also, pay attention to date, currency, and syllable formats that differ with different countries.
4. What’s the Purpose of Your Document?
What do you want the recipients of your information to feel, think, and express after going through it? This question will help you define the ultimate purpose of your documents. It will also mean that you are quite clear on your marketing strategies if the technical documents serve a marketing purpose.
You also need to understand the level of education of the people you want to communicate to. If the purpose of your document is to reach customers whose education background is not as firm as of your employees, you will need to translate your information using less technical terms but still maintain an official feel of the same. Sometimes you will need to have a different set of technical translated papers for official partners and others for the customers to receive the actual service depending on the industry at hand.
5. Get Your Technical Translator
There are several ways of finding a translator for technical work. The first question is to ask whether you need a human technical translator, or a machine technical translator. If your information has definite terms that take a while to change or advance, a machine or software translator may come in handy.
However, if the technical documents to be translated keep varying, it might be more comfortable having human translators dealing with the same. This is because most machines are controlled with definite rules; hence, it will be hard for you to keep up with continually changing information. Human, technical translators are preferred, especially when the documents contain some sensitive information and that which needs emotional relation. They are also better at understanding cultural differences compared to machines.
If you have decided to go with a human, technical translator, you can then decide if you will work with an individual translator or a technical translation company. If you do not want to handle a lot of human resource paperwork, a company will do you right. However, if you need flexibility, then it would be a better option for having one technical translator handling your work. It also encourages work consistency.
6. Consider Specialization
It is more recommended for a specific industry always to use technical translators that are more trained in that field instead of hiring a general technical translator and then using a substantial amount of time to make them conversant with the industry at hand. This saves time and helps to improve the quality of the translation project. However, the specialized technical translator may still need some time to familiarize themselves with the company’s products and services.
Specialization also means certification in some cases. Some countries do not consider any technical translation official if not done by a certified translator. To avoid delays or being side-lined for this reason, it is advisable always to seek translation services by certified translators. Some technical translation agencies only hire accredited translators that makes it easier for clients asking for the same. It is also easier to trust certified work than that which is not.
7. Allow the Technical Translator to Prepare the Process
Just as you took your time to plan, understand your documents and understand the target audience, the same time should be allowed for a translator. If possible, you need to give all the materials to be translated at once to enable the translator to work out their own translation plan. There are cases where you will need to be present as the translator breaks down their work plan, and in other cases, this might not be necessary.
If there are specific tools needed in the translation, then you need to provide the same. There are translation processes that combine both machine and human translation. If this is the case, either the client firm or the translator will need to provide the translation machine or software as per their agreement. Other translators might need room to do their work, therefore make sure that you are able to avail the same.
8. Answer Any Raised Questions
Before a technical translator officially starts the translation process, they need to go through the availed documents and check for any matters that need to be clarified. It is your responsibility as the hiring client to provide all the required answers to any issues. Information such as document formats needs to be defined before the translation process begins to avoid moving back and forth when the project needs to have been done.
You can schedule a question and answer meeting after you have sent the original document to the translator. The documents, depending on their volume, should have been sent maybe a day or two before this meeting. Encourage the technical translator to go through them and then note down all questions to be answered during the session.
9. Be clear on Desired Results
Another purpose for the question and answer meeting is to clarify expectations between the hiring client and the translator. Make sure you clearly state what you expect to achieve at the end of the process. If there are critical requirements such as the tone of the information, make it known at this point.
There are clients who do not like the idea of having a technical document translated word for word from the original copy, especially if the original document has copyright specifications. In such cases, the translator may be asked to understand the original document and translate using different words but maintain the same message. If this is the case, you, as the hiring client, need to be clear about it.
Give the translator time to convey his or her expectations as well. If there is a payment plan to be worked out, this might also be the time to draft one.
10. The Actual Translation Process
After all expectations have been laid on the table, and the terms and conditions of the translation process are clear, then the actual translation process can begin. This is where the technical translator is almost entirely in charge of the project. Your primary responsibility as the hiring client is to make sure that environmental conditions for the translator are right, especially if you hired an individual technical translator who is working on your business premises.
A common mistake that many people make is to cut communication with the translator and then call once the time allocated for the work is done. Some adjustments might be necessary during the process, so communication needs to remain on going until the job is done. The translator as well may need to get more information about the project that he or she had not acquired before the work officially began. This, too, will need to be communicated as soon as possible. However, make it your goal to give the technical translator ample time to work without unnecessary interruptions.
11. Proof Read
After the technical translator is done with their part, it is now your time to check if your expectations have been met. This may take some time, depending on the amount of work to be translated. There are cases where this part of the technical translation process happens continually in between the actual translation process. This is especially when the work is either too sensitive or has been structured in different topics or chapters.
Sometimes the translator may ask you to proofread occasionally to make sure that the process is moving as required. This helps to reduce bulk proofreading at the end, which may not be as accurate as one done in bits.
12. Corrections and Editing
Proofreading helps in correction and even complete editing of some parts. This makes sure that the final translated document is as accurate as could be. Maybe you wanted a bit more information to be added that was not in the original document; this too can be done at this stage.
The correction and editing process often involves both the hiring client and the technical translator plus other stakeholders. There are cases where it was a department’s head that hired the translator, but the final output has to be approved by the CEO. This might cause a bit of time to be taken within this process. Other cases have the document transiting between different departments for correction and editing. This, of course, will stretch the time taken for this part of the technical translation project.
13. Proofread Again
After all concerned stakeholders have taken time to go through the first draft of the translation and suggested corrections, which are then made, another proofreading has to happen. Process 11, 12, and 13 will move back and forth until everyone is satisfied with the final copy. The copy is then finally proofread by the person who outsourced the technical translator to make sure that all the terms that need to be adhered to during the translation have been followed to the latter.
14. Attach necessary notes or Comments
Some documents cannot be sent to the target audience without both the writer’s and editor’s comments. Any such comments are added in this case, which are then counterchecked by necessary stakeholders to make sure that they are in order. This step is mostly compulsory for research papers and other academic documents but not as obligatory for marketing papers unless the translator was also playing an advisory role. In other cases, these comments are written in a separate document, primarily when their relevance is directed to the hiring client and not necessarily to the target audience.
A feedback meeting may be called at this point, especially for big companies where other board members are closely following the technical translation process. For smaller companies and translation projects, such meetings may only be between the hiring company’s head and the translator or the technical translation agency hired for the work.
15. Final Payment
After the completion of the translation project, the project is sealed by the final payment either to the individual technical translator or the technical translation company. If the payment was made in instalments, then the last deposit is made at this point. If all the work was to be paid after the translation project was done, then the same is handled at this point.
There are cases where the hiring client might take longer than expected to release work payment. When this happens, the hiring client should communicate with the translator or their firm to avoid attracting legal cases. However, it is highly recommended that a translation job payment agreement be drafted before the work begins or as other terms of the project are being laid down. The contract should then get signed by both parties and, if necessary, in the presence of a lawyer. This way, no payment delays raise unnecessary alarms, and better so, everyone handles their responsibilities on time.
That is it
How smooth or rough a technical translation process runs depends on the preparation phase and the actualization of the rest of the steps. Both the hiring client and the technical translator must follow these recommended steps to the latter. This way, they will avoid unnecessary hitches along the way.
There are times where the translation process differs a bit depending on the setting of the project. However, the above steps exhaustively define methods that will happen in any technical translation process, even if not all of them. With these steps, your technical translation project is well covered.