If you are looking to translate your technical manuals into different languages, you need a specialist translation service capable of producing consistent quality for every audience.
This is a niche service within the technical translation category and it comes with unique challenges that require specialist experience from the right kind of language experts. In this article, we offer up some of the best tips for technical manual translation that will help you choose the right language professionals and achieve the quality you need.
Technical manual translation is the process of translating technical manuals, instruction manuals and user guides into another or multiple languages. These documents are designed to help customers use products effectively and safely by demonstrating the technical operation of said products and specifying any potential risks or dangers.
Broadly speaking, technical manuals aim to achieve two core goals: help users enjoy the best experience of a product (this includes increasing usage, engagement, satisfaction, future purchases, etc.) and to advise them on safe usage – both to protect them and the manufacturers that produce the products in question.
This includes manufacturers of a wide range of products and, increasingly, developers of digital products, such as:
- Consumer electronics
- Motor vehicles
- Industrial machinery
- Medical equipment
- Construction materials
- Agricultural technology
- Flatpack furniture
- Video games
- SaaS products
- AI technologies
The format and depth of technical documentation required for any given product depends on the complexity of use and potential danger of using it incorrectly. For example, user manuals for motor vehicles tend to involve far more safety information and guidance than documentation for consumer software products.
However, the gap is rapidly closing as software plays an increasingly important role in everything from motor vehicles and medical products to home and portable devices.
As stated above, technical translation is a specialist field with unique challenges and it’s important to approach this in the right way. Below we outline 11 steps to achieve consistent results on every project when translating technical manuals for multiple languages:
Hire technical manual translators:
Technical translation is a specialist language service, so it is important that you hire translators with experience working on technical manuals.
Hire subject matter experts:
In addition to the above, the hired translators need to have experience working on the same type of technical documentation you produce, within the same industry. For example, installation and user guides for medical equipment.
Create your glossary:
Work with your translators to develop a glossary of terms with agreed translations for the technical language in your documents.
Identify audience & market requirements:
Specify your target audiences and identify any unique requirements specific audiences may have (e.g. translation differences for Spain vs Latin America) as well as target markets (e.g. safety laws, technical spec. variations, etc.).
Prepare for translation:
Original documents need to be checked to ensure they are suitable for translation. Checks are also required to ensure the language is as simple and clear as possible, keeping sentences short and removing any potential ambiguity.
Prepare imagery & visuals:
Adapting all visual aspects for your technical manuals to ensure they are suitable for translation.
Consider text expansion:
Leave enough space in the original version to allow for text expansion and maintain suitable layouts with enough whitespace remaining in each translated version.
Maintain consistent style:
During the translation process, the style of your original documentation needs to be captured in each translation. Unless you have specifically identified that certain audiences require a different style, tone or voice.
Ask about DTP services:
Discuss DTP services with your language service provider to ensure the overall look and design of your technical manuals are preserved in the translated versions.
Use the right technology:
Discuss the use of translation technology with your language service provider because this can significantly help you achieve more consistent results and complete the translation process faster.
Test your manuals:
Before publishing any documentation, testing the translated versions of your technical manuals on sample audiences from each target language is going to be beneficial.
If you require support with any of these core steps to technical manual translation, the best approach is to work with an experienced language service provider specialising in technical manual translation services in your sector. translate plus have years of experience in translating technical documents and software translation, so if you need support with a relevant project, submit your request via the form on our contact page and we’ll get back to you.