Top 10 Technical Translation Tips

Technical translation has proved to be an integral part in the successful transition of any business to overseas trading. Most companies will have large amounts of written content covering all aspects of their operations. When entering a foreign market, the majority of this material will need to be translated, including documents such as contracts, user guides, help files and technical drawings.

This material will likely contain industry and company specific terminology. Ensuring that these terms are correctly translated is highly important. Technical translation is a specialised branch of translation which can only be undertaken by a language expert with experience of the relevant industry.

In this article we will look at the process in further detail, as well as discussing best practice in finding the best experts with whom to work, and how to make the entire process run smoothly.

Top 10 Technical Translation Tips

Here are the ten tips we recommend to help you with the technical translation process:

Knowing what makes a good technical translator

To be a professional translator of technical material, much more is required than speaking multiple languages. Due to the intricate and highly specific nature of the content, experience of the relevant industry is required. Having a grounding in the sector, and a knowledge of the terms used within it, allows a translator to ensure that all meaning is conveyed correctly. Translating into their native language also helps to achieve this. A good provider will ensure that the most suitable translator for your project is chosen.

Being aware of language differences

Knowing into which languages your documents will need to be translated is obviously one of the first steps. There are, however, a number of different regional dialects and unique languages that can be spoken in any one territory. When written, foreign languages will also generally take up more physical space than English. Having knowledge of these points before a project begins is highly beneficial. A good provider of technical translation will be able to inform you of the relevant linguistic differences.

Providing a clear brief

Both you and your translation provider should have a clear understanding of the assignment before any translation actually occurs. Near the beginning of the project, you should ensure that you research your markets and work out a timescale for the duration of the assignment. You should also have a solid idea of the target audiences, key messages and overall tone and style for your content. Ensuring that your brief is clear and coherent will make it easier for the translator to quickly feel confident about the project.

Building a glossary

This is probably the most important factor of the entire process. Defining a set of specific terms and phrases before translation begins gives the translator a core terminology from which to work. This glossary should feature all industry specific phrases and abbreviations that will be used. It is also a good idea to include any preferred terminology that may have developed within your company.

Collecting relevant information

Providing your translator with relevant information can help them to deliver a superior translation. The more the translator knows about your company, sector and product, the more he or she will understand your content. Collating things like product information, marketing brochures and industry articles, before an assignment begins, will help to ensure that your brief is understood.

Keeping things simple

One of the best ways to help minimise the length of the process and ensure high quality usability is to keep all the language simple. By using simple words and short sentences, you can help the reader to understand the content and remain interested. However, as this is a technical document, some words and abbreviations may be necessarily long and industry specific. You should also seek to avoid using idioms and humour as these rarely translate well.

Not rushing things

It is important to ensure that you plan ahead. Leaving the translation to the very last minute often leads to mistakes and inferior results. You should take the time to research providers of technical translation and ensure that they have the necessary experience to carry out the assignment. Setting reasonable deadlines, and planning for issues which may arise, will maximise the chances of obtaining the highest standard of translation.

Choosing the correct time to use translation software

There are a number of websites and online tools which can translate content for you. Whilst these tools can prove helpful when trying to understand what someone is saying to you, they should never be used when you will be speaking to an overseas client or customer. Translation software lacks the ability to correctly understand context and the cultural sympathies required to work successfully in local markets. This often leads to incorrect and confusing language, guaranteed to put off a potential customer.

Finding a native speaker

Having access to someone who can speak the language into which you will be converting your material can be a massive help. Contacts within your chosen country will help to ensure that your material has been correctly translated and is suitable for the local market. If you are not in a position to work with an external contact, you could see if any member of your staff has the required language ability – an audit of language skills within your company could prove useful. If not, then perhaps you could consider hiring someone who speaks the language. Student exchange schemes like the Erasmus Programme could help you in this case.

Checking things

It is always a good idea to double check things as the translation process moves along. Your translation partner should send you a translated sample towards the beginning of the project to ensure that you are happy that the brief has been understood. If this is not forthcoming, contact them and ask to see one. Once the technical translation is complete, you should try and ensure that all content is proofread. A good provider should include this in their service. However, it also recommended that you take advantage of any native speakers you may know, and ask them to double check the material.

If you are planning on having your technical documents translated, hopefully this article has helped you get a clearer picture of the process. If you would like to discuss a project or receive a free quote, please contact a member of our team on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email

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