Steps to Take Before the Actual Translation
1. Plan Ahead for Technical Translation
2. Define the Target Audience
3. Define the Purpose of the Text
The Actual Technical Translation Phase
4. Find a Qualified Translator
What about Machine Translation (MT)?
5. Selection Criteria for Technical Translation
Not unlike technical writing, technical translation is complex work that requires skill and experience. Accordingly, it has a price tag that must be budgeted for and an unusually low price quote should be a red flag. Qualities to look for in a technical translator include proven experience, references (don’t hesitate to request and follow up on them), knowledge of your industry, responsiveness, careful business correspondence, and genuine interest in your project.
Certified translators (CT) have passed an exam of their translation skills in one or more language combination and are subject to rigorous continuing education requirements. While that does not necessarily mean that every CT is a perfect fit for your technical translation project, certification provides additional assurance that the work will be done professionally and to your specifications.
7. Take the Value of Specialization into Account
As mentioned earlier, many translators are highly specialized in their fields and would not consider accepting work in other fields. As the customer, you benefit from the expertise and accumulated reference resources of a translator who follows the latest developments in the field on a daily basis, has invested in the right dictionaries and professional tools, and knows where to find accurate terminology information. Translators who claim they can translate anything most likely are just starting out in the business and may be quite inexperienced.
8. Take the Time to Answer Questions
Good translators ask questions and you should expect to hear from your translator during the translation process. Remember that every answer, picture, or detail you can provide about your company’s products will make the final text in the other language more accurate and understandable to the target audience. If you are busy, refer the translator to engineers or IP specialists to make sure there are no misunderstandings about technical details, but follow up to make sure the questions were properly answered.
If your technical translation project is extensive and involves thousands of words, it may also be a good idea to ask for one file to be delivered in advance so that an educated native speaker and subject-matter expert in your company can assess and comment on the accurate use of terminology.
Working with the Translated Text
Here are some important factors to manage after the translator has returned the materials in the foreign language:
Most publications produced by your company are proofread repeatedly before publication, and translations should not be an exception. Have the final text proofread by an educated native speaker who knows your business (and, if possible, your target market) and then have the final layout proofread (again) by your translator. This approach helps eliminate small, but embarrassing errors associated with typesetting (for example, the Spanish word “año” means “year,” but the same word without the “ñ”–ano– refers to the rectum).
10. Edits and Modifications Down the Road
Make sure to keep all translations, reference materials, and glossaries filed together for follow-up technical translation projects. Although you will ideally establish a long-term working relationship with translators or translation companies who are familiar with your company’s products and strategies, it is helpful to organize the materials in a structure that is aligned with your work. If your preferred translators are not available, ask them for recommendations of qualified colleagues.
By following these ten basic steps, you will be able to get your technical translation job done right–the first time. If you have any further questions, ask the members of the American Translators Association.
Further Reading and Materials:
The website of the American Translators Association contains a wealth of information. Don’t miss the valuable recommendations in the ATA brochure Getting It Right.
Dorothee Racette is President of the American Translators Association. She is an ATA Certified English into German/German into English translator who specializes in medical and biomedical texts.
This article was previously published at TechWhirl.