You’ll find technical texts in every office, every factory and even every household. From manuals to user instructions and from safety instructions to product brochures. You saw us coming a mile away, didn’t you? Technical translations have to be good. And that’s exactly why you’d want to avoid the following 8 mistakes.
Errors in technical translations — that’s about as painful as mistakes in medical translations. In some cases dangerous and in all cases harmful to the image of your company. An incident due to an incorrect manual could be very detrimental to your business. But it also works the other way round; if your technical translations are good, it contributes to a positive image of your company. The best news? You don’t have to do it alone.
Mistake 1: Not taking the target audience into account
Everything you produce is for a specific target audience. After all; if you address “everyone”, you’re actually not addressing anyone at all. It is therefore important that the target group understands what you’re saying. Is your text intended for children? Don’t use an academic style. This example may seem a bit exaggerated, but disregarding the target audience happens more often than you think.
Two things are important; knowing exactly what you want to convey and how you go about it. Always ask yourself:
• Who is the technical translation intended for and what is the level of my target group?
• Is the content correct, even if you look at the level, language barriers and cultural differences?
• Is the text error-free?
• Does the translation agency work with skilled translators?
Mistake 2: Ignoring cultural nuances
Each country has its own customs. You may think it’s not that bad but to give you an example, even the Dutch and Belgians sometimes don’t understand each other. The languages seem the same, while they are completely different. The neighbours also differ enormously from each other from a business point of view. Where it is common for the Dutch to do business with the competition, this is totally inconceivable in Belgium.
How to avoid this mistake? Choose a translation agency that uses native translators. “Natives” live in the country for which you want a translation. They know the language like no other. Which words and terms are common? Are there cultural differences that require the text to be slightly adapted? They certainly give a hoot about that.
Mistake 3: Translators without technical specialty
We just spoke about native translators but that’s not where it stops. Someone who knows the required language like the back of his hand and who lists all cultural differences without fail, is far from done. You really need a native with the right expertise.
Someone who knows everything about contracts may be a very good translator but is not the right person for your technical job. The translation of construction drawings, instruction manuals and product specifications is a completely different kettle of fish. Imagine reading something that contains a few words that you don’t understand or cannot fully place. And then it would be up to you to pass this information on and explain it to someone else. What happens then? Yes, that’s where it goes wrong. The same applies to a translator. A translation is only really good if the translator has experience in the technical sector. If the translator knows exactly what it’s about. When there is no doubt about industry-specific terms and substitute words.
Anyone who is fluent in the language can translate literally. You can get quite far with the help of Google Translate. The risk however is that the text may be illegible and that you say things that differ from what you actually wanted to say. Native translators with knowledge of your industry or sector have the substantive expertise to arrange the translation in such a way that you can fully rely on an accurate, technical translation with the correct terminology.
Mistake 4: ‘Oh, in English we can get away with everything’
Did the idea occur to have your technical document translated into a few world languages to then use them everywhere? Apart from it not being very customer-friendly, it would also be the completely wrong thing to do in many cases. Many consumer products that appear on the market within the EU, for example, require a CE marking. Examples are toys and electronic household appliances. The CE mark is there to indicate that the product meets legal safety, health and environmental requirements.
CE directives prescribe that your manual must include warnings regarding any dangers the use of the product could entail. You do this in the official EU language (or languages) of the relevant member state. A mistake that can be easily avoided by simply looking it up here .
Mistake 5: Flouting local laws
What is quite common here may well be banned in another country. Is the technical text usable in the country you have in mind? Does your product also comply with local laws and regulations? And what about your manual or user instructions? Make sure that you’re familiar with local laws and regulations or that you have someone who understands the requirements your products and documents must meet. This check is invaluable. (Because it prevents you from being heavily fined, for example.)
Mistake 6: Forgetting images
It’s a bit clumsy if you refer to tables or images that have not been translated. And it happens more often than you think. Tables in images, drawings in your bill of materials (parts list) … If you choose a translation agency that also has knowledge of DTP, they can translate any texts in drawings down to the last detail.
Mistake 7: The dimensions are not correct at all
A yard, a mile, a centimetre, an inch. Especially with technical translations it’s very important that the dimensions are correct. A good translator knows exactly what’s correct and will check everything carefully. If you don’t? Then one thing’s for certain; you’re miles behind.
Mistake 8: No checks
A good translation is the work of people and mistakes sometimes creep in. Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world. After all, you make sure that you use good translators and carry out good checks. Euro-Com sets high standards for translators, translations and quality control. All our translations are viewed by three pairs of eyes. So that you can be sure that no comma is missing, changing the meaning of the whole sentence. And that you know for sure that the abbreviations or dimensions used are correct.
QA Manager Marcia will tell you all about the last check and our 3-pairs-of-eyes principle. Good to know; most translation agencies don’t check anything. The translation is finished and no one will look at it anymore. It may be a lot cheaper, but any mistake could cost you dearly…
Technical translations without errors? We’ll tell you more within 2 hours!
Would you like to outsource your technical translations? And preferably to someone who will handle it with care? We totally get what you’re saying. Our native translators will be happy to work on your documents.
Do you want to know how much you would have to invest in error-free technical translations? Ask us anything you want to know and request a quote. It’s completely free and non-binding. Your quote will be on your digital doorstep within 2 hours.