By Mikhal Heffer, CEO, Lichi Translations agency in Israel
As the CEO of Lichi, an established translation agency in Israel that does many technical translations, people often ask me: “What are the key guidelines to making technical translation really effective and productive?”
There’s a lot of information offered online about technical translations. But how can the translation be effective and rapidly done? Wading though Internet articles can be time-consuming, confusing and repetitive. So I’ll focus on the three core areas of effective technical translation – Preparation, Credentials and Enrichment. Follow these guidelines and you won’t go wrong.
A tough environment
An effective technical text in any language is one that explains the subject in clear terms and is shaped for its target audience (i.e knowing when to be technically-rich and when to simplify). Yet technical texts are often written in a complex way, not adapted to the target reader and poorly translated. Certainly NOT an effective technical translation!
There’s a better way.
The first point in the technical translation process is: “What should you prepare (as a client) to give your translator?” It is very important to assemble a list of the jargon, terminology and abbreviations used in your specialty field. Indicate which technical terms to translate and which to leave in English.
Include images, screenshots, instructional videos and other reference documents to make your explanations to the translator clearer – and save valuable time. Some subjects are highly technical and translators need all the help that they can get. Also define who your target group is.
Next, get your technical translation agency to define: “What are the expectations of a good technical translator?” At Lichi Translations, we insist that the translator knows the subject well, has studied the specific field and has extensive experience in translating such material.
Technical expertise is wide-ranging. Electricity, electronics, communications – they are all different. It will help greatly if you give the agency a written briefing about the preferred background of the translator.
The right person may not be available in the agency’s own country – so the agency should also use an international pool of specialists. Technical translators should be precise people who double-check everything, don’t allow any errors to slip through and commit to careful proofreading.
Additionally, your agency should be asking (and answering): “What services will give a technical translation greater success?” Going ‘technical’ means going ‘complex’. In many cases there is more to deal with than just the translation alone.
We strongly advise controlling the written language. This combines translation and editing. Use the active and present tense of verbs. Limit sentence length. Simplify and explain where possible (especially abbreviations). Minimize jargon and avoid idioms.
Some languages like Chinese may need special construction and editing consideration during the translation stage. If you want to translate your technical texts into English for worldwide use, ensure that the agency uses Simplified English that serves both native and non-native English speakers. Again, they should use their editing skills here.
There’s also the question of graphical layout and the addition of suitable images, illustrations and diagrams. These may be part of the original content – or they may be missing. For a complex project like an operation manual, design questions also relate to headings, tables, hyperlinks and table of contents.
Rely on expertise
As you can see, to have an effective technical translation, you need to employ experts who will deliver a refined and well-coordinated set of skills. Whether you choose a technical translation agency in Israel or elsewhere, be sure to keep all these points in mind.