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Accuracy in Translation

Ensuring accuracy in specialised translation

In a certain sense, the easiest translation projects are documents which contain very little text, all of which is functional and explanatory, a technical manual for example. In this case, to ensure accuracy in the translation, it is key to translate the text as closely as possible, leaving no room for ambiguity.

Technical and B2B documentation will often be written in a style which has little relation to the version of that language which is actually spoken in the street! For example, manuals usually use a concise, formal (almost abrupt) register, and a lot of industry-specific terminology. As such, the translator does not need to find a conversational tone in their version of it; the important thing is the information it contains and the analysis that goes with it. Needless to say, it would be inappropriate to use colloquial language.

In this case, the translator will also be concentrating on terminology, ensuring that industry-specific vocabulary is translated consistently within the text. As well as being consistent with all of the client’s documentation, and the industry as a whole. This is hugely important, as a mistranslation of the name of a certain piece of equipment, say, could have disasterous consequences.

The importance of a Glossary for accuracy in translation

Glossaries are simple lists, or larger databases, containing words (terminology) preferred by each client, and their approved translation. In other words, a list of words in a spreadsheet. Typically, preferred translations appear in the next column. The purpose of a glossary / termbase is to ensure consistency in your messaging.

Some glossaries feature many languages, some are just bilingual. All glossaries contain terminology data in different languages. Depending on the topic and how technical it is, a termbase can vary between one, and millions of words.

For example, the term ‘medical condition’ should not be translated into Spanish in different ways. The translator could, of course, translate it as ‘enfermedad’‘afección’ or ‘problema de salud’. They are all correct. However, we should always choose the option agreed in the termbase, to maintain clarity and a consistent message.

Ideally, a translation agency should create a glossary for every customer — and we do! After creation, an internal reviewer (the client) should validate it. At this point, they can make any changes they like. Once the glossary has been approved, it is in use and on-going. It is important to keep a glossary up to date, and to include new products or services your company offers.

By using a glossary, our translators can ensure they use the same translation, each time that word or term is featured in the text. This results in accuracy in each translation, as well as across projects, and into the future.

Find out more: How to create a Glossary or Terminology Database

Choosing your Language Service Provider (LSP)

It’s a good idea to choose a translator specialised in your specific sector (such as legal, medical or engineering). If you’re working with an LSP they should have specialised translators in their team. Likewise, your internal reviewer should be someone with expertise in your sector — for example, an engineer would be a better choice than a marketing executive. In order to stay on top of contemporary terminology, it is fundamental that the translator also be following that industry closely.

It is important that the translator (and reviewer) pay attention to things like numbers and figures. If the original text is from a country which uses the metric system, and the target is a country which uses imperial, part of the translator’s job is to render all weights and measures appropriately. Even if the countries of both the target and the source document use the same system, they may have a different way of expressing decimal numbers (typically, by using a comma instead of a decimal point or vice versa).

Find out more: The role of the internal reviewer

Ask for feedback from users!

Remember, the whole point of translating any technical document is to walk users through how to use your product. So, you will want to find out from real customers/users how useful the manual actually is. With the suggestions and feedback, you can improve the document when you update.

The hallmark of a quality technical translation is that there is no ambiguity, the text is short and concise, and there is consistency in terminologies used throughout the document. In addition, the spelling, grammar and semantic structure should be consistent. But above all, the translated document should be super-helpful to users!

Find out more: Metrics for Evaluating Translations

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