But why is that?
At Foxiz, we combine the benefits of developing technical documentation and having a technical translation agency. To us, these benefits make total sense, but to an outsider they may not be as self-evident. Businesses often use one third party for their documentation and consult another party for the translations. In this blog, we would like to set out why it is in fact useful to keep both services under the same roof. We also explain what you need to keep in mind while drawing up manuals if you wish to have them translated properly afterwards.
Many aspects come into play while developing a manual. The process consists of multiple steps and there are more people involved than just the technical writer. A fixed set of rules applies to each manual. These rules do not only relate to law and legislation, but also to language and layout. First and foremost, you are always obligated to provide a manual with each machine. In addition, a manual must, of course, be easy to read for the target group that is going to use the manual. To ensure its readability, you must provide the manual in the language of the user. This is required by the CE (Conformité Européenne) for all countries in the EEA (European Economic Area). Are you going to export your product to other European countries? Then providing the manual in the language of the user is one of the requirements to receive the CE certification.
Not only law and legislation matter greatly, but also the language use and layout play a crucial part. A manual should be easy to read. Simple language and relatively short sentences contribute to this. Both the technical writer and the translator ought to keep that in mind during the process. This is mostly because the lengths of words and sentences differ per language. A great deal of fitting and measuring can be prevented after translation if the technical writer and translator both keep the sentence structured as compact as possible. If English is used as the main language, Simplified Technical English (STE) could form an excellent base for this, because it ensures that a considerable part of the standard structure is covered. STE requires a standardisation of terminology, grammar, and style.
Furthermore, a solid manual is compiled of the right stylistic building blocks. Think, for instance, of preventing unnecessary, hard enters, spaces and tabs. The structure must be substantial. Using standard headers and sub headers (e.g. in Microsoft Word), accurate cross-references and structured images ensure a clear and structured manual. After the translation process, a translated text is then converted to the format of the original document. If the layout is messy and unstructured before the translation process has even started, it usually does not get any better with ‘longer’ languages such as German or French. This eventually results in having to reformat the entire document all over again, which is a waste of time and money.
What does the translation process require exactly from a technical manual?
We now know what makes a good technical manual, but we do not know yet what exactly makes the combination with a translation agency so appealing. Earlier, we already mentioned the use of language and the stylistic structure of a manual. The translation process is always accompanied by translation software (i.e. CAT tools). The software splits the texts into segments. Each segment usually starts with a capital letter and ends with the full top of a that sentence. If sentences in the original manual are broken up with a line break, tab or hard enter, that sentence will be divided into two parts instead of one. This means that the translator thus receives two separate parts of a sentence rather than one complete sentence. The result? The consistency of the document and translation is entirely lost. Moreover, the translation memory – the client-specific translation database – will contain two sentences instead of one, which ultimately leads to a polluted and incoherent translation memory. For these reasons, the layout and structure are key. Both the technical writer and translator are aware of this.
Additionally, a great deal of professional jargon is used in a manual. A technical writer takes notes of this terminology and uses it while writing manuals. A translator preferably uses this terminology list as well. The meaning of certain terms and the context in which they occur are understood better.
But what exactly are those benefits of keeping everything under the same roof?
We have learned that a number of factors are to be taken into account if you, one the one hand, compile a manual yourself and, on the other hand, also wish to have it translated to several languages. There are, however, more reasons to outsource these two services to one external party. Here are a few of them. There are always short communication lines between the project manager, technical writer and translator; no ambiguities. The knowledge and skills of both the author and translator are also efficiently bundled; they can easily complement each other’s work. And, last but not least, by compiling a translation memory, you can be certain that your manual is always translated consistently by the same party if there are small new changes. After all, you do not want to pay more for something that has already been translated before.
In short, it pays out to have your manuals and translations under the same roof, in terms of structure, processes and costs.
Foxiz knows better than anyone what technical manuals need to comply with and has the right knowledge when it comes to translations to deliver manuals in other languages. Would you like to know more about what the benefits can be for your company if you outsource both your technical documentation and translations to one professional party? Please do not hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or +31 344 84 88 00.