As global organizations publish and manage higher volumes of content, optimizing efficiency is a key element to any successful localization program. Companies are continuously looking to manage translation budgets, including the area of technical documentation. There is little compromise when it comes to quality and accuracy for technical content, but there are still many ways to streamline translation activities to optimize cost and efficiency.
Welocalize works with many leading global organizations that publish technical documentation and, as a result, has identified a number of areas where organizations can get more out of their budget without impacting overall quality.
ONE: Check Language Selection. For every target locale, check the relevancy. If products don’t sell in certain markets and English is acceptable, then stop translating into languages that aren’t working. Certain languages that in the past have always been included on the list may no longer be relevant. Challenge the comment “But we’ve always done it that way.”
TWO: Is Content Being Used? Identify certain technical and marketing documentation that may not be currently in use. Bringing together technical authoring and marketing teams helps to identify content that adds and does not add value to the overall strategy. If a piece of documentation is not adding value, don’t waste translation resources on it.
THREE: Don’t Re-Write Source Technical Documents Unless You Have To. Style is often subjective. Therefore, try to limit any changes in the source content to hard facts and data. Reuse existing content if possible and only make necessary changes. The fewer changes made in the source, the fewer subsequent changes are required in translated versions. This reduces time, costs and resources.
FOUR: Use Simplified English. For more factual content like technical documentation, if the source content has been developed using simplified English, then translations will be quicker and will require fewer revisions. If the source content is simple and to the point, this will reduce translation efforts without impacting the final quality.
FIVE: Translate After Sale. Certain products that require a large amount of technical documentation, such as heavy equipment and specialist engineering supplies, are often low in volume sales. In certain markets, translation can take place after the sale. Initial brand and product marketing may be acceptable in English and once the sale is complete, technical manuals can then be produced in the target language while the product is being manufactured.
SIX: Use MT. More and more organizations in traditional sectors typically associated with technical documentation rely on machine translation (MT) to translate higher volumes within the translation budget. MT and post-edited MT are rapidly becoming part of many localization programs.
SEVEN: Give Freelancers In-Context Information. If freelance translators receive the text, without any sense of layout or context, then there is a strong chance the review process will be lengthy and costly. If translators have access to InDesign files, they are able to gauge the amount of white space and potential for text expansion, which will save time and money at the DTP and review stages.
EIGHT: Leverage TM + Glossaries. Share your authoring and translation assets. Many technical authoring and marketing teams work separately and this means translation activities are often conducted separately, too. Chances are, each team will build their own translation memory (TM), glossary, style guide and terminology database. Sharing these assets not only helps streamline translation activities, but also achieves a greater consistency and accuracy across all company communications.
Rachel Barakat is an Enterprise Program Manager at Welocalize. She is a localization veteran and has spent over 11 years working with multilingual technical documentation.
For more information on managing the translation of technical documentation, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Further reading: Technology Tools in the Localization of Technical Documentation