Technology Tools in the Localization of Technical Documentation

In this interview, Nicole McColgan, Senior Project Manager and Team Leader at Welocalize, shares her knowledge and experience from over 10 years of working with clients who produce high volumes of technical documentation. She talks about the growing importance of technology in the translation of technical and engineering content to help manage efficiency and costs.

What role does technology play in the translation of technical documentation?

For the translation of technical documentation, ensuring consistency, correct terminology, and technical accuracy of translated content are top priorities. Technology and translation automation can be overlooked in the translation of highly complex content and diagrams.

Technology plays a significant role in all localization and translation activities, including technical documentation. Due to the complex nature of technical communications and diagrams, there is an assumption that only human translation is allowed. However, there are several tools that can automate translation and still deliver high quality content while managing deadlines and budgets. Many global brands in sectors that produce a lot of technical content, such as manufacturing and heavy equipment, are using more technology in the translation process, especially with so much more content being published and updated digitally.

Are organizations more open to using machine translation (MT) in their localization programs for more complex content?

There is definitely growing openness towards the use of MT for technical documentation. Clients are more aware that MT can increase productivity and reduce costs. MT, with post-editing, can produce the same level of accuracy and quality as a human translator and enable organizations to translate more. While MT is not a standalone tool, it works well together with post-editing to speed up the translation cycle.

How does cultural adaptation affect translation quality?

For technical detail, such as measurements or numbers, it is important to keep the translated content aligned with the source content. There is no room for error. However, it remains important to adapt the content to resonate with local audiences, both culturally and linguistically.

Cultural and linguistic accuracy in translated technical documentation is no longer limited to 100% human translators. MT engines learn and build up knowledge as more content is translated. The more content put through MT engines, the more accurate and consistent the output will be. Teaming MT activities with post-editing can check the facts and details, while ensuring that tone of voice is also culturally appropriate. It is beneficial if consistent language teams are used as they become familiar with the product range and brand style.

What are the most important tools when localizing technical documentation?

Any technologies that automate the process, making the translation cycle quicker and more cost-effective, are important. Given the increasing volume of digital content being published at a quicker pace, technology supports quick turnarounds. Updates and changes are happening all the time, even in technical documentation, and the translation process must reflect this.

In addition, content management systems (CMS), translation management systems (TMS), glossaries, and terminology databases—all tools that help efficiency and accuracy in the production and translation of technical communications—remain important.

Welocalize manages a variety of localization and translation programs for global brands who produce volumes of highly technical communications and documentation, including user manuals, operating manuals, data sheets, and supporting marketing materials. Innovation is one of Welocalize’s 4-Pillars so we’re continually looking for ways to automate and introduce technology to make the process even more efficient and cost-effective.

Based in the UK, Nicole McColgan is Senior Project Manager and Team Leader at Welocalize.

Interview by Cecilia Tang, Welocalize Global Marketing and Sales Support Team.