Challenges and Solutions to Technical Manual Translation
by Jim Dulin
The specific nature of technical manuals
It is vital that the translator include all relevant information from the original to the translated document. This requires a thorough understanding of vocabulary and culture on the part of the translator. Why is this so important and tricky?
Consider an example: If a technical manual for assembling a piece of furniture says you will need a Phillips screwdriver, the translator must accurately convey the same thought in the target language. If the translator conveys a less specific thought, perhaps merely saying the user will need a screwdriver, the manual will lose much of its helpfulness to the user. Users from other backgrounds or cultures might find some items unfamiliar while others consider them commonplace. Words in the target language may simply not exist for certain items, and the translator may have to use multiple words or phrases to convey the correct meaning. This brings us to another challenge involved in technical manual translation.
Length of the translation
Often, in an attempt to accurately convey every idea present in the original text, a translator finds that the document in the target language has become significantly longer than the original. This can lead to problems for typesetters when the time comes to design the layout of the manual. Increased length can mean increased printing costs. To overcome this challenge, the professional translator must translate concisely as well as accurately. This requires a solid grasp of language, culture, and the subject matter he is translating.
Technical manual translation has special challenges, but a skilled translator can overcome them.
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