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How to Translate Your Product’s Owners Manual for Foreign Customers (Part 1)

by Chad Richardson

You are a local business on the rise and just starting to look into globalization. You sell your products online through one or more popular e-commerce portals and you’re finally starting to think about expanding your shipping options to other countries outside the US. This is wonderful news and an important part of your business growth, but it also requires a few very careful decisions. Mainly, how will your foreign-language customers buying through a translated web portal understand the documentation that comes with your product? Naturally, you want your product to be useful and appreciated by the buyers and your owners manual is there to help with that, however, in an untranslated state it will be less than helpful. The solution? You need a technical translation service.

What is a Technical Translation?

There are many different kinds of translation and the method used should be determined by the nature of each document. Legal papers, for instance, need to be translated with legalese in both languages kept in mind while artistic material should be translated to preserve the meaning and cultural associations rather than the exact words. The same policy is applied to technical documents like instructions and owners manuals and this is known as technical translation.

When a technical translator works on your owners manual, they will need to understand what is being conveyed and create the same helpful message in a new language. While your wording may not be preserved, the instructional meanings will be. This will ensure that your future foreign customers will be able to not only puzzle their way through the pictures but actually gain useful information and instructions from your owners manual. Technical translation is all about preserving the procedure of the original text over anything else.

Dodge the Auto-Translator Mistake

A lot of young companies who want to expand without spending on translation try to translate their work using an automated translation tool. This may seem like a good idea but only because you don’t actually know exactly what the translator is saying. Auto-translation is one of the best ways to create an incomprehensible users manual while thinking that you have provided something helpful and culturally aware. If you’ve ever read a badly translated users manual, then you know exactly what this can be like for the recipient trying to make a foreign-manufactured device work with diagrams as your only real guide.

This is only the first half of our two-part article! Join us next time for part two where we’ll talk about coordination, diagrams, and warnings. For more information about translating your product’s technical manual, contact us today!

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