The role of technology in technical document translation

In the world today one would think by now that technology would have been developed that provides a perfect translation of a technical document. The fact of the matter is that this hasn’t really happened. There is some technology in technical document translation such as provided by online companies like Facebook and Google which provide machine translation tools for their followers to use but in fact, these aren’t the perfect solution.

They can provide a vague translation of just about anything you want to input and over 150 languages are offered. In the end, though, those who want a technical translation of a technical document such as the medical products industries and manufacturers of a wide range of products won’t benefit from this level of translation. It’s not detailed enough for a technical document translation and the tools can’t pick up all the technical terms and industry jargon so they give vague translations that are of little use to anyone and can in fact be quite dangerous such as if it’s a manual explaining how a medical device should be used.

Limits of machine translation in technical document translation: no subject matter expertise

The limits of machine translation services that are available on the Web more or less resemble dictionaries rather than unique translators. This is particularly true for the translation of technical documents required in a global business environment, for example, in the translation of websites, CVs, contracts or business documentation. A machine translation usually translates each sentence literally. It doesn’t consider the context of the text or if there are any unique expressions that are used by a language.

Therefore, it creates unintelligible phrases constantly. No machine translator found online can translate terms that are unique to a particular language. They can’t adapt the translation to a different country even if the language is basically the same in a number of countries. For example, Spanish that’s spoken in Spain is different to that spoken by speakers in South and Central American countries. Each country has developed its Spanish to incorporate its own set of idioms and expressions.

One single word in Spanish in Argentina can have a totally different meaning from the meaning given it in Spain. Non-machine technical translation online translators, who are basically human translators, can detect anything that’s missing so any mistranslation is avoided.  Automatic translation doesn’t realise the importance of technical translation and the tools frequently produce errors when translating technical writing. In some cases, the word that needs a translation isn’t recognised at all.

With others, the translation will only be approximate and often a completely different meaning is the outcome. It’s important for any technical translation to be aware of the targeted culture and this is what a machine translation can never do. Basically, machine translation doesn’t have any subject matter expertise.

Limits of machine translation in technical document translation:

Preparing technical document translation before the machine translation begins will help to generate a favourable technical translation online but it might not quite represent what your product really is. The preparation includes writing clear, short sentences, avoiding the use of idiomatic expressions, avoiding cultural references as they are difficult to translate accurately across borders, use symbols that have international recognition, leave extra space to allow more room for the translated text as some translated text takes up more room than others.

If it’s possible to try to link up any graphics in the technical document and don’t embed them. This tends to decrease file size, which makes it friendlier with machine translation tools. This helps the machine translator do a translation. Technical translation examples include documents for various industries like engineering, medical and agricultural machinery. All these industries manufacture products for the international market and need to be able to benefit from the importance of machine translation in technical document translation.

Subject matter expertise

When it comes to subject matter expertise it’s preferable that a technical translator is a native speaker. He or she should also be a subject matter expert and a skilled translator for the translation of technical documents.

The limits of machine translation in technical document translation are the lack of supported languages:

Machine translators like Google Translate only support about 80 languages. There are currently up to 7,000 languages globally that do exist in some form today. If we talk about live languages there are about 2,000, but those of important economic significance there remains 1000. This means if you depend on machine translation for a technical translation online you won’t be able to get even the most important languages translated.

When you discuss the various fields of translation the importance of machine translation in technical document translation rarely undermines the role of a human translator. If a business wants to translate its technical translation online it can only choose the more commonly used languages.

A good use of technology: translation memory in technical document translation

When talking about translation memory this is when translations are stored and when required can be used again. The translation memory remembers the original and any other technical document translations. This is useful if you want more technical translations done as the translator can refer back to the translation memory and use anything that’s relevant to the new translation.

The English sentence is saved and its translation into all the different languages. So if the same sentence emerges in a future document the TM will suggest using the translation that has been saved. This means your business can be assured that the language used in translations remains consistent over all the documents.

The main benefits of using translation memory is it saves money as if a sentence doesn’t need to be translated again because it can be used from the translation memory there is no need to pay for it again. Translation memory saves time if there is a lot of matching text. It also improves the consistency of the language used in a translated document.

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