Translation services make a great difference in organizations of all sizes, across industries. Technology is no exception. The linguists who specialize in the technology sector make it possible for cutting edge products and services to be accessible to millions across the globe, not only to those in the culture where they were originated.
But, speaking more concisely, what are translation services for technology? For starters, we’re referring to a type of technical translation. Technical translation is a specialized sub-discipline within translation that focuses on rendering texts that treat scientific or technical topics.
Technical translators work on user guides, manuals, health & safety guidelines, technical reports, textbooks, product specifications, regulatory documents, and other formats that involve very domain-specific and precise language. Technical translations account for 90% of the world’s total translation output.
Translation services for technology have been key for the internationalization of manufacturing, helping businesses across the globe train international teams and keep homogeneous and rigorous production processes across borders. But they can also be a great ally to startups that are working to expand abroad.
Localization & Translation Services for Technology
It’s easy to get our concepts mixed up. Let’s say we’ve perceived that our product has started to amass a base of Italian users. Our product is in English, but it meets the needs of Italian users, and we want to take it as an opportunity to make an Italian version of our product. Should we get a technology translator to translate our app’s interface for a foreign audience? Actually, no. But if we have a great base of developer documentation, that’s where our technical translators should be.
If we want to translate a website or app that deals with specific terminology, getting our content in front of a technical translator would be necessary. Anyway, this would only be one step in a wider localization process. Apps and websites shouldn’t just be translated, there’s more to a website or app than just text, so a more comprehensive approach is needed to guarantee good user experience. If our product is destined for the general public, a technical translator isn’t the right professional to handle it.
How Udacity Translates Technical Courses
When our product does involve specific terminology, counting on technology translators can make a world of difference. Unicorn startup Udacity offers hundreds of technical courses and micro degrees about everything from inbound sales to machine learning. With a wide international student base, the company has the challenge of localizing its platform to guarantee quality training across linguistic barriers.
In a Slator interview, Udacity’s Marketing and Communications Manager for Europe, Leah Wiedenmann explained that, while the company’s concern is localization, specialized translators are an essential part of their process.
“Course localization in China is managed by two to three people. In Brazil, one localization manager oversees the process. Both teams rely heavily on support from subject matter experts (SMEs) in their respective regional teams (…) We are constantly updating our course content based on students’ feedback and the latest technological trends in the field.”
The Risk of Poor Technical Translations
Poor translations tend to have a cost. And by that we’re not referring to their price, but to the damage they cause. In the case of literary translation, for instance, the damage could be banal to the reader, who will just have a terrible impression of a certain book, but devastating for the author, who will be lose a whole market, or be misunderstood by a whole culture.
When it comes to technology translation, the cost of a poor translation could be, for example, having the development of a product delayed or obstructed. Let’s say the document that we had translated was the documentation needed to develop a new version of our product, or a new product altogether, and we needed to translate it for a foreign team to which we’re outsourcing part of the work. A translator who’s not specialized in the tech sector or in software development may be unable to recognize the difference between specific terminology and common language. This is a recipe for disaster, especially if we consider that some tools, languages and products that make up a software development stack have names that can be easily mistaken for everyday words. For instance, there are two programming languages named “Go” and “Sass”.
In the case of Udacity, there’s such an emphasis placed on the expertise of the translators because grammatical differences between the source and target languages can result in misunderstanding the relationship between words. When the translator who’s in charge of the project doesn’t understand the concepts at hand, this can result in incorrect statements and therefore a poor quality course that isn’t a good investment for students and that will damage the Udacity brand.
What Makes a Good Technical Translation
A great technical translator will be a fully bilingual specialist who’s aware of the latest developments in your discipline, who handles terminology correctly and who is very attentive to detail. The translator you want isn’t just bilingual, they’ve also been trained as translators, and have the domain-specific expertise to tackle this sort of project.
Ideally, your source material is written in a style that prioritizes clarity and specificity. If this is the case, the translator should produce a text that is just as easy to understand and precise as its original.
Young companies that need to translate internal documents might be prone to thinking that they should go out of their way to get this translation for cheap. Maybe, relying on freelancing platforms, or putting up a job ad and selecting a candidate based on pricing, not expertise. In the end, users are not gonna see these files, right?
Users might not see the documents, but they’ll see the results of having good or bad internal communications between your company’s teams. A linguistic barrier can result in an inconsistency or technical shortcoming in your product. It could also result in a delay in your product development process.
Consequently, we shouldn’t be price buyers when it comes to linguistic services. It’s best to always rely on a reputable technology translation services company.