Think Ahead and Write for Technical Translation


It sounds perfect. It’s been proofread, polished and re-polished and edited so many times, you’ve lost count. Your medical device manual is ready to be published, but it also needs to be published in French, German, Simplified Chinese and Japanese. No problem, right?

Translation is not easy, especially technical translation. English can be ambiguous and we take that for granted. Even the basics of our everyday language, for example, “I ran out of coffee,” doesn’t quite work in any language other than English. If you translate this using an online dictionary, you could end up with something that back translates to, “I am outside of coffee.” Or “it’s raining cats and dogs,” could end up sounding like, “the rain is made of cats and dogs.” Obviously, your technical manual or medical device manual would never have such a phrase in it, but there is still a lot of room for ambiguity and difficulty in translating.

For example, if you have the title, “Translations,” to indicate other languages that the document is available in. That’s clear and concise for a title, right? Not exactly. In Japanese, for example, this does not exactly translate well. There is no plural for “translation,” and also, the word 翻訳 sounds like a lost word when used as a header without context. Think of it like having the word, “Pony,” or “Couch,” at the top of the page. It doesn’t seem related to anything else and provokes readers to think, “Translation? So what?” You definitely don’t want that. Instead, the translator would have to write out something longer, such as, “This document is also available in the following languages.”

It’s impossible to anticipate all the possible ambiguities that could arise during the translation process, but it’s very important to consider other languages when you’re writing anything you know will be translated.

JLS Language Corporation offers high-quality translation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. We help bridge communication gaps in our diverse world, working in multiple languages and for many different industries, including medical, technical, and legal. JLS services include translation, interpreting, and website or software localization. Our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.

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