Advice and best practices for writing SOPs, training for product launch, outsourcing technical documentation, and more.

Documentation and  Training Translation: Q & A with Advanced Language Translation


For clients serving global markets, Novatek’s technical writing and training development team has created many successful programs in partnership with ALT Translations. Managing Director, Scott Bass answers some of our clients’ most frequently asked questions.

Scott, we often hear “English is the international language of technology.” What are your thoughts on this?

It’s a common but very American view. Fluent English is very common in Manager to manager exchanges, but communicating to technicians in a lab or production environment, it’s much more challenging. However, technology or not, you should sell to me in my native language.

Where are your customers most frequently investing in translation?

Training and documentation are the top two areas where companies invest in translation because the clarity and usability are critical to product performance, regulatory compliance, and risk management. These are the majority of the deliverables our company is working on today—User Guides and Service Guides, followed by eLearning and training.

So, I have to ask… Why can’t we just use Google Translate?

Good question. Statistical machine translation, the model behind tools like Google Translate, have come a long way and can help if used well. Nail guns sure make the work go faster, but the end result is better if trusted to the professional roofer than the weekend warrior.

When publishing content on the Web, it’s important to realize that Google doesn’t index its own machine-generated translations. It recognizes that it is redundant content and therefore, not of sufficient quality for its users.

For marketing content, we use 100% human translation—the translation tool results are just too poor. In training and documentation, there can be some efficiency when translation tools are used in the process. In addition to the efficiencies, we typically see a 30% savings in cost and time when we’re able to use statistical machine translation in parts.

What about other software tools?

Technology is making reaching global markets more achievable in a lot of ways. HTML5 has made designing content for translation a bit easier, and language memory tools create a database of key phrases, allowing you to translate only once.

How do you save costs over the lifespan of a product?

It comes down to planning for translation from the start. Your translation provider and outsourced technical writing firm can both be very helpful in guiding the process and reducing costs in the long run. Things like language management, content design and formatting , and single-source authoring all keep word count down and focus efforts where they matter.

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Topics: training solutions, technical writing, documentation