Translation-appropriate writing

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Translation-friendly writing refers to the consideration of a later translation when creating the source document in order to avoid possible translation problems.

In addition to the comprehensibility and consistency of the source text, translation-ready writing includes knowledge of the machine translation tools used. The better a text is tailored for automated processing, the faster, cheaper, better and more uniform a translation into another language will be.

Reasons for translation-friendly writing

Most of the technical documents written today are translated into multiple languages ​​due to the internationalization of markets. Reasons for translating technical documentation are

There is a clear need for action to adapt technical documents to international conditions, since language problems can have real and measurable consequences, such as legal disputes over product liability, as they are mainly known from the USA. But the consequences of translation problems that have less media impact are also to be taken seriously. Technical documentation that has been written without an international orientation often requires

  • a lot of effort for the translator to understand the facts,
  • increased translation and localization costs due to complex corrections or even substantial changes in the source documents.

After all, documentation that is not suitable for translation causes a decrease in the quality of the translation, which is often exacerbated by deadlines that are too tight: Hardly observable time limits prevent time-consuming research or corrections by the translator, which can be necessary due to the poor quality of the source documents.

Many of the problems mentioned can be avoided in advance by writing appropriate to the translation. Making the text easier to understand not only reduces the amount of research required for the translator, but also has positive effects on the documented product.

In addition, source documents suitable for translation support the efficient use of computer-aided translation tools, such as translation memory systems (TMS). Last but not least, this significantly shortens the lead times for creating multilingual technical documentation.

Documentation that is suitable for translation therefore not only reduces the translation effort, but also errors in content and overall costs.

The translation process

A basic understanding of the translation process is also required to understand translation-ready writing.

The translation process does not begin with the handover of the documents to the translation agency, but with the creation of the technical documentation. The process can be divided into the sub-steps of internationalization, localization and post-processing, for which the technical writer is responsible.

The aim of internationalization is to ensure that a document is formulated and designed as culturally neutral as possible during the creation process. These include formalities such as B. the customary salutation, as well as the use of culture-neutral non-verbal means, such as internationally understandable pictograms. A later adaptation of such a document to the conditions of the target country is therefore easier. In this sense, internationalization is the first step in translation-oriented writing.

The next step, localization, takes place in close collaboration between the translator and the technical editor. This step includes the adaptation of the documentation to the circumstances of the target country. A distinction can be made here between so-called surface localization and deep localization. During the interface localization, language , currencies and units (including conversion) are simply adjusted . In depth localization, cultural aspects are also taken into account, and translations are increasingly geared towards target groups. An example of target group-oriented localization is that a text written in British English must also be localized for use in the USA in order to address the users there (e.g. spelling: color vs. color etc.).

The post-processing finally includes the control and, if necessary, the adaptation and correction of the localized text in the layout of the final document.

Computerized translation tools

The translation process can be significantly supported by computer-aided translation tools. Translation memory systems are often used which compare a new source text with existing translations and identify matches between sentences and formulations as far as possible. Parts of sentences up to text blocks can be recognized as "already translated" or "partially translated" and processed faster accordingly. TMS work on the basis of stored segment (sentence) pairs and terminology databases , which are not limited to individual words and can also search for matches in complex sentences.

Programs for machine translation (MT) are used for an automatic translation of texts.

Machine translation tools can be used as efficient translation aids if certain guidelines are observed. TMS in particular are used very successfully.

Knowledge of translation tools

Anyone who wants to prepare technical documents for translation should also have knowledge of the translator's tools. The technical writer's knowledge of how translation systems work helps determine the quality of the documentation in the target language.

The first step is the terminological consistency of the texts. For example, it should be made binding whether compound words are written together or separated by a hyphen. In order to work efficiently with TMS, consistent use of format templates is also important in order to increase the probability of hits and to keep reworking as low as possible. Compliance with conventions in the text display is also very helpful for the translator when working with TMS.

Index marks divide into TMS segments and can prevent the identification of matching segments. The same applies to graphics that are placed within a set. If possible, bookmarks should be placed at the beginning or the end of a sentence, graphics are best placed as marginal notes outside the text.

Controlled language

As a controlled language limited by certain rules language is often referred to. Features are, on the one hand, a reduced vocabulary and, on the other hand, the use of a selected area of ​​grammar. A uniform set of linguistic rules as a basis could provide the following framework conditions:

  • Definition of logical sequences for text modules,
  • Calls for action in the correct chronological order,
  • Predefined sentence structures and sentence construction plans for subordinate text types.

Similar to programming languages, the technical writer should try to structure his texts according to clear structures and grammatical rules. This means, for example, that causal sentences should always be designed according to the same scheme. In the same way, headings should be formulated uniformly, either nominally ("opening the bonnet") or verbally ("opening the bonnet").

Using controlled language has the following advantages:

  • Documents are easier to read and understand.
  • Parts of the editing can be automated.
  • Ambiguities can be reduced.
  • The terminology and style of the documents becomes more consistent, even when edited by different authors.
  • Texts can be better reused in content management systems .
  • Machine translation systems can analyze texts better and deliver better translation quality.
  • Translation storage systems achieve higher pretranslation rates so that translation costs are significantly reduced.

Especially with regard to the use of translation memory systems or machine translation systems, the creation of technical documents in a controlled language can reduce costs, time and sources of error.

Suggested rules

Rules according to which technical documents should be written with a view to writing suitable for translation can be summarized as follows:

  • a fixed meaning for each word,
  • no use of synonyms,
  • explain new terms and abbreviations,
  • no filler words,
  • no complex sentence structures,
  • support direct requests through sentence structure,
  • adhere to the logical sequence (first cause, then effect),
  • Tense: present tense,
  • One call to action per sentence,
  • Use culturally neutral illustrations.

Computer support for translation-friendly writing

For the technical writer, there are tools that effectively support the process of translation-oriented writing.

On the one hand, these tools or systems can be based on computational linguistic methods. They check the text according to the rules of the controlled language, general linguistic rules or individual rules. Spelling, grammar, terminology and writing style are checked. If possible, a correction will be suggested to the author.

On the other hand, such systems work similarly to translation memories, but in the source language. Based on “translation memory”, they are also referred to as “authoring memory systems” and are usually developed by the same manufacturers. The systems suggest existing formulations so that the editor can create texts that are as consistent as possible. Some systems also indicate whether translations have already been made, which means that the translation effort can be better assessed and then reduced.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Anne Hoft: International Technical Communication. Wiley, New York 1995.
  2. a b c Susanne Göpferich: Intercultural Technical Writing. Narr, Tübingen 1998.
  3. a b c d Susanne Göpferich: Write understandably and in a way that is suitable for translation. tekom workshop on November 18, 2000 in Karlsruhe.
  4. a b Willaschek, Detlef: Investigations into the comprehensibility of AECMA Simplified English. Saarbrücken: Saarland University 1997.
  5. a b Jutta Nübel: Teamwork between technical writer and translator: Optimizing the interfaces. In: technical communication issue 5/1999, pp. 4–7.
  6. Uwe Muegge: Controlled language: the next big thing in translation. In: ClientSide News Magazine issue 7/2007, pp. 21–24.