Any kind of translation involves meticulous word choice and subject matter expertise to avoid mistakes that can range from comical to confusing to insulting. All of which can be damaging to both your brand and bottom line. In mechanical engineering, the stakes are often even higher as inaccuracies can have serious and life-threatening consequences. Here are the five mistakes we see most often in translations for mechanical engineering.
1) Inconsistent use of terminology
Before beginning any translation project for mechanical engineering, or any other technical subject, it’s crucial to agree on the terminology to be used across all languages. Some terms can’t be translated literally, and one word can have multiple meanings, even in one language. Such challenges are often greater in technical translation where there are industry-specific terms, and expressions and abbreviations can mean different things in different languages.
Once any ambiguity has been removed, agreed terms should be collated into glossaries that all linguists on the project must adhere to. Doing this work to create glossaries up front results in accurate, consistent use of terminology across all content types. It’s much more efficient than agreeing on terms as the need arises during the project and prevents the lengthy and costly job of amending documents retrospectively.
2) Translating without context
When translating any type of content, linguists need to understand not only its intended use but also the context. This is particularly important for mechanical engineering projects where accuracy is often essential for safety or effectiveness. When a linguist knows how a term will be used, they can identify if a direct translation isn’t appropriate and find a suitable alternative.
Although the linguists working on your translation should be subject matter experts, it’s also important to provide them with all relevant reference material. This helps them understand the context and, where possible, should include:
- Copies of the source documentation
- Technical drawings
- Screenshots of user interfaces for any machinery involved
- Safety data sheets
- Information on any regulatory compliance laws for the target market
3) Not localising machinery user interfaces
User interfaces are often an afterthought in a translation project, but it’s vital that operation panels on machinery are localised so native speakers can use them safely. In fact, user interfaces should be localised first so screenshots of the controls in the relevant language can be included in supporting documents such as manuals. This improves safety by enabling users to compare like for like.
4) Not using professional services
It’s tempting to try to cut costs by using non-native speakers or in-house colleagues who aren’t experienced in translation. This is usually false economy though. It can result in inaccurate translations, which not only give a poor representation of your brand but can also result in safety levels being compromised and accidents happening.
It’s always best to find a professional translation service with experience of similar projects. Alongside expert linguists, language service providers use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools and translation memory. This combination is a great asset for mechanical engineering translations. Typically, there’s a huge amount of repeated content across technical documents, so utilising translation memory saves time and money in the long-term. With correct use, and in conjunction with work by experienced linguists, it also helps to ensure consistency and accuracy across the board.
5) Not reviewing content before publication
No technical content should ever be published without incredibly careful review. Checking documents properly takes time, so the process should be scheduled far in advance of any printing or distribution deadlines.
It’s also important to test user interface translations in context before they’re rolled out. This allows end users to identify any issues during operation so the translation can be amended.
Are you looking to improve the quality and efficiency of your mechanical engineering translations? We’d love to help. Why not get in touch to chat through how we can make a difference today?
The most experienced member of the team, Heather is both the founder of Ultimate Languages and senior project manager specialising in technical translation. After studying German at university, Heather moved into the field of translation project management and has worked for several language service providers over the last 20 years. Most of Heather’s clients work in the mechanical engineering, manufacturing and chemical spaces meaning she has developed an impressive understanding of the localisation needs of organisations in these fields.