E.g., 04/02/2020
E.g., 04/02/2020

Translating and Localizing for Technical Communication: Not a "Piece of Cake"

By Katherine Judge, Commissioning Editor, ISTC Communicator

Do you get asked what you do for a living and find yourself thinking how to answer the question in a way that the asker will understand? This is something I find myself doing often. I thoroughly enjoy my work explaining technical subjects to others through documentation but when it comes to explaining in simple terms what I do every time I vary my reply. What do I do? I work in technical communication promoting the industry through the journal, Communicator and the ISTC.

Working in technical communication

I work in technical communication and enjoy sharing information with others. I like to ensure that my instructions are clear, my content is accurate and engaging to read – well, that's my aim anyway! Technical communication is all about making technical things easier to understand from a user's perspective. Documentation can be delivered on multiple platforms, multiple output formats and an essential part of many products is translation and localization. This is why it's important to think about how we write, how we can make our documentation more concise, more accurate, but more importantly, consistent and easy to use in any translated language.

As the world shrinks with the amount of data passed between others and technology advances, it's worth thinking beyond the clear instructions and encompassing translation and localization into the initial thought process. Are examples suitable for all audiences or will they need localizing? I recently received an article which used "kicking its tyres". It was in UK English but was still a phrase I didn't know. Would the phrase have translated successfully?

It's these considerations that need to be thought about when creating the initial documentation. This is why the ISTC has created a special supplement with the goal of getting technical communicators to think more about how their documentation will be used not only in the country of origin but globally.

The latest issue of Communicator from the ISTC

For the Spring 2014 issue, The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC) which produces the quarterly journal Communicator has put together a special supplement on Translation and Localization. The special supplement discusses:

  • Explaining why complex technical translation projects require expert project management for a successful outcome.
  • Providing reasons why social media can help your brand grow through working with the needs of the audience country and language needs.
  • Encouraging you to grow your organisation through exporting and localization.
  • Looking at translation decisions and the impact on your brand.
  • Dealing with globalization through cloud-based technology.
  • Using specialized software for localizing.

The subject is a wide and the content is diverse. Look out for copies at GALA 2014 in Istanbul!

Katherine Judge FISTC is Commissioning Editor of the quarterly journal Communicator, published by the ISTC in the UK. Katherine is an experienced technical communicator, working first as an IT trainer and then as a technical author in the software industry. She has been Communicator editor for over 3 years.  Connect with ISTC on Facebook and Twitter.