Why Technical Editing and Translation Work Better Together

The story of an informational bridge.

© FABIEN / Fotolia

© FABIEN / Fotolia

When I switched from a classic Language Service Provider to kothes in 2013, I did it for two reasons:

  1. kothes is one of the most family-friendly companies in our industry!
  2. I really wanted to get to know and understand the processes, both before and after the classic translation-related business, of technical documents.

For the first reason, I don’t really have to take much of a swing. But if I can summarise the second reason now, after four years, I must say: Bullseye.
Why? I'll explain it to you with a few examples:

Subject: Editorial Understanding of the Translation Processes

In addition to foreign-language know-how and technical expertise, translation management at kothes has an editorially-based perspective on work processes. That means: The Translation Managers recognise and understand the technical, structural, and terminological issues that are associated with the daily routine of technical editing. Based on this understanding, they ask the right questions, take on the user's perspective, and solve problems quickly and non-bureaucratically.

Subject: A Translation Team within a Technical Documentation Company

At kothes, the Technical Editing and Translation Management departments work hand-in-hand. This not only benefits customers whose informational products are produced by the kothes Technical Editing department, but also those who commission us for the translation of their internally-produced documentation. In any case, our customers benefit from the knowledge transfer between our Technical Editing and Translation departments. Not only does kothes translation management have a great deal of experience with common translation tools (i.e. CAT), we also know the various Content Management Systems (CMS) and Desktop Publishing (DTP) tools, as well. For particularly complex questions, the colleagues within the Technical Editing and the Translation departments support each other. This is how we work together, in order to ensure the best possible result for you.

Subject: Technical Questions We Solve Immediately

Since we only use native-language translators, they often work from their home country. But they don’t do this work from some “dark cave”, but communicate extensively with the Translation Managers at our Berlin office. Proactive communication is firmly anchored within our corporate culture, and whenever the best possible translation and clear comprehension are required, Translation Management relies on our Technical Editing team that created the original content. When performed by our competent team of Technical Editors, there is no assistance required from our customers. For content that you’ve created as a customer yourself, our translators aren’t shy about contacting you as a contact person (and other customers directly), in order to efficiently clarify questions. As far as the details surrounding project communication are concerned, you, as our customer decide; we then model and optimise the process.

At this point, I reflect on my everyday life, and it’s often exactly like this. We, in the translation business, are the last link in the informational chain. The manual gets created, which often consumes the lion’s share of the total time allocation. Your product is about to be launched, and time is of the essence. And almost exactly at this point, the translation only begins. One of the delay-causing factors (i.e. when faced with a rapidly approaching delivery date) for the translation portion of the information life cycle is “question management”. The Translator usually works in such a way that she (or he) translates, and in the meantime collects questions on ambiguities such as abbreviations, terminologies and, if necessary (from a foreign language perspective) misunderstood/unclear or ambiguous source texts. Answering these questions can take some time, which simply costs precious time and can also threaten the overall delivery date. However, when our Translator communicates directly with you or our Technical Editor does, it saves time within our cooperation, but correspondingly, you don’t receive anything because our Translator communicates directly with our Technical Editor.

Subject: Terminology

The topic of terminology is beginning to gain more and more importance. It’s no secret that technical documentation in both source and target languages must be precise and unambiguous. In order to develop a clear product language for the terminology, you should ideally start where texts are created — in our case, within the Technical Editing team. This, in turn, makes it easier for our translators to localise equivalent terms in their foreign language, because the source name has already been covered by the Technical Editor and Subject Matter Expert. Working out terminology through the translator works also, but the translator neither researched the product nor the machine. She (or he) transforms the compiled texts and information into the foreign language, but the decision as to which term or naming belongs in a terminology, is in better hands with the Technical Editor. In this position, and in order to make life a little easier, we use terminology management software to link our processes.

My Take:

Oi, you know what!? (Please pardon my Cockney-influenced expression)

I really fancy looking at issues from as many points of view as possible (or is necessary). This helps immensely to develop the best possible solutions, which not only affect the area of translation, but also have a lasting effect on the processes – both before and after – and that are as simply as possible. They should be practicable and above-all-else applicable. Nowadays, I don’t necessarily have to ask the translator to “get” terminology, with both source and target languages. The source language is covered by the Technical Editor. Only right, innit? After all, she (or he) does a ton of research by collecting information and can specifically find source names that our translators then easily locate in their foreign languages. Or a Technical Editor rings me right before starting a new project, and together we plan the workflows and their scheduling. Or, together with the originator of the information, I can better judge the hype surrounding machine translation and develop processes and rules that lead to proper (and high-quality) results.


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