Translations of Technical Documentation – Getting There Better, Together

The Story of an Information Bridge.

Translations of Technical Documentation – Getting There Better, Together


Large text volumes, tight deadlines, and a growing variety of languages: translating technical documentation involves a wide range of tasks. Close interaction between technical editorial and translation departments can play a decisive role in solving these tasks, both better and faster.


Exploiting synergies – when technical editing and translation work together

"Translation begins with the writing of the source texts."
It's no secret: translation-friendly content creation is essential in the multilingual documentation process. Two players play the main role in this – technical editing and translation. Today, both disciplines are more closely intertwined in technical and methodological terms than ever before.
As a documentation service provider that combines editing and translation under one roof, we're well aware of this – and therefore know the many points of contact between these two worlds. Time and time again, we find that optimum interaction between the two process partners can significantly reduce the amount of translation work required.
What does this require? Well-founded know-how about the overall technical process and the interfaces between the systems – on both sides, of course.
On the other hand, a direct line between the key subject matter experts (i.e. the editors on the one hand and the translation team on the other).
In day-to-day business, we like to refer to this as an information bridge, which we set up as a bidirectional communication channel between the technical editorial and translation teams. This means that expert knowledge is available on call, and even tricky situations can be solved quickly – with an astonishingly positive impact on process quality.
How does this information bridge work in practice? And how can your translation projects benefit from it?
We've summarised the key benefits for you.


Technical Editorial Understanding of Translation Processes

Foreign language know-how and technical expertise are essential skills in translation work. At kothes, we go one step further: our translation team also has an editorial understanding of the work processes.
What does that mean in concrete terms? Our translation managers are familiar with the technical and methodological challenges that are part of the day-to-day work of a technical editor.
Based on this understanding, they ask the right questions, advocate from a user's perspective, and solve problems both quickly and unbureaucratically.


A Team of Translators in a Technical Editorial Company

Short paths, fast help – when technical editorial staff and translators work together, many challenges can be overcome more easily. A big plus: It's not just companies that have their documentation produced by the kothes technical editorial team that benefit from this approach. Companies that work independently and then commission us to translate their documents can also rely on the information bridge.

What does this mean in practice? If required, our translation managers will support the customer's technical editorial team in all matters relating to the multilingual documentation process.
These can be questions about translation-oriented writing or about correct content management in the Content Management System (CMS), such as:
How do I formulate lists and bulleted lists correctly so that there are no problems later with segment-by-segment translation in the Translation Memory system?
How can I manage my language-dependent screenshots cleanly and the associated UI texts in both source and target languages? How do I handle mixed-language text in my source documents?
In particularly tricky situations, our translation team can also draw directly on the expertise of our technical editors. In this way, editorial stumbling blocks can, in the vast majority of cases, be eliminated in the shortest possible time.


Technical Know-How and Interface Competence in all Phases

Modern editing and translation tools have become an indispensable part of today's technical documentation world. Their use reduces costs and increases the quality of both source and target texts.
However, technology alone doesn't guarantee process success. Especially along interfaces and when importing and exporting data, human expertise is always needed to ensure that all systems actually run as they should.
Our editorial and translation teams have the necessary tool and interface expertise to implement a clean technical workflow.
In which scenarios, for example, is this expertise used?

Orientation in the Format Jungle
When it comes to file formats, the translation industry is multifaceted. Our translation managers know this and import your data – from translation memories to terminology lists – securely into our system.

Desktop Publishing for the Finishing Touch
When creating documentation in a traditional word processor, translation is not enough. Then professional desktop publishing (DTP) is needed to adapt the target texts to the original layout.

Easy Connection to Customers' Systems
The right interaction between technical editorial and translation memory systems is a critical factor for an efficient translation process. To achieve this, data must be exchanged cleanly between the systems or – even better – the systems must be directly coupled.


Clarify Questions Promptly, Meet Delivery Deadlines

Translation is usually the last link in a long information chain. This also means that by the time a technical editor has authored the last word in the source document, the vast majority of the time budget for the project has usually already been used up. Often at this stage, the product is about to be launched and time is of the essence.
And it's precisely at this point that the translation starts, which now has to be completed as quickly as possible. Logically, complications and delays at this point are particularly tricky and can easily lead to the delivery date being pushed.
Typical time wasters are ambiguities on the translator's side, caused, for example, by ambiguous abbreviations or misleading terminology. Professional question management is the key to clarifying such open points as quickly as possible and not postponing the project's completion unnecessarily. Even in such situations, we rely on the strengths of the Information Bridge:

If the source texts to be translated are created in our technical editorial office, the translators first contact the responsible editors to clarify their questions quickly.
In the case of content created by a company itself, our translators are not afraid to contact the customer directly and clarify questions in a personal exchange.


Achieving More Consistency with Multilingual Terminology Management

Terminology competence is a key prerequisite for consistent customer communication.
Companies that manage their technical terminology efficiently not only prevent misunderstandings, but can also reduce their translation costs. To achieve this, the terminology in both the source and target languages must be precise and unambiguous.
Professional terminology management ideally starts where the texts are created (i.e. in the technical editorial office). This makes it easier for translators to find equivalent terms in the target languages, since the source terms have already been authored by the technical editors.
What about the reverse procedure (i.e. when the translators develop the terminology)? In principle, this can also work - at least in theory. In practice, the translators don't see the product to be documented and don't research its individual components and their functions, themselves.
After all, the main task of translation is to correctly translate the source texts into the respective target language. The decision as to which term with which designation belongs in a terminology is therefore much better left to the technical editorial team.
To make life a little easier for ourselves at this point, we connect our processes using terminology management software. If necessary, we can also draw on the expertise of our internal terminology team.


Our Conclusion: The Information Bridge Works.

"When the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, nothing stands in the way of project success."
Admittedly, this sentence reads a bit like a slogan from a project management seminar. Nevertheless, it sums up wonderfully why the information bridge between technical editing and translation is so valuable from our point of view: It's the key to bundling and combining expert knowledge and thus comforts the technical editorial teams of our customers. Mutual understanding of working methods and processes makes many things easier - and can make a decisive contribution to increasing the efficiency of the multilingual technical documentation process.

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Feel free to contact us directly.

Verena Döhler
Blog post Verena Döhler