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The 5 S's to Technical Translation Success

A common misconception for technical translation is that “nobody will read the manual anyway”. As a result, most companies don't invest much in translation.

A while ago my parents bought a new TV. We unpacked it and started figuring out how it works. As my parents' English isn’t that good, they started looking for the Ukrainian part of the manual.

Having found it we had a good laugh. The translation was so poor that it really looked more like a joke than instructions on how to set up the TV. It was fun for our family, but if it was your company's manual that we were laughing at, and you start thinking about the message that this “fun” sends to your customers. I bet it wouldn’t be as amusing.

In the modern world, everyone is expecting to get a unique service, tailored specifically for their needs. Therefore, when your customer comes across poorly translated material, they may think you don't care about them enough. When your customer needs to actually understand how things work, it gets even trickier.

With technical translations, a common misconception is that “nobody will read it anyway”. As a result, most companies will probably go for fast and cheap.

If you do care about the message you are sending across to your customer and you want your technical document to be impeccable, you need to consider the following 5S of success when dealing with this kind of text.


Think of all the ridiculous lawsuits that get lost by a lot of companies just because they didn't include a line or two in their manuals. Now multiply it by the number of countries/languages you are offering your product in. That doesn't sound promising, does it?

Safety is the first and the most important thing when it comes to technical translation. When selecting a language provider, think more about the long-term cost than the short-term price. You need to make sure that they have experienced technical translators and subject matter experts for the job. You definitely don't want to end up having your manual translated by an exchange student next door simply because it is cheaper.


You have to find a supplier that is able to handle large projects to tight deadlines. Usually language service providers (LSPs) can have a much higher turnaround than individual translators simply because they employ more people who can work on a project. Additionally, they can ensure significantly better quality using independent proofreaders and subject matter experts. That said, fast is good but when it comes to translation, you need to remember that allowing a slightly longer deadline can result in better quality.


In the modern fast-paced and technology-centered world, losing time by doing everything manually leads to higher costs. Therefore, you need to make sure your language provider has the appropriate software and IT expertise to handle your material.

Modern agencies are utilizing the latest industry software not only to speed up the translation process but also to ensure the highest quality and consistency of your documents. They can also offer additional services like DTP (desktop publishing) which will make your manuals look neat and well structured.

Support & simplicity

Working with a translation agency, you are able to get a bundle of multilingual service by simply making one call. It's definitely easier than looking for a dozen of suitable resources for various languages that you need to translate your document into. You can leave that all fuss to your dedicated project managers and rather go on your long-planned holiday.

Have you ever read instruction manuals that have been mistranslated?


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