Translating a manual is less complex than the creation of one. After all, the structure is already there. Still, there are important guidelines to follow. A bad translation can render even the clearest manual impenetrable. Follow these simple tips to ensure your work is understandable to the readership.
Different cultures have their standard ways of formulating instructions. Depending on your task, you may have to completely reformulate the passages to make them acceptable to local readers. This article will focus on recommendations that will help you translate installation manuals into English. Here are a few principles to follow in your work.
Do Not Rely on Machine Translation
Despite the abundance of software, it does not guarantee accuracy. With regard to manuals, this is particularly true. You have to get the technical terms right. The automated translation may not guarantee proper structure and clarity overall. This is especially evident when dealing with non-European languages. Despite all the technological advances, we are yet to see the software that would do the job flawlessly.
Hence, the task is best delegated to professionals. Machine translation could be used as the initial step, but it should be double-checked by a human. Free programs help cut costs, but the end result is likely to disappoint. If you are the translator, follow the tips below.
Keep Sentence Length Optimal
Generally, shorter structures are better. The longer the sentence – the harder it is to follow. Since the goal of a manual is to explain a process, keep the length under 20 words. If the original sentence is overly complex, splitting it could be reasonable. Replacing a comma with a full stop will enhance clarity and help the reader follow the sequence.
On the other hand, you may choose to merge shorter sentences. Even though the CAT (translation environment) tools in use today prevent you from such liberties, other systems allow them.
Analyze Your Audience
Think about your readership in terms of their knowledge. Are they beginners, experts or something in between? This understanding will guide you towards the most effective wording. Think of the users as people you know.
Keep It Direct
Make your sentences active and direct, rather than passive. It is much better to write “Press the OK button to launch the conversion” instead of “Conversion is launched by pressing the OK button”. Although passive structures are common in academic English, they make manual text harder to follow. Hence, begin your sentences with imperative forms of the verbs (e.g., click, print, open).
Use Parallel Structures When Possible
Another important aspect is the use of identical structures (e.g., Click “Start” to open the menu. Click “Finish” to close the menu). They are common for the English language. However, your source text may be organized differently. You may change the structure when translating into English.