Engineering Translation: Why Only A Language Service Provider Will Do

With anything from user guides, instruction manuals through to technical drawings, it can be tempting to forego the expense associated with the use of a specialist translator. Surely a straight, super-cheap translation will suffice for such dry subject matter?

However, the cost of getting it wrong - both financial and reputational - far outweighs the price of enlisting a subject matter specialist for your engineering translation.

This blog post aims to show you what makes a perfect engineering translation - and why a language service provider with the right experience is absolutely crucial, and can even add value to your engineering documentation.

A Language Service Provider (LSP) guarantees your company’s reputation

A translation done by someone without the correct level of technical expertise, regardless of their linguistic skill, will almost certainly yield an unsatisfactory result - thereby staking your business’ reputation in a foreign marketplace. With that in mind, a successful engineering translation requires the translator to have not only the linguistic, but also the technical knowledge. It’s no good one without the other; from the grasp of tone to the deployment of the correct specialist terminology, 100% accuracy isn’t a luxury, but a necessity with engineering documentation.

Translating software strings for the electronics of an electric bike (as Alexika has recently been asked), for example, requires watertight accuracy and the mastery of an array of highly niche terminology. Quite the feat in only one language, let alone two.


Lots of words… with multiple meanings.

Alexika has also recently completed a project translating a range of complex manuals into Colombian Spanish, to be used for reference by highly qualified engineers. In this instance, avoiding ambiguity was absolutely crucial. As with other technical sectors, a fair few words involved with engineering translation are polysemous - meaning they have more than one meaning.

Auftriebskraft can mean ‘upthrust’, ‘buoyancy’ and ‘lift’ in German. Plénitude can be used in several ways to indicate richness, completeness, or fullness in French. When there are numerous potential meanings for a word, ambiguity can exist, and a passage’s meaning can be completely obscured or ‘lost in translation’ - which is exactly what is to be avoided at all costs, particularly with engineering translation.

Languages are littered with these words; a suitably qualified and experienced translator will help your engineering translations navigate these polysemous minefields, conveying all text authentically.

When one false-step could jeopardise your ecommerce website, instruction manual or data sheet, it’s imperative that those translating your engineering material have as much experience of the industry as the people operating the machinery.

It’s (sometimes) not all dry

It is often assumed that all engineering translation is dry, matter-of-fact and jargon-packed. And whilst this does comprise quite a bit of what engineering translation is, there are other facets to it.

Alexika has taken on a translation project that included marketing material for a plastics company whose products are purchased by engineers. As well as demanding the mastery of the terminology always that comes with engineering translation, this project drew on our translators’ persuasive writing skills, and ability to talk fluently about the products.

This meant the content had to be optimised for the target audience. It can sometimes be blindingly obvious when a text is written by someone who is not a native speaker of the target language. Therefore, with engineering as any other field, making use of a language service provider who can guarantee mother tongue translation is crucial.

If your promotional material is riddled with inaccuracies or doesn’t quite nail local colloquialisms, your engineering marketing campaign will not only be ineffectual, but also potentially offensive and, need it be said, damaging to your corporate reputation. Mother tongue translation ensures a text’s authenticity.

With the right partner, translating engineering content is as easy as A-B-C...


… Or should that be X-M-L?

Many engineering companies are coming to see the value of using XML for the authoring of their technical documentation, such as user manuals. XML allows for online access, and is much more dynamic than a PDF; for one, it facilitates 3D illustrations and diagrams of components, making it much more suitable for engineering content.

Whilst engineering companies are increasingly appreciating what XML can do for their documentation, they are often unsure as to how to send their existing content for translation and receive it back again. For these types of client, Alexika has been able to provide a simple workflow using its translation management software - where possible, making life easier.

XML can often export in an over-complicated manner. In these instances, a good language service provider will also be able to simplify the process of requesting and uploading engineering translations to a client’s website. Again, making life that bit smoother.

So, there we have it. A good language service provider will not only have the linguistic and technical know-how, but will also be able to make your life easier when translating engineering documentation.

We hope 20 years of translation in the engineering industry speaks for itself. Get in touch and see how we can help take your engineering project international.