User Manual Translation

User manuals are written guides in either hard-copy (paper) or electronic document (PDF or XPS) format that provide instructions to the end user on how to do or use something. Although "user guides" are most often thought of in terms of computer software manuals, user manuals also accompany computers and other electronic devices such as televisions, stereos, telephone systems, and MP3 players, as well as household appliances and lawn and garden equipment.

Well-written user manuals educate users about a product's features, while teaching them how to use those features effectively. Well-structured manuals will be laid out to be easily read and referred to. When done correctly, user manual translation helps provide accurate messaging to international audiences.

Due to globalization and the competitive forces of international markets, products are manufactured all over the world. According to the Deloitte 2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index, the following countries are projected to be the top 5 ranked geographies in terms of manufacturing competitiveness in 2020:

  1. United States
  2. China
  3. Germany
  4. Japan
  5. India

Product user manuals may be written in English or in the language of the manufacturer’s home country. Whichever may be the case, the user information needs to be made available in the language of the end user, and this is where user manual translation comes into play. The user manual for that product “Made in Germany” may be authored in German, but if the manufacturer wants the end user of its product in Thailand to be able to read and use the information, it will most likely need to have it translated into Thai.

This is not just a practical requirement; it may also be a legal requirement as specified by a particular country’s laws.

According to most directives, the manual must be translated into the language of the country where the product is being used. The person that imports the product in a specific language area is responsible for the correct translation. This also applies for a trading company that sells a product to another language area.

If Europe is the target market, the manufacturer needs to perform several actions in order to meet the requirements to obtain the CE marking. One of these is to develop a user manual and translate it to the proper language.

Once the decision is made to translate a User Guide, there are some items to be decided on in order to make the target language version as effective as possible. Some of these include:

TABLES OF CONTENTS/INDEXES

  • References such as Tables of Contents and Indexes should be generated in the target language once the translation has been finalized. Additionally, it is a good practice to actually validate these automatically-generated tables for accuracy and to re-generate them after every editing session.

GRAPHICAL IMAGES

  • The use of graphical images is very often used as an effective tool when designing user guides. To make sure they are as effective in the translated content, they should be localized to the end user’s language.

SCREEN CAPTURES

  • If the product has a user interface (UI) that has been localized and product screen captures are used in the source manual to support the text, these should be replaced by the localized screens in the translated version of the manual. If the UI is only available in one language, a decision needs to be made as to whether or not a translation of the source terms should be provided in parentheses, for example.

MEASUREMENTS

  • The country of manufacture and the target market may use different Units of Measure (e.g. Imperial systems vs. Metric System). For the translated manual, the measurements can be:
  1. Left as is in the source document;
  2. Left as is and followed in parentheses by a conversion to the target country’s standard UoM;
  3. Converted to the target country’s standard UoM and followed in parentheses by the original measurement;
  4. Converted to the target country’s standard UoM only.

Whichever option is selected, the decision should be made before the translation begins, and should remain consistent for all measurements throughout the manual.

LAYOUT CONSIDERATIONS

  • Does the source document layout use US Letter paper size? If so, will it need to be converted to A4 paper size for the target language format?
  • Will the fonts used in the source document support the target language(s)? If not, matching fonts that support the target language will need to be selected and applied post-translation.
  • Does the source layout application support the target language? If not, a newer version or different layout application will need to be used.

Miscellaneous issues with user manual translation

Part of our preparation process checklist is to make sure that, post translation, we can generate a target-language file that will match the source-language document layout. Some pre-translation checks are done to try to identify anything that can cause an issue and resolve it prior to translation so that once the translation is done, there won’t be any nasty surprises that could affect delivery of a translated document that matches the source document’s layout.

User Manual Translation Process

The process starts with the source authoring application file(s) being provided by our client. Our Localization Engineers will analyze and prepare the file(s) upfront, and our linguistic team will carefully review all of the content to ensure any questions we have are resolved before translation begins.

Next, we pair you with a dedicated Project Manager who will be your point of contact for all projects that we partner with you on. The translation, editing, and proofreading phases are executed in-country by our professional linguistic teams, after which our Desktop Publishing specialists begin the formatting phase of the project.

Before delivering the translated files to you, we schedule a final Quality Assurance with our in-country linguistic team. This final validation is done with the source file and the translated file reviewed side-by-side, a service we call Post-DTP Quality Assurance.

Depending on the project specifications, a hi-res or low-res Acrobat PDF file will be generated and delivered along with the source authoring application files.

Turnkey User Manual Translation Services

Our deliverable will be a product that is professionally translated and formatted to match the source document format – ready to deploy immediately – leaving no additional work for you or your team to do.

As with all other types of content that we translate, your product’s user manual will be translated using the latest Translation Memory technology to ensure quality, consistency with previously-translated materials, and leveraging to maximize cost effectiveness and delivery efficiencies.