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Achieving Translation Success: Keys to Effective Translations of Technical Documentation

NEW YORK, Feb. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Electronics expos such as the International Consumer Electronics Show are a great venue for introducing new products and winning new customers around the world. When preparing to present and sell your electronics at these shows, however, it's important to keep culture in mind. You should maximize every opportunity to show potential buyers that your products are designed to meet their unique needs. One often-overlooked way to build a stronger customer connection is to address the cultural and linguistic conventions of your target audience when translating your products' technical documentation—installation guides, operating manuals and user guides.


This is a powerful way to build customer loyalty—by helping your international customers spend time enjoying your products rather than struggling to understand the documentation. Keep the following aspects of translation in mind during your project:

 Keep culture's effect on language in mind. Because technical documentation is based in scientific terminology, many assume that it can be translated to other languages without worrying about culture. However, language—technical or otherwise—is shaped by culture. To create more effective documentation and form meaningful connections with your international customers, partner with a language service provider that offers translation professionals who are intimately familiar with the target language and the culture in which it is spoken. For example, the word procedure has several equivalents in Farsi.1 In cases like this, choosing the wrong translation for the documentation's context may make your brand seem "foreign" and cause customers to have to work harder to figure out what you are trying to say. Both of these results can alienate rather than bring you closer to your customers.

 Translate all images and icons. Just as culture affects language, it can influence how the meanings of images are perceived by the target culture. For example, if you are using an American "stop" sign as an icon and translating your documentation into Japanese, you must change the icon to its Japanese equivalent—an inverted red triangle.2 Be careful to evaluate the content of images and their format. For example, if your target language is read from right to left, such as Hebrew, any diagrams that show steps sequentially from left to right in the original documentation must be reversed as part of the conversion process. Consideration of such cultural and linguistic conventions will make your documentation more effective and show your customers that you understand their daily life.

 Know how your product is going to be used. Language and images are not the only aspects of technical documentation to consider. It is also important to clearly understand how products similar to yours are used by consumers in the target country. For example, mobile phone use varies widely from country to country—South Korean consumers typically have personal phones and use them for everything from credit cards to TVs. Yet as recently as a few years ago, most households in India had a single mobile phone that was shared among family members.3,4 Similarly, in some collectivist cultures where sharing is encouraged, it is common to have one radio per household rather than one per resident.5 Noting these differences and incorporating them into your documentation can help to further distinguish your brand as one that meets and anticipates the needs of international customers.

Your language service provider should be well versed in these aspects of culture and language as a component of translating technical documentation. If they are, they can help you create documentation that will differentiate you from your competition in the eyes of international consumers.


1 Hosseinimanesh, Ladan, "Cultural Differences Between English and Persian in Technical Translation," International Journal of English Linguistics 2011;1(1):229–235

2 "Traffic Rules in Japan You Need to Know," Hokkaido Regional Development Bureau, Accessed January 13, 2014

3 Sang-Hun, Choe, "In South Korea, All of Life is Mobile," The New York Times, May 24, 2009

4 Chavan, Apala Lahiri, "A Dramatic Day in the Life of a Shared Indian Mobile Phone," Usability and Internationalization: HCI and Culture Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2007;4559:19–26.

5 Chavan, Apala Lahiri, "Smart Strategies for Creating Culture Friendly Products and Interfaces," Usability and Internationalization: HCI and Culture Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2007;4559:27–32.

Full article:

About Merrill Brink International

Merrill Brink International ( is a leading provider of complete translation and language solutions for global companies and law firms, with special expertise in serving the legal, financial, life sciences, software, heavy machinery and corporate markets. A proven leader with more than 30 years of experience, Merrill Brink offers a wide range of language solutions including translation, localization, desktop publishing and globalization services.

Merrill Brink is recognized in the industry for its commitment to quality and its pioneering approach of leveraging technology to reduce costs, eliminate redundant processes and accelerate translation life cycles. Merrill Brink is certified to ISO 9001:2008; ISO/IEC 27001:2005 and ISO 13485:2003, and compliant to EN 15038:2006 and ISO 14971:2007. Together, these standards provide assurance that the most stringent process and quality standards for translation are followed. Merrill Brink International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Merrill Corporation.

Media Contact: Vanessa Lontoc, Merrill Brink International, 212-229-6532, [email protected]

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