I recently gave a workshop at the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Society for Technical Communication, and I wanted to share some of the key points of my message to the technical communicators gathered there.

My presentation focused on making writers aware of the content workflow for content that is destined to be adapted for foreign markets. I familiarized the writers with the translation and localization process, and then outlined best practices for the content creation and translation stages of the overall process.

Best practices for content writers include using authoring tools that allow them to practice controlled authoring and single sourcing, to leverage CMS tools and XML functionalities, and to make full use of available language QA tools.

In the translation process, the focus should be on terminology management and ensuring that translation memory (TM) is in place from the beginning. These practices help control costs and increase project success as well as reduce translation errors. For example, clients and project managers can agree to focus the final QA step only on translation units that are less than a 85 or 95% match to material already in the TM. This decision would depend on the nature of the content and how it would be used.

chart of best translation/globalization management practices

Adapted from BURTON Group 2008

Technical communicators and translators really should be each others’ advocates.  Technical communicators know the product involved and, because of this knowledge, they may not always understand when their words are ambiguous or unclear. Translators, on the other hand, can only work with the content they are given. They may be unable to detect certain inconsistencies or errors in the source text. This gap between what the technical writers think they are communicating and what the translator understands costs money. When authors and translators are not aligned, inefficiencies result and projects become more costly.

Successful localization should start with the technical communicator/author of the content. Promoting a partnership with their language services provider, and moving localization considerations from the end of the content process to the beginning, creates a situation in which a content L10N strategy can be implemented that will reduce time to market, decrease costs and facilitate global business strategies.

Let’s do this together for the benefit of our clients. It’s a win-win situation.

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