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Well, you've certainly come to the right place for this question. I'm a
technical writer for a medium-sized medical device manufacturer, and do most
of our translation work. I'll give your questions a shot.
>>>Who is typically responsible for translation of software?
In our case, the work is divided between software engineering and technical
publications. They write the software, and one of us (it varies), preps a
document to be sent to the translation house. We work in Frame, but
translation docs in Word or .rtf format seem to work best for everyone.
<small rant> I have to disagree vehemently with Glenn Maxey's suggestion to
assign this task to a junior tech writer. Some of it, maybe, depends on the
scope of your project. Honestly, if I were the junior tech writer handling
an (easily) $100,000 budget and all the responsibility that goes with it,
I'd be asking for a raise and a promotion and running out the door a year
later to the first company that offered me a job as a translation manager.
>>>I can see reasons why I'd want my department to handle these
translations. It would be a
>>>little easier to coordinate the translations (ensure same translation
agency is used, ensure >>>consistency of translations between software and
You absolutely must be involved. It's the only way to maintain consistency
from model to model, and from monitor to manual. I don't know how many times
the software engineers have told me something is "exactly the same" only to
find out that it's not. Don't get me wrong, I work in engineering, and my
SME's are great, but our interpretation of "different" differs greatly.
Consistency not only provides a better global image for the company (and I
believe a perception of quality as well), it allows you to build a Trados
translation database that will ultimately lower the costs of maintaining
documentation in the years to come.
I won't get into a discussion of the care and feeding of your Trados
database here--it's a big topic--but I'd be happy to continue this off-list.
>>But on the other hand, it could lead to overload after a while if all
software comes through us >>to be translated.
Quite true. We're experiencing that here, and considering adding another
tech writer. However, it may not be as bad as it looks. I'm not sure how
many products you'll be translating, but think about it. Only one
translation document needs to be prepped per item, per software
revision--documents you'll already be doing in English. The software
engineers will probably enter the text, QA will test it? It's more
organizational than anything else (I feel like an air traffic controller
sometimes). If you have solid system to track status, you'll be surprised
how many items you can have out for translation. We usually have about 4
products, times 10 languages, in process at any one time. With two tech
writers and a manager, it's doable.
The most difficult aspect for us (and YMMV), is keeping up with **updates**
to the Op Guides. Initial translation, review and release is fairly
straightforward. In our case, incremental upgrades to software are frequent.
In three years my company has learned a lot about what to do and what not to
do. That's another topic I'd be happy to take off-list with you (unless
anyone else is interested).
>>>How is the review of translated text handled?
We send translations to our European distributors for review. On the plus
side, it's free and the audience is knowledgeable about the subject matter.
On the negative, reviews are not really part of their jobs and we have a
tough time getting things back on deadline. With any luck, your company has
offices in Europe or more leverage with distributors.
>>>How much faith should you put in the translation agency to effectively
translate your software >>>and text?
That's a tough one, and one of the reasons I'd hesitate to use a junior tech
writer to oversee this process. In my experience, mistakes are **the norm**
(mostly consistency of medical terminology). You need a person with at least
some responsibility and authority checking translations for consistency,
questioning the engineers, questioning the translation house, providing
feedback. Blindly accepting and releasing documentation from the translation
house is a very bad idea.
>>One agency we've spoken with will send translated text to the
representatives of our company in the >>respective countries for review and
then incorporate changes.
That is certainly the easiest, most efficient way to go. The translators may
be able to talk directly with the reviewers, clarify technology, etc. and
create a relationship that will make the process faster and more accurate.
It's also more expensive.
Keep a close eye on the translator's ulterior motive: they will be
soliciting work from your European contacts. This may or may not be of
concern to your company.
John, I hope this was of some use. I'd be happy to be of assistance if you
have any further questions. Hopefully we're not competitors! ;)
Novametrix Medical Systems Inc.
lhughes -at- novametrix -dot- com
I am a technical writer for a large medical device manufacturer and could
use a little advice regarding how to effectively manage the translation of
We currently translate our package inserts, but we will shortly begin
translating operator manuals in order to meet requirements issued by the EU.
I'm looking into issues we need to consider with regard to handling the
translations. Here's a few questions I thought I'd try posting here for
Who is typically responsible for translation of software? I can see reasons
why I'd want my department to handle these translations. It would be a
little easier to coordinate the translations (ensure same translation agency
is used, ensure consistency of translations between software and op.
manual). But on the other hand, it could lead to overload after a while if
all software comes through us to be translated.
How is the review of translated text handled? How much faith should you put
in the translation agency to effectively translate your software and text?
One agency we've spoken with will send translated text to the
representatives of our company in the respective countries for review and
then incorporate changes.
I'd appreciate any input or resources from people with experience handling
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