RE: Translation of Op. Manuals

Subject: RE: Translation of Op. Manuals
From: Linda Hughes <lhughes -at- novametrix -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 2001 15:20:21 -0500

I wrote:


> <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.
> </end rant>

I normally wouldn't follow-up on this, but translations are becoming a very
big concern to most Tech Pub departments. Maybe a (little) debate is in

Glenn wrote:

>>I can certainly see Linda's point about not giving this to a junior
>>technical writer. There are many reasons why I suggested this, though.

>>The person doing the coordination does not have to be a subject matter
>>expert. They don't have to know the terminology. They don't have to be
>>experienced writers. They don't have to know the languages that are being

That was my point exactly. At least in the case of medical devices, it is
helpful, if not essential, that the coordinator have a good working
knowledge of the product and terminology. You'd be surprised what will turn
up with a quick, cursory edit, **provided the person knows the subject
matter inside and out**. I'd agree that they don't need to be experienced
writers. Languages are very helpful though.

>>The main reason, though, is that from a writing and creative perspective,
>>think that translation coordination is BORING. There is nothing new except
>>the same old documentation in another language. It is what it is in all
>>languages. It is hard to attract an experienced writer to a position that
>>involves no writing other than e-mails to clarify things with the
>>translation agency.

Now that I gotta agree with <sigh>. Still, the organizational stuff is a
nice change for those of us who love to write, but need some variety.

>>Depending upon the department's budget, there could be
>>lots of boring, tedious tasks that are done in-house, such as converting
>>from FrameMaker to MIF, running the STagger to get RTF files for TRADOS,
>>cleaning the RTF files, going backwards from RTF to FM, formatting and
>>producing the FM manuals in those languages, managing the translation
>>databases, and most tedious editing images with the translated text or
>>creating screenshots in those languages. In some cases, they might even
>>the first fuzzy-match pass on the documents (assuming that the documents
>>didn't change much and translation memory exists).

Wow, do you do all that in-house? If so, I'd love to know what kind of
dollars that saves. Our translation house handles 95% of the items you
mentioned--which I think is typical (?). That work would be incredibly
tedious, and better suited to an experienced DTP person than a tech writer.

>>However, a junior technical writer coming out of a technical communication
>>program has the tools skills that they need to be successful (if they
>>messing with the software). The coordination process helps them become
>>familiar with the entire documentation suite. It helps them become more
>>proficient in the subject area so that they can later contribute as

Yahbut, that's kind of like the
need-a-job-to-buy-a-car/need-a-car-to-get-a-job conundrum. I'm not sure that
coordinating unfamiliar documentation in a language they can't read is
really going to teach a junior tech writer anything, unless they already
have solid product knowledge.

>>So, whoever you hire to do this job should be mature in character and
>>professional, but should expect to have to deal with lots of mundane tasks
>>that are inefficient to assign to an experienced technical writer with
>>of product knowledge. (A balance between Linda's comments and mine.)

Again, I agree with Glenn. Still, creating a better system to deal with
mundane, inefficient tasks is a challenge I enjoy and will hopefully leave
me with a very useful skill set.

TTFN and back to the grindstone,

Linda Hughes
Technical Writer
Novametrix Medical Systems Inc.
203-265-7701 x3314
lhughes -at- novametrix -dot- com

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