Think document localization isn’t a case of life or death? Think again. The majority of documents that require localization pertain to highly-technical industries including healthcare, construction, mining and manufacturing. In industries like these, users of manuals and guides rely heavily on accurate instructions and manuals in order to carry out their jobs safely and effectively. It’s crucial then that all document localization is not only accurate, but is cohesive, contains the correct terminology, takes cultural sensitivities and conventions into account and is formatted correctly.
Defective technical document localization can have a ‘butterfly effect’, with disastrous – and even potentially fatal – consequences.
The grave consequences of inaccurate document translation is demonstrated by an incident that occurred in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1996. Jody Byrne writes in Caveat Translator: Understanding the Legal Consequences of Errors in Professional Translation published in The Journal of Specialised Translation that users of a bread-making machine were placed at serious risk when the machines began emitting toxic fumes. Due to a single discrepancy in the translation, the word dampf (steam) was replaced with the word with rauch (smoke). This meant that the manual read that users shouldn’t be alarmed if ‘smoke’ was released during operation. In a classic case of Murphy’s Law, the machines were faulty, causing them to overheat and release clouds of smoke. Seeing as though the instructions deemed this as perfectly normal, the operators only realized that something was amiss once noxious gasses had filled the room. The manufacturer was made to pay compensation to those affected and recalled the product. Fortunately, neither they nor the translator were sued for negligence, even though there was enough evidence to deem them both as negligent. The article goes on to say that the translation in question: “…breached various EU directives and national product liability laws and consequently the product could have lost its CE certification and the product would have had to be recalled.”
A Puerto Rican gas explosion is a tragic example of the dire consequences of defective document localization.
This harrowing incident saw an office building explode, killing 33 people and injuring more than 80 people, Byrne writes. The cause of the explosion was a gas leak that remained undetected, despite numerous inspections by the San Juan Gas company (SJGC). As it turns out SJGC workers had not received adequate training by the company’s owners (the infamous and now defunct Enron). It also emerged that the training program relied heavily on training manuals and documents, but did not test employees to ensure that they had fully understood the material. As it turns out, the original training manuals were in English, which suggests that defective translations were to blame. The final incident report “refers on a number of occasions to language and communication problems and recommends that training and materials be provided by trainers who are native speakers of Spanish to ensure that “critical technical information is not lost in the translation process””, writes Byrne.
While the legal ramifications of defective document localization are dependent on the country at hand, one thing is clear: both the translation service and client can be held responsible.
What does this mean for you? In order to protect your own assets (and reputation), you need to make sure that you’re using a reputable translations service that is well-versed in localizing documents for the industry and audience at hand. The above examples of inferior document localization and translation reinforce the gravity of the issue as well as just how crucial it is to make sure your document localization is performed by a quality LSP (localization service provider).
Rubric supplies leading global brands with quality document localization that enables them to rest easy. Contact us today to find out more about our superior document translation solutions.
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