The Legal Implications of Poor Document Localization

The Legal Implications of Poor Document Localization

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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How to get the most out of your document localization project

How to get the most out of your document localization project

Orchestrating the document localization process is often akin to herding cats. Localizing your company’s transcripts, technical documents, user manuals and the like can be quite an undertaking –  to put it lightly. That said, if you know what to expect when working with a localization service provider (LSP), the process can run a lot more smoothly – for everyone involved.

Your input is crucial in order for you, your team and your document localization to benefit the most from your LSP.

In other words, what you put in, you get out. Many technical document managers aren’t aware of what their LSP requires from them – which wastes time, causes unnecessary stress and delays the time to market. In order to get the most out of your relationship with your LSP, you’ll need to ensure that your content is primed for document localization.

The following checklist details the tasks that fall under your jurisdiction, and will help to guide you when readying your team for the impending localization process:

  • Is the text grammatically correct, error-free and consistent in tone, voice and formatting?
  • Do you have a terminology glossary and style guide in place?
  • Is the text free of idioms, puns, and humor that might be misconstrued among a new audience?
  • Is the text devoid of potentially offensive colors and images?
  • Is the text in the correct tone for your audience (global preferences differ between informal and formal)?
  • Is the marketing message in line with cultural sensitivities and buying behavior?
  • Are the layout, formatting and naming conventions uniform throughout?

Once you’ve ensured that your existing content is document localization ready, it’s time to brief your team.

Many document managers are unaware that the document localization process is a joint-effort. It requires close collaboration with your LSP in order to ensure that both your current document localization is a success, as well as any other content localization down the line. By working together, agile processes and systems can be developed – which will streamline the process and ultimately reduce the costs involved.

The document localization process is best thought of as a journey.

If it’s your first document localization endeavor, it’s crucial that you focus on the bigger picture. This process is just that – a process – whereby potential bumps in the road will be identified. While this may seem frustrating at the time, finding the areas of your document localization that can potentially trip you up further down the road is crucial in order to eliminate them from the beginning.

Want to know more about how we tackle to document localization process? Have a look here.

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Ten document translation tips top technical writers swear by

Ten document translation tips top technical writers swear by

As it is, the preparation of documents for foreign language markets comes with more than enough challenges. As you manage your content across product lines (not to mention grappling with multiple versions), deadlines seem to loom larger with every passing keystroke. Keeping the deadline demon at bay requires a strategic approach. By preparing your technical content properly before document translation begins, you’ll save time and money in the long run, all while ensuring high quality document translation that’s tailored to your new market. The good news? This process doesn’t need to have you breaking out in hives. Here are ten tips to help you prepare for any document translation project, regardless of the target language.

1. Follow technical document writing best practices

· Always write in clear and concise sentences. Use limited dependent clauses. Expressing only one idea per sentence will help translators and also increase your savings from translation memory matches. · Avoid using idioms. These are easily misinterpreted. · Steer clear of cultural references to avoid your message getting lost in translation. · Never assume a symbol will be universally understood – make sure the market you’re talking to interprets the symbol you’ve used in the same way you do.

2. Use automation

Automating menial tasks like drawing up a Table of Contents, assembling index pages, checking that you’ve referenced correctly and testing internal and external links can save you a lot of time (and keep your sanity intact). By using style sheets, it’s infinitely easier to automatically apply any updates or format changes.

3. Prepare for text expansion

Translated material can often be longer than the source, so always account for some degree of text expansion. You’ll need to consider how this might impact artwork, graphics and graphs. It’s also important to bear in mind that your documents might need resizing.

4. Link your graphics

If possible, it’s always preferable to link graphics over embedding them. This eliminates you having to replace content in localized versions or when updating future content. Using linked graphics instead of embedded images also means smaller file sizes, which is preferable when using document translation tools.

5. Provide thorough instructions

It’s vital to include detailed instructions and outline the scope of the project, tools and versions when sending files to your localization consultants. Ensure that you’ve clearly indicated any information needed for achieving deliverables, including the format of the document (PDF, docx, html etc.), image types (jpeg, gif, png etc.), as well as any settings that may be necessary.

6. Organize your file submissions

When submitting documents to your translation service provider, you should include all the relevant material for the translation of the document in working order. Organized folder structures help to prevent the processing of unwanted files or overlooking critical ones. Disorganized file structures can also result in projects taking longer to get off the ground, as well as technical problems like dead links, which could cause errors in the compilation process.

7. Plan your updates

Sticking to a tight schedule with your updates helps mitigate as much reworking as possible, saving you time and money. If you’re working with a technical document translation service provider worth their salt, they’ll be able to provide advice on the best and most cost-effective way to coordinate document updates in the future.

8. Create a translation glossary and style guide

Every industry has its own lexicon of buzzwords, and what works well in one language might not translate as effectively into another. This is where a translation glossary and style guide come in handy. This document should include company-specific conventions, including corporate or industry terms, abbreviations, as well as the terms that should remain in English when the document is translated. In addition, the style guide should detail the tone required to in order to ensure that messaging is uniform throughout. Lastly, your glossary and style guide should be regularly reviewed and updated.

9. Inform your translation vendor about the subject matter of the content

As the saying goes, ‘the devil is in the details’. When it comes to document translation, the more information you give your translation service provider, the better the result. By supplying them with all of the relevant information, you’ll make it much easier for your vendor to source qualified translators who have experience in the subject matter or have extensive experience in the industry at hand.

10. Insist on Quality Assurance (QA)

Before you hire a translation service provider, find out what editing process your translation vendor uses. The (inefficient) industry standard is to have content go through the sequence of translator, editor, and then proofreader. This potentially leads to the editor and proofreader rewriting half the content, which begs the question: why not get the proofreader to do the translation from the start? Rubric uses a tried and tested method where their reviewer provides a feedback loop to the translator in order for them to be able to incorporate any corrections. This is the key difference between our method and the industry standard one – one which consistently leads to higher quality translations, and happier customers.

Contact us today to learn about how our localization and translation consulting services can bolster your success.

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