New technology – new translation challenges
These days every country wants to be leading the way with technological change, and the UK is no different; it’s recently committed £270m into disruptive technologies.
But of course, investment and development are only half the battle – you’ve then got to distribute the product, market it and sell it on a global scale.
Amongst all the hype and excitement of these new innovations, communicating the right message can get lost. It’s not just a concern for advertising and marketing; manuals, user guides, screen displays, etc. all need to be considered too.
Don’t forget that many of the technologies we require here in the UK come from countries such as China, Taiwan and Germany. The challenge then in the success of new technology lies in making sure every translation is just as world-class as the products themselves.
The case of electric cars
Tesla is one company that has been in the press a lot over the last couple of years, thanks to its production of fully-electric luxury sedans and sports cars. But even a company with the same standing as Tesla, is not safe from risk when translation mistakes occur.
Tesla was left in trouble last year after an incident in China, when a driver crashed his car because he did not have his hands on the wheel, nor his eyes on the road…instead he had engaged his autopilot, which he believed would be enough to self-drive the car.
In Chinese, the word for autopilot is also the same for self-driving – two very different things in reality. The incident drove Tesla to amend their translated content on their website, specifying that their cars boast a “driving-assisting function”, as opposed to a self-driving one, and have completely removed the word autopilot in English.
Ultimately, the translation of technical terms has in this case had big consequences for the way Tesla markets its cars – and more specifically the autopilot – abroad.
The challenges of technical translations
With the booming of technical industries comes the creation of new terminology which may, or may not be, country specific – a new technical term here in the UK might relate to a term already established in another language…but not necessarily entirely so.
Translation also requires the accurate preservation of technical content. There isn’t the same room for maneuver or openness to interpretation as there is in other industries. Where manuals are concerned, it’s crucial the outcome is the same whatever language is used –the person reading it should always be able to successfully follow the instructions for assembly.
Style and formatting are also a concern. When translation is used, source formatting cannot always be kept or recreated – but where layout is changed and page numbers are increased, costs of printing can escalate.
How to get it right
When accuracy and precision are everything, cutting corners isn’t an option. New technologies require an extra degree of linguistic expertise that you can only guarantee when using experienced language professionals. It’s important also to know your industry – find a professional that has the right background and know-how, as well as the linguistic talents, and you can be sure that your technical translations will always be on point.
If you’re in need of professional language services, whether in technology or another industry altogether, get in touch with Sally Walker Language Services to see how we can help.