The Missing Team Member:

How Including Translators During the Writing Process Can Lead to Better User Experience

The industry standard for localization is to draft content, check that everything is accurate and internationalized, and then send that content to a localization company that can translate the content for different audiences around the world. But what if the localization process started sooner? 

“Making Culture Relevant in Technical Technical Translation With Dynamic Equivalence: The Case of Bilingual Instructions”, published in the Journal of Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization, suggests that involving translators as writing partners early on can help create more effective and better translated content for users. Led by Dr. Massimo Verzella, the study analyzed the translation work of American and Italian students and how they approached translating content from English to Italian.  

While the study notes that several common mistakes made by students were a result of their inexperience in translating, there were several aspects of the research that stood out. For example, problems relating to the relationship between faithfulness and effectiveness of content, as well as redundancy, clarity, and rhetorical appropriateness could have been improved through better collaboration between writers and translators. This would help writers point out what information is crucial and has to remain the same, while translators could consult with writers before making any changes to the text for rhetorical purposes. In addition, the study also emphasizes that technical writers prioritize “the importance in the adoption of translation strategies and in the rendering of technical terms”.         

Practitioners in the field can implement these findings in their own work by inviting translators to be part of the writing process and advocating for the importance of having translators on writing teams, especially for products that have an international reach. Rather than hiring translators or a localization company once the writing has been completed, writers should collaborate with translators during all stages of development so that translators can understand why something is important to writers and the product itself. This can help improve and maintain high quality localization, as well as the overall user experience. Early outreach may be difficult given the standard in the industry to consult localization experts and translators once the content has been completed. However, seeing how writing and translation could be improved demonstrated to me the importance of involving translators in the entire process. Having another pair of cultural or linguistic eyes can help create products and content that take into consideration different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. 

Moving forward, technical practitioners should understand how culture impacts our own writing and how it is translated to content for other international audiences. In addition, we should advocate for translators to be included on our teams early on in the writing and development process. Doing so can ensure that our content and products have taken into consideration different languages, cultures, and user experiences, resulting in products that treat all users equally and respect their differences at the same time. 

Resources

Making Culture Relevant in Technical Technical Translation With Dynamic Equivalence: The Case of Bilingual Instructions, by Massimo Verzella


Viewpoint Written by Talia Baeza-Chavez, Texas State University

Edited by Elena Ofenstein, Texas State University


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