Useful Tips That Will Help You Translate a User Manual Guide

User manual guide – a while back, we talked about what the CE marking means for companies that create user manuals. We’ve been reminded that whereas user manuals are important because of safety, security and consumer protection reasons, translating them needs to be taken into account as well.

In this article, we’re going to walk you through some tips that are going to help you understand what a user manual guide translation involves and how to maximize your relationship with a translator or an agency.

Helping customers from all over the world figure out how to use your products

So you’ve launched your product. First, you decided to approach a local market just to see whether it’s going to be a success or not. You played it safe because it was a market you knew pretty well and it was also much easier for you to begin with.

Creating a user manual guide for the product wasn’t hard at all because you wrote it in your native language and you also asked for someone to help you with the technical terms. It was easy to spot any mistakes you might have made the first time.

But then, as you got more successful, you started to take into consideration the idea of coming up with new products and eventually expanding your business internationally.

And you did it. But you hit a bump on the road. A minor one though: User manual guide translation.

When you have a user manual guide for your products, there’s no doubt that you need to translate it into the native languages of the countries that you plan to be present in. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than buying a product that has a user guide, but doesn’t have a translation in their native language.

Keep in mind that even if consumers know your language, some of the terms present in instruction manuals can still be pretty confusing for them. However, reading those terms in their own language will make everything easier.

What professional translators pay attention to when they translate a user manual guide

user manual guide

For every translation of a user manual, certified translators will follow a few guidelines. Let’s see what those are.

1. Instructions

User manuals are all about instructions. If they are perfectly written and explained, then the manual will be easy to understand. When translating the instructions, the translators need to:

  • Keep it short. If they make the phrases too long, they’re going to confuse the person who’s reading the instructions. The sentences have to be short and to the point.
  • Go over what they’ve translated. Sometimes, translators can discover the fact that they didn’t quite understand what they were trying to say, so neither will you or the user who is going to read the manual.
  • Use instructive language. The purpose of a user manual is to give clear directions to users, so that they know what to do during each step of the process. Using words like „click”, „enter” or „open” is always a good idea.

2. Terminology

Inconsistent terminology is annoying and will ultimately confuse the user. They can become frustrated and end up not using your product anymore. Here are some criteria that will help you evaluate the consistency of a translation:

  • Not using two or more different words to refer to the same thing. For example, if the translator first referred to a button as „button”, then they should call it that in the rest of the user manual as well.
  • Standard verbs. If you’ve noticed, there are several verbs that are used pretty much in all user manuals. And that is because consumers are already aware of them, they’re used to them, they understand their meaning and they don’t have to think too much about them.

3. Language

Make sure that the translators are paying attention to these aspects if you want your translation to be flawless:

  • Defining the audience. The target group for which the product is designed is extremely important, as it is in every marketing activity you conduct. Knowing the profile of your audience is going to help translators figure out what language they’re going to use, if they need more explanations about the product or whether it’s OK to use more technical terms which don’t need translating. Make sure you provide them these information before they get started.
  • Using the present tense. For example, a translator should say something like „When you push the button, the washing machine stops” instead of „When you push the button, the washing machine will stop”.
  • Using verbs more often. Using verbs is going to make the user manual easier to read. Translators can change the original structure of the text as long as they keep its meaning.
  • Using the pronoun „You”. It’s a good practice to address the person who is reading the manual as „You” instead of using a generic noun such as „user” or „customer”. Those sound too cold.
  • Localization. Translators need to make use of localization in order to adapt the material to the culture of the country. This will make the translation sound more professional and it will not seem as if the manual was translated by a machine.

Your options when it comes to translating user manuals

user manual guide

Any mistake will be remembered by your customers, so you want to make sure that you don’t make one. Now that you know what a certified translator needs to follow when translating a user manual, you have two options:

1. Hire a freelancer to do it. There are plenty of freelance translators out there. Make sure that you choose one that has plenty of experience translating user manuals. You want to hire someone who knows what they’re doing and who will be able to offer quality. You can also take a look at some previous work they’ve done to get a feel of what their abilities are.

2. Hire an agency. If you decide to go with an agency, then you should know that agencies use more advanced tools to translate all sorts of documents (like CAT Tools), which ensure that their work is perfect. Usually, agencies have more than one person working on each project because they want to make sure that it gets properly reviewed before they send it to the client.

It’s up to you to decide which of these options is the right one for you.

Be global, but don’t forget to be local as well

Many (if not all) of the global and international companies translate their user manuals in the language of each country they enter. This is a practice that every business should take into consideration whenever they plan on expanding.

If you’re looking to work with an agency that delivers high quality translations in a short period of time, than feel free to check out our services and get your free quote today.

Autor: Michal Wiewior

CEO in Slavis Technical Translations, Sworny - Certified Translations