Technical Linguistic Requirements in Manufacturing Industry Translations and Their Importance

The global manufacturing industry is one of the most expansive and profitable in the world. It’s also an industry where the need for translation has skyrocketed, as manufacturing crosses borders, expands via digital and technological advancements, and overall becomes increasingly globalized.

Fittingly, manufacturing industry translations themselves cover an incredibly wide range of genres, including technical and user manuals, product labels and descriptions, training materials, software documentation, and much more, and they require highly specialized translators as a result. Here, we review several key linguistic requirements in manufacturing translations and why they’re so important.

Technical vocabulary

One of the primary goals of manufacturing industry translations is to provide accurate documentation for software or equipment. In order to ensure consistent use of terminology across languages and countries, manufacturing translators must have subject-matter expertise regarding the technical jargon at hand. The manufacturing industry is also full of acronyms and abbreviations that may lead to confusion if translated carelessly, especially since an acronym popularized in one language won’t always look like its translation in another language. Most importantly, because this documentation includes information security and user safety protocols, accuracy isn’t just a priority—it can be life-saving.

Product specifications

Not only are technical manuals full of specs, but so are the many types of translation related to manufacturing products, like packaging, catalogs, and schematics. In particular, translating product specifications requires keen attention to detail in order to avoid misuse, injury, and other mishaps. Products that leave the United States, for instance, will almost certainly need their weights and measures translated into the metric system—and consumers definitely want to know whether a car, for instance, runs on one tank of fuel for fifty miles or fifty kilometers.

Translators will also need the linguistic know-how to distinguish different languages’ words for product components, such as raw materials (textiles, woods, metals, and so on) and product parts. Translating these elements correctly is key, since they impact qualities like flammability, health hazardousness, required taxes, and other legal requirements that may differ across international borders.

Industry-specific linguistics

Finally, manufacturing industry translations have a linguistics all their own, at least from a grammar and syntax standpoint. For instance, whereas the active voice is the norm in many other industries, a majority of manuals, technical reports, engineering reports, etc., prefer the passive voice. User guides and training materials in English tend to use imperative verbs (“Start the computer”) for procedures and directions, rather than the second person (“You start the computer”). Translators must be aware of these industry standards and have the skill to translate them into a language that does not have the same rules or structures.

From a style perspective, manufacturing translations also prioritize clarity and the reduction of ambiguity. Vague words like “really,” “some,” or “a bit,” which appear frequently in other forms of prose, are discouraged, as is the overuse of unnecessary adverbs. Depending on the source and target language, translators must carefully fine-tune their translations to adhere to these expectations. Furthermore, many manufacturing companies operate with industry-specific or company-specific style guides. Following these guides to the letter is crucial for maintaining internal and brand consistency, as well as meeting contractual or international legal requirements.

Overall, if you want to make sure your manufacturing industry translations meet the standards of your specific field, you’ll need translators that are subject-matter experts in addition to being skilled linguists in the desired languages.