What to Look for in Your IT Translation Provider

You’ve invested countless hours into your product offering. A bug fix here, a new feature there, a tutorial to bring new users up to speed. Planning. Testing. Feedback. Finetuning.

Clearly, your value proposition should extend to your entire client base, regardless of their language. That’s why it is crucial to choose a well-qualified translation supplier.

“My cousin spent a year in New York City during college. He can translate our website into English!”

It’s not enough to be bilingual! Effective IT translation requires a specific set of skills, including expert-level writing skills and technical mastery of your technology. Your translator provider must be a native speaker of the target language with professional qualifications. Never trust your company’s reputation to an automated translation program or an inexperienced amateur! Doing so will damage your image, lower customer perception, and possibly even offend your target users.

So, what should you look for in your IT translator?

Experience

As in any profession, experience is paramount. Simply stated, the more experience your translator has, the better their ability to provide an accurate translation for you. Check how long your potential translator has been in the business, and look for testimonials from satisfied clients.

Industry Expertise

Due to the difficulty involved and the variation between texts, translators typically specialize in one or more fields. Some translators focus on literary texts. Some focus on medical or legal texts. For your IT translation project, your greatest chance of success is to work with a translator with hands-on experience in a computer-related field. The IT industry is constantly evolving, and let’s face it… we’re a judgmental bunch.

You wouldn’t knowingly release buggy software, so don’t risk putting out buggy content.

Native Language

Do you need a translation into English? Hire a native English speaker! It’s simple. Native speakers can always detect the tiny mistakes made by non-native speakers. This isn’t a concern in normal conversation, but in a professional setting, those seemingly tiny mistakes reflect very poorly on your company and on your technology. Hire a qualified native speaker and get it right the first time!

Passion and Professionalism

Finally, your IT translator provider should be actively involved in both the translation community and the IT industry by attending conferences, belonging to professional associations, publishing, taking courses, and continuously enhancing their skill set.

By planning ahead and selecting the right IT translation provider, you can rest assured that your product has an opportunity to thrive in the global market. Trust the experts, and keep your focus on growing your business!

Let There Be Light! (This Day In History – January 27, 1880)

On this day in 1880, the United States Patent Office granted patent #223,898 to Thomas Edison, for “an electric lamp for giving light by incandescence.”

As Edison toiled in his Menlo Park workshop, numerous inventors were also hard at work trying to create incandescent light. While Edison was not the first, his light bulb offered something the others did not: practicality. His bulbs stayed lit long after those of his competitors has burned out.

Edison had powerful connections in industry, including the profoundly wealthy J.P. Morgan, whose home was the first to be equipped with electric light.

Soon after, Edison spearheaded the electrical wiring of several blocks in New York City, in a bid to gain the public’s trust for this strange new innovation. (It is said that President Benjamin Harrison refused to touch the light switches in the White House after electricity was installed during his term.)

The buzz over electricity sparked a rivalry between Edison, still backed by Morgan, and his brilliant former employee Nikola Tesla, himself financed by George Westinghouse. The two inventors disagreed on the better current for transporting electricity: AC (Tesla) or DC (Edison).

Their feud came to a head at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, an unparalleled showcase in which to demonstrate the glory of electric light. Both men bid for the contract to provide lighting for the fair. Tesla and Westinghouse ultimately won the contract.

The rivalry between Edison and Tesla continued for many more years, fueled by their financiers, Morgan and Westinghouse. Finally, facing an insurmountable debt, Westinghouse pressured Tesla in 1907 to back off his claim for royalties tied to AC power generation. In his frustration, Tesla tore up the contract altogether, allowing Westinghouse to continue implementing AC power without the burden of having to pay royalties.

In the end, Tesla’s AC technology won, but Edison’s business sense prevailed. Both men are recognized today for their contributions to the modern age.

Whether you side with Team Edison or Team Tesla, this was certainly a notch in the timeline of human invention.

Top 5 Tips for Effective Technical Communication

Top 5 Tips for Effective Technical Communication

Technical communication has an important purpose: to instruct.

Readers of user guides and other instructions are busy people and, most often, would rather not have to read your text. So, do them a favor by making your writing clear and effective. Here are five tips for optimizing your techcomm:

Imperative Sentence Structure

Imagine you are in the room with your reader, walking them through a process. How would you phrase each step?

The most effective solution is to use the second person verb tense. For example:

Avoid: To view the order history, users can click the My Orders button at the top of the screen.

Instead, write: To view your order history, click the My Orders button at the top of the screen.

By addressing the reader directly, you lock in their attention.

Parallel Structure

Effective technical writing should be written so as not to draw the reader’s attention to grammatical elements.

Parallel structure is the use of consistent parts of speech in equivalent structures. For example, list elements should be of the same part of speech.

Example: Put on a smock, shoe covers, and safety glasses before entering the lab room.

By minimizing changes in parts of speech, we keep the reader’s focus on what is being said, not how it is stated.

Short Sentences

Keep your sentences short and simple. Tell the reader what to do and (if necessary) where and how. Your reader should never have to re-read a sentence to understand what it means.

Example: Heat the solution to 55°­C. Remove from heat.

This way, each sentence provides a single piece of instruction.

Consistent Word Choice

Be consistent in the words you use in your technical writing. Word choices are usually dictated by industry standard terminology and corporate style guides. Learn which words are used in your industry and company and stick with them!

Examples: home page vs. homepage, wire vs. cable

This rule also applies to dialectal variances, such as US English versus UK English. Inconsistent word choices muddle your instructions and confuse your readers.

Zero Ambiguity

In technical communication, it is important that each sentence has a single, distinct meaning. When reviewing your writing, ask yourself if any part of the instructions can be interpreted differently than intended. Never assume what your readers know.

Your readers will thank you!

The Dancing Bees of Karl von Frisch

Born this day in 1886 was Karl von Frisch, an ethologist (scientist specializing in animal behavior) best known for his pioneering work with bees. Frisch studied the sensory perception of bees and famously discovered the fascinating language of the honey bee.

Although many animals are known to communicate with one another, bees have developed a sophisticated language expressed through movement, described as a dance.

Honey bees live in colonies of thousands of bees, each serving an important role for the benefit of the colony. There is a queen and about a hundred drones to mate with her. And then there are the worker bees, who travel away from the hive to search for food, in the form of pollen and nectar, sometimes over a mile away.

This is hard work for bees, so they figured out how to make it more efficient through communication. When a worker bee finds food, it recruits other bees through a sequence of movements. A round dance tells bees that food is nearby. For greater distances, it uses a “waggle” dance that communicates the direction and distance of the food.

Honey bees also dance to communicate acceptance of new home sites when swarming.

Karl von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1973 and died in 1982.

Innovation

What Is Innovation?

These days, the word “innovation” is teetering on buzzword status. We hear about innovative products and companies all the time. But what does it really mean to be innovative?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “innovation” as “A new method, idea, product, etc.”

This definition suggests that “innovative” is synonymous with “new”. But is it really? To truly be innovative, we must go beyond providing something new by providing something better.

“Better” may mean more efficient, less costly, faster, less polluting, more beneficial, and so on…. This is how we have moved from a horse and buggy to gas-burning automobiles and ultimately to vehicles running on clean energy. Innovation has brought us the Internet, inspired space travel, and developed vaccines. Not just change. Progress.

Innovation drives us to figure out how to do things and then find a way to do them better. And then again. And again. And again. It requires creativity, passion, and a hell of a lot of hard work.

As a global society, we must value our innovators in all parts of the world and encourage them to excel. In many ways, our future quality of life depends on it. The innovations of today will be the springboard for the inventions of tomorrow.

Go forth, innovators… We’re counting on you!

If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” -Thomas Edison