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Manager’s PIC–Meeting Notes
1996, Nov-Dec (October 09, 2008)
Synopsized by Kat Turk from author Charles Good's report

The topic of the September 5th luncheon meeting, held at The Kelton Group, was "Multilingual Needs: Global Companies." Companies represented at the meeting were Alcatel, The Kelton Group, Nortel, and Tekelec.

Document size and complexity often determine whether a document will be translated. Translating a newsletter into a few languages is easy; more difficult is a seven- to ten-volume set of technical manuals, which represent 6,000 pages of text.

Many companies allow language selection on their web pages — but only on welcome or home pages. The remaining pages are available only in the mother tongue or English.

Several attendees mentioned it was more problematic translating from another language to English rather than vice versa. Although not discussed at the meeting, documents from non-U.S. sources have more problems due to paper size, type of information, and font style and type size. The latter make it impossible to capture and translate a document using an optical character reader (OCR).

Although translation software exists, it can usually only check grammar, so you should only use it during the initial stages. Human translators are essential for producing easily understood and effective documents.

As a quality-control measure, always have an independent translator check your translations afterwards, to check for flaws that can occur at times when you use translators or translation services. In one case, a translator hired used more guttural language to produce French-Canadian documents from English, which French-speaking Canadians found offensive.

You must also consider a country's customs when translating information, including the nationality of people shown in photographs and illustrations. Certain symbols and colors communicate very powerful messages in one culture but are meaningless in another, and people in some cultures might expect specific (perhaps traditional) images with certain ads or messages.

Cost and time required to translate large technical documents is also a factor. Many companies adopt English as their international language for technical manuals and technical training but provide multilingual support in advertisements. While they frequently hire local translators to help English-speaking instructors, some technical concepts are hard to convey in some languages. Depending on the audience, simple English sentences might require extensive explanation.

A number of Triangle firms provide multilingual translation services, such as DiaLogos International, which was recommended. End of article.

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