Author Archives: Octopus Translations

Technical translations: challenges and possible solutions

Would you entrust the translation of your user’s manual for a medical device to a student or a fresh college graduate simply because it would be cheaper, knowing that based on that manual people who will be using the device might get hurt?

Knowing how to preserve the perfect balance between quality and cost is one of the great challenges of globalization, when there is an ever growing need to transpose content that has been initially created in a language…onto a market where a different language is spoken.


Companies need to make available technical content related to their products or services to a wider audience, which has increased the requirement for new services on the translation market: technical translations. It has been estimated that technical translations now account for some 90% of the world’s total translation output each year! (Jody Byrne, “Usability Strategies for Translating Technical Documentation”).

Launching a product on a new market has become a widely complex process that involves huge costs: collaborating with trustworthy suppliers with local expertise, adapting to the legislation of that particular country, which is not always an easy step and also creating content that is appropriate to the new consumers and their mentalities.

Then what are some of the challenges of this type of translation?

Well, a few of the most common issues are represented by:

  • technical knowledge: specialized documents imply a high level of subject knowledge as well as mastery of the relevant terminology and writing conventions;
  • dialect usage and style: it is a common misconception that style does not matter in technical translation. However, the limited space of the technical document requires the translator to express information in a way which is sufficiently clear, simple and concise, in order to allow the readers to understand the information completely and quickly in their mother tongue, but which nevertheless conveys all the necessary facts;
  • time limitations: technical documents are not rarely subjected to time constraints and tight deadlines, often related to release of new products or need to transmit information to readers in a quick manner;
  • legal considerations: errors in technical texts can result in damage to property, financial loss, injury or even loss of life; e.g.: mistranslations of medical texts or user’s manuals for heavy machinery, etc.  

Now, what can you do to eliminate some of these issues?

First of all, hire a professional language service provider specialized in technical translation or, even better, who has previously translated your specific type of terminology.

Make sure that such a company only employs the services of native translators who are chosen according to their relevant experience in the technical field of the text. Additionally, pay particular attention to terminology management, and ask for creation or update of your corporate glossaries. This will help you fully control the content that your company will use on the new market in case you decide to change your provider.
Now it is the time to forget about your budget. Ask your provider to review his work in order to ensure the quality you want. This step is essential if you want to use a proper and consistent terminology, to eliminate the formatting, orthographic, punctuation, style and grammatical errors, to convert units of measurement if the case, etc. Also, do not forget about the importance of using translation software when dealing with highly specialized texts.
CAT tools will help provide terminology consistency and re-use frequently translated phrases or concepts. They will also decrease the deadline for the translation of your documents.

Would all these additional measures increase the chances to have a quality localized product or service?

The answer is inevitably yes. In case your are not convinced, think about the consequences of a poor technical translation, which are far more damaging than the slightly higher production costs. The dangers of mistranslation in the technical area are not merely related to loss in company image, but they may also lead to unforeseen liabilities and a great risk of litigation. 

Such an example dates back to 1996 and involves two cases where a bread making machine on sale in Germany produced toxic fumes when used and placed numerous users at serious risk. The Regional Institute for Health and Safety in Düsseldorf investigated the matter and found that the instruction manual had been translated incorrectly and was to blame for the cases, as the translator somehow confused the word steam (Dampf) with smoke (Rauch). Naturally, the product’s manufacturer had to pay compensation to affected users as well as recall the product, all of which damaged the manufacturer’s reputation. 

As far as I am concerned, as a customer, I always look for products that have a label which is correctly translated in my mother tongue. Although I speak other languages as well and I could understand the characteristics, I like to see that the manufacturer respects me as a potential client and addresses me in my native language. Unfortunately, the speed that comes with globalization together with the need to pay attention to so many of the details described above when launching a product on a new market lead to a situation where many products lack these important features. To be honest, as a customer, this is not my problem, but as part of the translation industry, it sure is.





Team Building, Octopus style

They say that in order to be efficient, people must cumulate their efforts so they can achieve certain objectives and that team building is a process meant to improve the relationships and collaboration between the members of a group in order to overcome communication obstacles and fulfill common goals.

With this in mind, the Octopus Translations team was off for a weekend of fun somewhere in the mountains, in beautiful winter scenery. We wished for snow, and our wish was granted, as you can easily see in the picture below.pic 120131207_202420 (2)

Saturday was the day for experiencing new things. After a productive meeting, we decided to let music “do the talking” and went to a Jazz Festival, where we listened to an original Argentinian Latin tango band and we discovered in awe what a vibraphone is.

Between delicious meals filled with local flavor and hospitality, we got to know each other better and realized what each of us can do best within the team.

We are looking forward to the next team building event that we hope we will share with you as well.

We wish you all a great end of the year, with peace, understanding and harmony between the members of your team!

International Fairs – Always a Fair Deal

Most people think selling is the same as talking. But the most effective sales people know that listening is the most important part of their job. Roy Bartell

I would be the first to admit that as a fresh graduate from the Applied Modern Languages Faculty, English and French major, I would have never imagined I could become a…sales person.

I had never seen myself as someone who could convince others to buy products or services, or someone who could negotiate and close deals. Somehow I thought that in order to be successful in sales you needed to be an aggressive person, to call people every day and push them into buying things they don’t really need.

My first job in sales kind of stumbled upon me. I was working in purchasing for a company in the telecommunications industry, when others thought that I would do a great job in Sales. My first thought was: “no way that I can work in sales!”

I overcame my fears and I discovered quickly that the people on the other end of the line (or email) are just that: people. That what you first need to do is listen and understand what your clients need and only afterwards talk about your company and what you can do to help them. I learned that the most important thing is to know and trust your products and services, and really believe in what you are selling. You will never convince others of your assets if you yourself don’t believe in them.

The first international trade show I participated at was in Barcelona. Since my previous communication with clients had been done purely at email level and on the phone, I was terrified at the thought of meeting my clients face to face for the first time. Most of them were from Africa and I was afraid that the different language and culture would stand as a barrier between us; I feared that I wasn’t ready to have a “real” business meeting.

None of my fears manifested. Actually, I was pleased to discover that face to face communication is much easier than virtual or on the phone discussions. I made friends, understood my clients better and I got an impressive after-fair feedback. The meetings strengthened my relationship with existing clients and brought me face to face with brand new customers.

More recently, as a new comer in the language services industry (although I am a translator at heart), I was faced with even more new challenges. Switching from selling products to selling purely services is a difficult process altogether, and completely changing the industry made this challenge even greater.

Again, international trade shows helped me establish new contacts over a short period of time and lay the basis for future lucrative business relationships.

IFA Berlin, 6-11 September, 2013 – Europe’s largest consumer electronics & home appliances fair: 1,500 exhibitors displayed their vast range of products and innovations on rented display areas covering 145,000 m². Overall, around 240,000 visitors attended IFA 2013. It was impressive and exciting! In 3 words: tech, tech and more tech! The exhibition was full of innovative gadgets, long-awaited launches and huge glamorous booths from the biggest players in the market.


 Cebit Bilisim Istanbul, 23-27 October 2013 – top Eurasian IT, Technology and Communication Platform, it brought ICT companies, government and media in the Eurasian region together under the same roof. The figures were impressive as well: more than 1,000 fair participants and sponsor companies from across 23 countries, visitors from 93 countries. It was filled with local flavor, with an impressive number of Turkish producers presenting high quality products.

Cebit Bilisim

All in all, I would say that exhibitions constitute a great neutral territory for business negotiations. Participation in trade shows is particularly important for companies seeking to succeed in a highly competitive global market. And don’t forget the advantages it brings to a sales person: personal development and the opportunity to travel and see the world (between meetings) J

Please let me know if you will be present at any international trade show, and maybe we can meet there to share your own experiences on the matter!

What do you need to know when choosing your translation supplier?

Deciding on a translation provider can be a difficult process. Since you have to trust your confidential documents to this provider, it’s fair to expect certain precise terms to be respected, including using the type of language your partners and clients have come to expect.

During the selection process of a LSP (Language Service Provider), the translation buyer must pay special attention to the evaluation of the supplier’s professional skills and attitude towards the client before deciding to award a contract and place any orders. Choosing the wrong provider may lead to higher costs, downtime and loss of revenue caused by market miss.

business man pic

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is a very useful way of finding out who are the best suppliers on the market. You can easily ask colleagues, friends, contacts at other companies and family if they can recommend a company, based on their own experiences.

However, it is important to resist the temptation to hire an inexperienced student from the local university or a colleague who offers to edit the output from Google Translate. Professional translators employed by translation agencies will be more expensive, but they are worth the money. That’s because they know the exact terminology and style to apply to your website content, your marketing documentation or your user manuals and they will deliver the work on time. Simply because this is their full time job. Needless to say that their selection, evaluation and other administrative aspects won`t be your responsibility.

Company profile

Before choosing a supplier, it is essential to study the company’s website, so that you can draw an informed  conclusion on the quality of translation and services this provider can deliver. Furthermore, you need to evaluate how well the company profile looks and reflects the company’s image. Sometimes simply verifying the existence of a landline or of a corporate email address could result in interesting things. A detailed and comprehensive profile will typically mean that the vendor will pay as much attention to your translation as to this presentation. Also, make sure you find out whether the company is specialized in the areas that interest you, such as IT, technical, medical, etc. A proven track record with relevant subject matter will be a plus.

Accreditation by third-party organizations

When choosing a language service provider, always make sure they are recognized by a local association that monitors quality and standards. Main certifications to look for include: ISO 9001, CAN/CGSB – 131.10-2008 and EN 15038. Of course, these are not mandatory, but if you care about your customers or you are part of your company`s global development efforts, you want to be sure that your time or your colleagues` time is not wasted with delays and endless selection processes.

Investments in the field of language services

This is a very important criterion when selecting a translation provider. You need to check if there is evidence that the company is making significant investments in improving the provision of language services. A company that invests in “added value” types of language services is generally better equipped to serve you, both technologically and in terms of personalized service. Yes, technology is an important part of our industry and we are not speaking  of course about Google Translate. There are multiple software solutions that could improve the speed, quality and costs of your translation projects.

Background and experience

You might need to look at the supplier’s case study portfolio, to check project volumes and descriptions, as well as key customers. A supplier who cares about quality should be able to provide case studies on projects from well-known customers. Pay close attention to continuous long-term projects, since by trusting their new translation with this supplier again, the customer confirms that they are satisfied with the previous work.

Check with your potential vendor to see if they have knowledge in your subject matter/industry. Without sufficient subject matter experience, this supplier may deliver a product of lower quality.

Find out how long this supplier has been active on the market. In case the company has been founded recently, translation experience may be insufficient for your needs. Also, a new small company may go out of business anytime. You need to avoid both scenarios, since for you this will mean lower quality or having to change your vendor along the way.


It is important to look at way in which prices are calculated. Usually, the best thing is to use a word-based quote, as it eliminates many unnecessary costs, such as paying for numbers and spaces, which do not require translation.

It is normal to negotiate the best price possible with your vendor, but please don’t put this on the top of your criteria. In our industry the quality is almost always obtained through continuous efforts, good and reliable linguists, project management and other related costs and the final price doesn`t reflect  only the simple process of putting a text into another language. It is the same as in your business.

Embarking on the selection of a new translation provider can seem like a great challenge. However, if you follow the guidelines described above for identifying and choosing the correct language service provider in a systematic and objective way, you are on the right track to overcoming this challenge. You can then focus on building a long-term relationship with that supplier that will help you develop  your business.