Your manual seem not understand?

By February 7, 2008March 4th, 2021No Comments

Your manual seem not understand?

Have you ever opened a manual and wondered what planet the writers lived on? It probably wasn’t localized.

Localization means adaptation of the language in a document or software to a new culture or region. This could be as simple as changing the spelling from British English to American English (for example, “colour” to “color”) or it could be much more complex.

Sometimes, when manuals are written in foreign languages (particularly East Asian languages) and translated to English, things are somewhat less than intelligible. And hijinks ensue. We writers affectionately refer to such abominations as “Engrish” or perhaps “Chinglish” in the case of a certain well-known language.

The problem arises when the translation is done by machine “translators” (which are mostly little more than word substituters) or persons who are barely literate in English. Underneath that, the quality of the original manual in the foreign language may not have been particularly good. The result is often a very confusing (and sometimes highly amusing) set of instructions.

“The luxuring wireless remote controlling stretches out and draws back the door” (translation: “Deluxe Wireless Remote Controlled Retractable Gate”) may be hilarious, but it doesn’t exactly put across the right concept.

But what does one do about it?

That’s where competent tech writers come in. We can take the most garbled manual and turn it into a sparkling jewel of clarity and usefulness. A good tech writer has a “knack” for deciphering what the original-language writer was trying to say, however goofy the translation, and re-expressing it in English that can be understood.

– David

Su Falcon

Author Su Falcon

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