There are many reasons why people want to push a message to an audience wider than the one it was originally created for. But when those audiences present language boundaries, translation can certainly present a challenge – context, metaphors, idioms, cultural references.
Wouldn’t it great if there was a way to avoid such matters and make the whole translation process easier?
Simplified Technical English (which can sound like a contradiction of terms in itself), or STE for short, was originally developed in the early 80s for aerospace industry maintenance manuals; an industry which has its fair share of specialist terminology.
Simplified Technical English offers a set of rules and a controlled vocabulary which improves the clarity of technical writing and enables us to understand the text without any ambiguity.
This method has since been adopted across multiple industries and strongly lends itself to the world of translation; the reduced chance of risk and ambiguity make STE the perfect rule set for Machine Translation.
The philosophy of Simplified Technical English aligns beautifully with the fundamentals of Machine Translation (MT).
Reducing the amount of variation in the text will help to build a strong Translation Memory as this collects repeated strings of text, and uses the previous translation, reducing the amount of human post-editing required, which in turn reduces the cost of your translation project. Repetition is certainly acceptable to convey meaning, but it won’t make for interesting read, which is why it is recommended that Machine Translation is used for certain content, such as technical translations, procedural documentation and user manuals.
Among the basic guidelines for Simplified Technical English are:
One of the fundamental rules of STE is “one word – one meaning”. For example: the usage of “start”, “begin” and “commence”.
Increase the pressure until the flow starts again
The warning starts and the indicators flash
Increase the pressure until the flow begins again
Warning commences and indicators flash
Different people write in different styles, even if the theme/topic is exactly the same. If you want to adopt a more consistent, MT friendly style of writing in order to streamline the translation process, consider creating a style guide for your content writers, which will act as a guideline for applying Simplified Technical English, and will also stand you in good stead should you decide to adopt DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture). A consistent approach to STE will ultimately result in you getting the most value out of your MT engine and a significantly reduced number of errors.