It’s My Job to Care
Shino Lowery 11.15.2017
I often think about what kind of process machine tool users go through when looking for a new machine, or when learning how to operate equipment or controls they’ve never used before. I imagine people going online and comparing various documents, or reviewing specs, brochures and technical white papers with their local distributor. During this process, I think it must be very important that these documents are clear, well organized, and easy to understand. As Technical Translator for Okuma America, my job is to accomplish that.
The Right Words
My projects usually begin with an email, where an engineer is requesting a translation for a particular document they’re working on. When I arrive at my desk each morning I might have one email request, or I may have five. Every day is interesting. The original materials I receive are usually not written with an external audience in mind, so I need to do a bit of digging to clarify things. One thing is for sure, I’m extremely methodical and careful to get my choice of words right. Even the slightest difference in the meanings of words can make a huge difference to our audience.
Understanding the Concepts
Each document has an engineer who has authored the work, so my first step is to interview that person. I’ve found that simply translating word-for-word Japanese to English doesn’t really work, it is better for me to understand the concepts that engineer is trying to get across – his or her intentions – and translate that into useful information for the reader.
Find the Intended Meaning
There are some interesting dynamics that come into play that I’ve learned to recognize and adjust for. As an example, when I see the word “installation” in Japanese, I know I need to do more detective work. What is the exact thing they’re trying to convey? In English this could be installation, mounting, inserting, etc. So I have to find out, what is the intended meaning here?
At this point I often ask the engineer to go out to our showroom and show me the process we’re describing on a live machine tool. This way I can actually see the components and the motions happening on the machine, rather than relying on the words someone gave me to describe them. Then I can select the most accurate language to convey the correct meanings to our customers. Many times, I’ll take some pictures on my phone so I can refer to them while writing.
It’s My Job to Care
I guess not everyone cares as much about words and language as I do, and that's OK! I think it’s my job to make our information so clear and understandable, you’ll never really even think about a translator being involved in the process. Once you read and put this knowledge to use, it will turn into increased productivity in your shop, and I’m here to help make that happen.
Shino Lowery is Technical Translator, Okuma America Corporation.