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Understanding the Differences Between Technical and Marketing Translations

It’s tempting to consider all translations as similar or even the same. But in reality, different objectives require very different skills and approach. That contrast is especially evident when considering the differences between technical and marketing translations.

Consider the Goals: Aspirational vs. Functional

Any type of translation can best be evaluated and summarized by the goal it seeks to accomplish. If you can answer the question what do I need my audience to do or feel after reading this? you can translate text in a more effective, successful way.

The goals, of course, are very different in technical vs. marketing translations. Marketing goals are ultimately aspirational: seeking to drive brand awareness or audience action, brands take advantage of aspirational language that resonates with their audience.

Technical descriptions, on the other hand, are functional. The goal is simply to describe as simply as possible what your audience wants to do. Instead of appealing to emotions or aspirations, technical translations have to simply describe processes.

Consider the Culture: Relatable vs. Ease of Reading

Cultural nuances, of course, play into any type of translations. But the way they impact your work are very different depending on whether you’re working on marketing or technical text.

Marketing translators take advantage of cultural nuances in better relating to their audience. They play off words and concepts, helping to create a bond with their audience that crosses cultural boundaries.

Technical writers, on the other hand, seek to understand their audience’s culture in order to make the text as easily readable as possible. They study reading and learning habits in order to write content that is designed to get its takeaways across as easily as possible.

Consider the Tone: Fun vs. Dry

As an outgrowth of the two above concept, the finished product of translated marketing and technical texts can differ significantly from each other. The former tends to take an upbeat tone that is fun to read, appealing to the audience’s sense of emotions.

In technical writing, of course, that same sense of fun is very misplaced. Instead, the text needs to be as rational as possible, getting the point across without any type of emotional or humorous sidebars. Marketing writers might call it ‘dry’ – technical writers call it ‘successful.’

Consider the Wiggle Room

Finally, a crucial difference between marketing and technical writers is the wiggle room translators have in appealing to their audience. In marketing writing, the translation may end up looking very different from the original simply because an audience’s unique culture allows for and requires some different touch points.

Technical translations, on the other hand, need to adhere to the original language as closely as possible. Any deviation may lead to problems for the audience. Imagine, for example, translating a machine handbook. The machine is identical in both cultures, so the handbook will need to describe its operation equally well across languages. Any deviation could potentially be fatal.

Effective translation, ultimately, means understanding the medium. Each type of project requires a different approach, depending on the audience you are trying to reach and goals you are trying to accomplish. In the case of two different types of projects, such as technical and marketing writing, the need for different skill sets becomes especially pronounced.

What you need to succeed in either case, then, is a professional who understands both the cultures and their languages, and has experience in translating the type of project you need. For help in finding these professionals, contact us. Our translators have experience in both areas, allowing you to make sure that your marketing or technical documents can be just as successful abroad as they are in your home country.


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