Usually, safety information is available in English, and any number of major European or Asian languages. Target languages like Amharic, which is not one of the most influential languages to global technology, tend to be narrower in terms of technology vocabulary. The translation of technology-related documents into these minor languages has become very challenging for translators in recent years.
In my experience, it has been difficult to find a single word in Amharic for common equipment names. For example, I once had to translate the user manual for a paper shredder. Unfortunately, there is no one word for “shredder” in Amharic, so I was forced to use two words as a keyword phrase and write it as የመቆራረጫማሽን.
Unlike other types of document translations like fiction and creative writing, safety rules focus on literal rather than contextual translations. This approach is important to achieve a high level of clarity and accuracy.
To ensure accurate literal translations, you will need to translate in a word-for-word manner by replacing the source word by its direct and most appropriate word in the target language. Literal translation by itself is known to decrease the time it takes to complete a translation.
Safety rules are often written in short, single sentences. This allows for rapid translation. Any misleading or vague sentences in the target language could lead to accidents and life-threatening errors on the user’s end. Also, the rules should be translated in the simplest language possible, so that even the most inexperienced user can understand them.
Translating Safety Diagrams
Diagrams in the source language should be kept as is in the target document, but translations or explanations should be added beneath, in order to help users understand exactly what to do. For example, while I was translating the shredder’s safety manual, I came across a diagram that read: “STOP.” Since the sign was built-in as a button on the machine, there was no point in translating the image itself and creating a new image, so I described what it meant and when to use the button.