There’s an old saying that my dad used disparagingly when a piece of machinery broke due to poor workmanship: “Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with chalk, cut it with an axe.”
Obviously, this referred to the creation of products, not services. But we can observe parallels in almost any service industry, including ours, language translation. Here’s how it might work.
Measure it with a micrometer: A top-notch team creates a highly technical English user manual for a new medical device. That document goes through multiple reviews to make it completely understandable for the target audience (the patients and/or doctors and nurses).
Mark it with chalk: Since that document is also intended to be distributed to Japanese speakers, the document owner sends it to the Tokyo distributor. Someone working in the office translates the text into Japanese, ignoring the format of the manual. Of course, this person has no software to aid in translation and no way to guarantee consistency throughout the manual, but at least this person knows the industry, if not the device.
Cut it with an axe: Luckily, the manager’s son has taken a Japanese class in high school and needs a summer job. What could be better than having him reformat that manual? There’s even a bonus—he can proofread the Japanese. Any word or phrase he doesn’t understand can be easily plugged into Google for a final translation. What could possibly go wrong?
A great deal of ingenuity, time, and effort has been invested into the product. The development and the original manual are the work of many professionals collaborating with the goal of a world-class result. Instead of cheaping out on the final steps, we should “Measure it with a micrometer, mark it with a precision laser, and cut it with a micro-ceramic blade.”
Guest blogger Bob May, CTO