My name is Christian Vandersmissen. I’ve been a technical automotive translator for 27 years. My company is called automotive-translation.com. I’m going to talk about my experience and share some thoughts about my work.
I’ll be addressing the subject of writing and translating technical manuals for land motor vehicles. Manuals are mainly meant for workshops and garages (for mechanics and repairmen) and they make up a large volume of my work. The types of vehicles are varied: passenger car, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and agricultural, construction, industrial, and special vehicles.
Vehicles are described and illustrated in detail in the manufacturers’ documentation. Manuals explain how vehicles run, how to dissemble them, what breakdowns could occur, what possible repairs may be needed, how to maintain them, etc. These manuals may be thousands of pages long and hundreds of thousands of words long, per model and per brand. The texts repeat themselves from one year to another since much of the information remains the same. IT professionals have created software that enables us to automatically recover anything that could be useful in a manual’s future versions (before we had to manually copy and paste the repetitions).
Manuals are increasingly more available online and are decreasingly printed out. Nevertheless it is possible to reduce the volume even more and therefore the writing expenses and so on. The countless comments, safety warnings, as well as redundant or superfluous explanations (readers are competent) could be normalized and put together in a special chapter, like the terms and conditions we tick when we make Internet purchases (of course without reading them!).
An even more important point is about the source language of technical writers. Motor vehicle manufacturers are mainly American and British (so they use English); Japanese, Korean and Chinese (they also write in English); German, Italian, Russian …