It is common knowledge that, in everyday communication, lexicon is mainly unspecific and syntax tends to follow common rules. But what about experts communicating in technical settings? To them, a clear and coherent transmission of information is crucial, especially when this is to be localized for different markets worldwide.

Have you ever happened to start reading a manual only to realize that you can’t understand a single word of it? The aim of technical writing is to provide information on a complex or technical subject in a way that is easy to understand; and where the problem is the lack of precision in natural language, controlled language is the answer. Aiming at vocabulary and grammar restricted to a well-defined domain, controlled language is used to write specialized texts, usually technical documentation. Texts written in controlled language are easier to read and to understand for humans as well as for Machine Translation systems. Sure enough, the fact to “formalize” the language, considerably helps to smooth the human-machine interaction when applying Machine Translation (MT).

Firstly developed for human purposes, controlled language lately experienced a great development in industrial contexts, especially in English-speaking countries. Simplified Technical English facilitates communication for scientific and commercial purposes, makes documents easier for non-native readers and optimizes the translation process. In a nutshell, the aim of English-based controlled languages is basically to improve the user experience.

But what are the practical advantages of applying controlled language to translation? In terms of time and costs, controlled language helps accelerate the translation of technical documents. As a matter of fact, translation agencies and localization companies daily face the challenge to reduce time and costs involved in the translation of their clients’ texts. Although many of them combine content management systems with translation memory technology, it is also true that the percentage of un-translated segments per document remains fairly high.

The most effective way to optimize an environment that is based on translation memory technology is to normalize the source that feeds the translation memory tool. What does that mean exactly? It means reducing variation between sentences and this can be done writing in a controlled language, as it can considerably limit the choices available to authors. This happens to be especially true if controlled language also covers text functions like heading, condition, process or warning messages. Implementing these rules will enable authors to produce sentences with a very high degree of similarity. As a consequence, this will considerably improve matches during translation.

Already seduced by the many powers of controlled language? Can’t wait to test it in your next technical text? In such case, I can’t tell you how happy our technical writers’ community is to have you with us. Let’s keep the party going!