Businesses who aren’t geared towards effective European exporting are missing out on 500 million potential customers across the 28 member states who make up the European Union.

The 2009 Machinery Directive has been one of the biggest influencers for exporters. Under the directive, machinery and composite parts must always be accompanied by original instructions. So, to comply, the manufacturers of machinery, mechanical equipment and associated components can only export their products if accompanied by in-country translations in the language of the end user.

EU language matters

As the UK’s Health and Safety Executive states: ‘Instructions, and warnings given on products must be in the official Community language or languages of the European state(s) in which the product is placed on the market and put into service. This may require dedicated language versions for each member state the product is marketed in, or, as is often seen, multi-language instructions/warnings including all languages of all the members states the product is placed on the market.’

There are further implications for exporters using language to reach more customers. It’s been announced that even after Brexit, English will continue to be an official language of the EU, so English translations will still be a necessity.

Exporting to countries with more than one official language, such as Belgium or Luxembourg, requires at the very least a translation into one of the official languages of that particular region.

Factoring in extra language needs

Businesses who export to the vast majority of EU countries also face the problem of having to translate their manuals for nations who are members of the European Economic Area, which also falls under the directive. These languages include Icelandic and Norwegian, for example.

The directive also applies to manufacturers from outside the EU who want to introduce their products to European customers.

However, there’s plenty of good news amid the complexity. Exporters only need to translate the sections of instructive material that relate to safety.

True, some exporters may not be familiar with these legal translation requirements. To many exporters, translations can appear far too problematic, time-consuming and even too costly to consider. However, this thinking rules out millions of potential customers and revenue possibilities.

Streamlining the translation process

In our experience, the translation process is very similar in the first instance. Translations are often integrated very late into the product lifecycle so they need to be done quickly.

The source language content is usually written by a product manager, who has all the technical knowledge. The words are then adjusted by an appointed copywriter for readability and to ‘straighten out’ any complexities.

Once the source is signed off, the content is either translated by an in-house foreign language speaker, who is not a professional linguist, or the material is sent to a translation company.

Translation knowledge safeguards DTP translations

Translation agencies know that that technical manual translation has to happen fast without ever compromising the quality of the original documentation.

At Straker we offer a full technical document translation service, so clients never have to worry about content imports or file handling, version control confusion or having to allocate extra internal Desktop Publishing (DTP) resources.

For example, different language translations can radically alter the look of a document once it’s been translated into a new target language. Language agencies know this and will use their internal DTP teams to create a near-duplicate layout which looks as if it has been created especially for your new target market.

All font preferences, logos, images, text expansion and reduction (some written languages take up more or less space on a document than the original source language), are dealt with by the translation agency to match the cultural, linguistic and design preferences for your new customers.

Incorporating additional service layers

Organisations who are new to translations may be interested to know that the ‘better’ translation companies also provide extra services to make the design process as smooth as possible.

This can include access to an online validation platform. Validation enables your chosen reviewers to feedback on DTP translations by using simple functions, such as commenting on a piece of highlighted translated text in the margin – very similar to common word processing platforms.

A paragraph might be ‘too wordy’ or you’re about to launch a new product –

‘please amend to new product name’. The preferred tone, style or terminology is then made available to the human translators for future translations.

Using translation tools to increase efficiency

Other levels of service include translation management systems where you can order, pay and review DTP translations as well check on job completion rates.

You may want to upload glossaries and reserved words – a list of words and phrases that you require translating a certain way. All your linguistic preferences are stored, and integrated into the translation process. Your content is translated to your specifications from the outset – safeguarding quality the more you translate with your preferred language partner.

A dedicated account manager will be delighted to explain these benefits in more detail.

Translating pan-European technical manuals becomes a whole lot easier when building in these efficiencies to guarantee translation quality and content accuracy. Your translations are accurate, easy to manage, easy to process, transparent, legal and compliant with all current EU regulation for more effective exporting.

By Anna Mengia Mayer
Anna is GM Revenue for Straker Europe


EU Machinery Directive

UK Health and Safety Executive

European Economic Area Membership

European Union Directives and Regulations