User Manual Is a Challenge, Foreign-Language User Manual Is a Nightmare

Let’s play with the thought of you having a fancy new technical equipment. It can be a digital camera, a mobile phone, a PDA or some other machine with many features. You have probably bought that ‘thing’ because you want to do something with it. Like almost always with high-tech, you may end up in a situation where you don’t have a clue how to do something you want with that gadget.

So what would you do when you don’t know how to use the new machine? Trying your luck by pushing different buttons is a potential option. I admit that this is usually the first choice for me. Sometimes it is the easiest way but the outcome of random clicking is unsure. No one wants to mess up or break a totally new tool. Thus it might be the best to just open the heavy user manual. Luckily nowadays those manuals are almost always available in digital format, like in PDF files, and ‘find’-command can be used to scan the document.

What would you do if the user manual ”sólo habla español” or “puhuu vain suomea”? Not an easy situation specially if you are in a hurry to find a solution to your problem. If the manual is digitally available in PDF format which is widely established format for product information, it could be reasonable to translate the PDF document with an automatic translator to be able to understand something from the manual. PDF translators are developing constantly, and more and more attention is given to the quality of machine translation. Even today the quality is good enough for understanding the meaning of the text. Thanks to global online markets, foreign-language manuals are more and more common.

Unfortunately, no matter how good the translation is, it doesn’t fully guarantee that you would be able to understand the manual. There is still the common user manual issue of too complex expressions and difficult sentence structures. User manuals have truly earned their reputation of not being so reader-friendly documents. Too often one would desperately need a translator from technical “engineer language” to spoken language, right?


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