New DIN 8579 standard

15/07/2022

Reduce the risks of translation errors and additional costs through translation-oriented writing

At the beginning of July, the new DIN 8579 standard “Translation-oriented writing – Text production and text evaluation” was published. We take a look at the details and explain why authors of technical texts requiring translation cannot avoid this standard.

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Technical writers and other authors of technical texts already work with guidelines and standards for technical documentation, including, for example, the IEC/IEEE 82079-1 documentation standard, in-house company style guides and other aids, including software supported tools. However, although IEC/IEEE 82079-1 formulates recommendations for the translation of instructions, and source text requirements implicitly apply to foreign-language instructions, instructions that conform to IEC/IEEE 82079-1 are not automatically optimised for translation.

Although there are already recognised rules and numerous – in some cases extensive – handouts about translation-oriented writing, these are too rarely taken into account in practice. This is where the new standard DIN 8579 for rule-compliant, translation-oriented writing comes in and provides help with many practical examples.

A common standard from experts on both sides

A new working group was set up in 2019 to develop the standard. Representatives of the DIN working committees “Translation Services” and “Technical Documentation” came together to provide authors of technical texts relevant to translation with a practical guide for making source texts suitable for translation.

Both working committees complemented each other perfectly in this working group. With DIN 8579, they have not published another editorial guide but rather a document that is the ideal complement to IEC/IEEE 82079-1, for example. Each chapter and each point makes clear what explicitly may happen when translating, when using translation technology (CAT tools) or in the final translated text if the recommendations are not followed and provides the reasons. Numerous positive and negative examples provide a concrete idea of what may happen.

Another positive aspect is that the standard is fundamentally aimed at all stakeholders involved in the translation process: writers, editors, translators, tool manufacturers and machine translation system operators.

Practical benefits in the foreground

If text creators take into account that the specialist text they are creating is going to be used internationally and take the translation and translation technologies into consideration when they produce the text, there will be fewer translators’ queries, translation errors can be avoided and translation costs and work can be reduced.

Therefore, the new standard not only covers topics such as formatting, terminology, grammar, syntax and style or the presentation of content, but also far-reaching requirements for the type of assignment, i.e. the interface between text creation and translation (file formats, reference material, etc.) and likewise criteria and help for assessing the suitability of a text for translation or the work required for any pre-editing.

Conclusion: DIN 8579 was overdue

Writing source texts in a way that is appropriate for translation and based on DIN 8579 can lead to fewer misunderstandings and errors in the translation and reduce additional work and necessary reformatting as well as queries. Since texts that are suitable for translation ideally contain no ambiguities, unclear references, inconsistent terminology and many other linguistic and formal pitfalls, they are ultimately also optimised for users who read the instructions in the original language. The standard is therefore multi-talented and a win-win for all languages of an instruction!

Interested professional users may want to purchase the newly published standards handbook “Normen für Terminologiearbeit, Technische Redaktion und Übersetzen” (Standards for Terminology Work, Technical Writing and Translation). The comprehensive collection contains almost 600 pages of a large number of standards – including DIN 8579, IEC/IEEE 82079-1 and ISO 17100 – that are relevant for translations and other aspects of the translation process, but also for terminology work and technical editing. The manual will be published in September and is already available for pre-order.

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