Why do we need multilingual technical manuals?

A workman consulting a manual
I wish I could understand the manual

My background

I have always loved learning languages and I studied French and German as subsidiary subjects at university.  However  my first real job when I left college was as a technician in a metallurgical laboratory in a large engineering works. The laboratory was headed by a formidable female Russian engineer.  A lot of the equipment we bought came from Germany and we would often struggle to understand the manuals even when they had been translated into English.

The firm was not large enough to have its own translation department so we would also  be asked for help by other departments who had bought equipment from abroad and  were struggling to understand the technical manuals that came with it. Sometimes these manuals would also have very poor and difficult to understand illustrations.  The text in the pictures might be different from the text on the page leaving everyone baffled. The photos might show buttons with the name still in the original language. We found that staff were often reluctant to be the first  to use the new machine in case they damaged it.  If they were unable to understand the manual because it had been badly translated or not translated at all it obviously increased their risk of injury.

Getting the right manual

When you buy a piece of equipment which costs several thousand pounds it is important that it comes with a manual that is accurate and easy to understand. If it has been translated the translator should understand the technical side of what they are translating and know the specialist vocabulary. He or she also  needs to be able to write in a way that sounds natural and is enjoyable to read. If the manual has been translated into English it is important to think that the person using the equipment may not have English as a first language and  even if they do they may not be familiar with obscure technical vocabulary. The quality of  technical documentation can help determine if the equipment will be used properly and looked after correctly. If a product has a good easy to understand and attractively presented manual the buyer is far more likely to consider purchasing further equipment from the same manufacturer. At a trade show abroad a sales representative would find it easier to deal with enquiries if he is able to show a potential customer a clear well laid out manual in his mother tongue,

Manuals in everyday life.

Nowadays  I enjoy travelling and we usually stay in a rented apartment. I have found it can be difficult trying to use a cooker or washing machine if for example  the user manual or other technical documentation  is only in German or Spanish. If user friendly multilingual manuals came as standard with household goods, I am sure that guests would  be less likely to damage themselves or the property. My daughter   who is teaching English in Prague in Czechia has even had to contend with classroom equipment with manuals in Czech. In an ideal world all equipment would come with multilingual manuals

Although English is rapidly becoming the main world language many people who speak English as a second language lack the  vocabulary needed to understand a technical manual and would prefer a manual written in their mother tongue with familiar illustrations. This would give them the confidence to use the piece of equipment properly. I think it also shows that a company is going the extra mile if they provide a well thought out manual in the local language.

Have you had problems understanding a manual when you have tried to use a piece of equipment you have bought?  Did you struggle to use the washing machine when you were renting abroad.?  I would love to hear your stories in the comments below. Perhaps we can help persuade firms to provide instructions that are clear, simple and easy to understand.

(collaborative post)

Get your will written free in October

 

This is a picture of someone writing their will
My last will

Did you know that October is Free Wills Month?

Free Wills Month brings together a group of well-respected charities to offer members of the public aged 55 and over the opportunity to have their wills written or updated free using participating solicitors in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.
The scheme covers simple wills only, including ‘mirror wills’ for couples. In the latter case, only one member of the couple has to be 55 or over. If you need a complicated will (most people don’t) you can still have this done but may have to pay a top-up fee.
An up-to-date will written by a solicitor will ensure that your wishes are respected and will avoid causing legal complications for your loved ones after you are gone.
Free Wills Month means what it says. There are no catches, although the organizers hope that you will choose to leave a donation to charity in your will. There is no obligation to do this, however.
To take part in Free Wills Month click through to the website  https://freewillsmonth.org.uk/ and fill in your details. You can then pick a solicitor from the list of companies taking part and contact them to book an appointment. Appointments are limited and on a first come, first served basis, so call as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
You can also download a free Will Planner PDF, to help you plan your will prior to your appointment.

Legacies are a very important source of income for charities with some charities relying on legacies for up to 50% of their income. There are also tax advantages for leaving a legacy to charity in your will.

October reading list

Grimm tales

To keep with the theme of this post I would like to recommend a book I have been reading after stumbling upon it in a charity shop.  In Grimm tales for young and old Phillip Pullman introduces us to fifty of his favourite fairy stories collected by the brothers Grimm in the early nineteenth century including such favourites as snow white and Cinderella. Phillip Pullman is a master story teller and these tales work on two levels either to be used as bedtime stories by an adult or read by an older child .  They also have enough commentary and notes to entertain an adult.  The book does not have pictures and some of the original stories are a bit gruesome for a young child.

The single ladies of Jacandra retirement village

This is a copy of a review I wrote for Net Gallery.  The book is available on kindle and is due to be published in 2019 by Hodder and Stoughton

The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village: an uplifting and hilarious tale of love and friendshipThe Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village: an uplifting and hilarious tale of love and friendship by Joanna Nell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is very unusual to read a book with a protagonist who is nearing eighty. Peggy a widow has settled into Jacandra retirement village in Australia and has reconciled herself to a life of wearing beige, and days filled with aqua aerobics, doctor’s visits and committee meetings.

However her life is turned upside down when her thrice married friend Angie moves into the village. Angie has very different ideas about ageing and sets about organising a fashion show and karaoke evening. Can the single ladies find love and friendship before its too late?
This is a very life affirming book and the characters leapt off the page. The writer is a G.P. so I also felt it presented a realistic picture of ageing gracefully or disgracefully. I felt I at least wanted to visit Jacandra retirement village.

Disclosure I received a proof copy from Net gallery.

View all my reviews

Five things to see in Prague

This year my daughter is teaching in a village school just outside Prague.  She has introduced her pupils to the game “Simon says” and it has quickly become a firm favourite.  For those of you who have not played it, the teacher gives a list of instructions and you have to obey those that have the phrase “Simon says” before them and ignore those that don’t.  It is good for teaching a foreign language as the children have to  listen if they want to win the game.

These are a few of my “Simon says visit.. ” places in Prague.

The dancing house

This is one of the few modern buildings in the heart of Prague. It is supposed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing.
The Dancing house. The stone tower is supposed to be Fred Astaire and the glass tower is supposed to be Ginger Rogers.

The buildings in Prague were largely undamaged during the second world war. However one American bomber pilot got lost on his way to Dresden and damaged a building in the heart of Prague.   The Croatian architect Vlado Milunic and the famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry were commissioned to design a new building and in 1996 the dancing house was opened.  It is now a hotel with the Fred and Ginger restaurant on the fourth floor.

The  Prague Astronomical clock

The picture shows the dial of the Prague astronomical clock.
The Astronomical clock. This is a stock photo as the original is being restored.

The famous astronomical clock on the town hall probably dates back to 1410.  Though extra features were added later. As well as the time, days of the week and months it shows the signs of the zodiac, and the phases of the moon.  On the hour figures emerge including a skeleton, vanity worshiping his reflection in a mirror and greed counting his money.  There are also the twelve apostles and the Christ child. We were unable to see it when we visited Prague but work is supposed to finish by November 2018.

The John Lennon graffiti wall

This shows a section of wall covered in spray paint with very prominant paintings of John Lennon
The John Lennon graffiti wall. For a long time this was the only part of Prague where graffiti was allowed. Photograph Angela Fraser

For a long time this was the only place in Prague where graffiti was allowed.  I come from Bristol home of Banksy and must admit I wish sometimes our local council would adopt a  similar policy.

A dancing bear

The photo shows a polar bear dancing in the street.
In earlier times real bears would have danced for tourists. Now it is just a couple of people in a bear suit. Photograph Angela Fraser

Prague has always attracted tourists and one of the popular street acts would have been a dancing bear.  When I was in Prague I saw the more traditional brown bear but my daughter spotted this polar bear.

A questionable sculpture

This shows two men urinating into a pool shaped like a map of Czechia
This sculpture is outside the Franz Kafka museum.

I am not sure what I can say about this sculpture. It is outside the Franz Kafka museum and is called Piss. The pool represents a map of Czechia. You were able to text a message by phone and the men would “write it”.

This post follows on from Prague a short visit to Czechia’s fairy tale capital.

If you want to find out more about Prague