Blog post dated Apr 29, 2019

Simplified Technical English

The Benefits for Translations

Simplified Technical English (STE) is one of the most popular controlled languages in technical documentation. STE originates from the aerospace industry, but is also used in other areas of technical documentation. The set of rules limits and standardizes the English language. It consists of a collection of writing rules and a dictionary with limited vocabulary.

Used correctly, STE can result in texts that are easy to understand for all readers: for an international audience, for native speakers and non-native speakers, and for experts and laymen alike.

An Article by

Stefan Kreckwitz
CEO, Congree Language Technologies

Simplified Technical English not only makes texts easier to understand, but also provides numerous benefits for the translation.

Less Text, More Repetitions

Through the simplified and standardized syntax and wording, the translation of English source texts becomes easier and less costly. On this subject, Shufrans TechDocs writes: “As the text volume is reduced by at least 20 % and the remaining text becomes more repetitive, the use of Simplified Technical English typically results in 30 to 40 % less translation cost.”

Use of a Translation Memory

STE reduces the number of variants. Compared to standard English, the limited vocabulary of STE and the STE rules simply provide fewer possibilities to express a certain matter. This benefits the work with a translation memory. The fewer possible variants there are, the greater the probability of finding a released and translated sentence that can simply be taken over by the translator..

The use of Simplified Technical English typically results in 30 to 40 % less translation cost.

Translators Benefit from Improved Comprehensibility

Texts that are easy to understand are not only good for the readers. Translators, too, can work faster and more efficiently if the wording of the source text is clear, comprehensible, and free of ambiguities. This is exactly what STE can help to achieve.

STE and Machine Translation

The positive effects of STE can be summarized in three words: reduction, simplification, and clarification. These properties also have a positive impact on machine translation (MT).

As machines lack human commonsense knowledge, it makes a lot of sense to use simple and clear language for texts that are to be machine-translated.

This reduces the amount of translation errors and the post-editing workload after the MT.

It makes a lot of sense to use simple and clear language for texts that are to be machine-translated.

Writing Directly in English

The STE standard makes it easier for non-native speakers to write English texts directly without first composing the source texts in their own language. Does this mean that STE can eliminate the need for English translations in some application scenarios?

Perhaps. However, here too, the texts should be proofread by an English-speaking expert. In such cases, the work of a translation might change, but is not entirely superfluous.

STE for Translations Only?

The above-mentioned benefits make the introduction of the standard attractive for translations. However, translation is not the only field in which the use of STE could be beneficial. The use of STE in other areas of the company could also provide benefits such as improved comprehensibility. In an article of tcworld magazine, technical writer Herbert Kaiser says: “If Simplified Technical English is used exclusively to simplify translations, a large part of the overall potential of this language standard will go unutilized.”

Simply Start Using STE?

Theoretically, a technical writer could simply obtain the latest issue of the standard, read it carefully, and start using it. However, the author of the STE standard believes that this is neither easy nor wise: "Simply giving authors a copy of the specification is probably the best way to discourage them from learning about STE, and applying it correctly."

Therefore, the best approach would be to provide training and use computer-aided authoring assistance.

Conclusion

STE is a powerful standard that has many benefits. Translations can be optimized through the consistent use of STE. To mention just a few benefits:

  • The volume of the source text is reduced, and individual words and sentences are repeated more frequently. In this way, translation costs can be reduced by about 20 percent.
  • The existence of fewer variants also means a higher probability of being able to use previously translated words and sentences from your translation memory during the translation.
  • Translators will send fewer inquiries about texts that are easy to understand.
  • Clearer, easier texts facilitate the machine translation.

The use of STE is especially beneficial if the standard is not only used for the optimization of translations, but also for the text production in general.

Further information on STE and on how computer-aided authoring assistance can help you to apply the standard is available at the Congree website.

About the Author

Stefan Kreckwitz is the CEO of Congree Language Technologies, a software manufacturer in the field of content optimization. The company delivers the leading technology for the composition of consistent texts under consideration of defined style rules and uniform terminology. Congree products support the communication of enterprises and departments of all sizes.

Website: Congree Language Technologies