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Do I have to transform U.S. units for European readers?
Thread poster: Charlotte Blank
Charlotte Blank  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:31
Czech to German
+ ...
Jul 21, 2007

Hi,

I'm just translating a technical manual for a company in the U.S. with lots of inches and other non-metric units. There are also things like psi which, according to Wikipedia, has to be replaced by the SI unit Pa.
As the device is to be used in the German speaking part of Europe I'm wondering whether I should transform all these units into metric system or not (or provide both of them?). Of course people dealing with these machines will probably also be familiar with the English system but I'm really unsure what to do...

How are you handling such texts? Thanks for any hint!

Charlotte

Thanks to all who have answered so far! I forgot to say that some of those units are written there in both systems (°C/°F for example) so I don't have to convert them but would you leave the English ones as well or not?
The company is in the U.S. but (unfortunately!) it's not a direct client so I'll have to deal with the agency...

[Edited at 2007-07-21 22:23]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:31
Flemish to English
+ ...
Vice-versa. Jul 21, 2007

If you were in Europe and you had to make a translation for an American company would you transform the European units into American units? How would American readers react if they see kg, metres, ...

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Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:31
Member (2004)
English to German
+ ...
No, why? Why translate at all? Jul 21, 2007

There is no need to translate these units, as you already mentioned, people dealing with these maschines will also be familiar with the English system.

I think it is also fair to assume that they speak enough English to read the English user manual.

Before you start to get angry about my response, just take a moment and think about it, and I'm sure you will be able to answer your own question.

Siegfried


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nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:31
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
a few hints Jul 21, 2007

1- ask the client or agency

2- usually I transform the data using the metric system and keep the original data in parenthesis. So it's up to the final editor to keep them or not.

I would say that European engineers are not very familiar with non-metric units in general, but there are lots of exception where the inches/feet/ and the likes are kept for traditional reason, for instance in the printing industry.


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xxxappleM
Local time: 17:31
English to Polish
+ ...
Be Careful Jul 21, 2007

I would be v. careful not to just convert, without providing the imperial equivalent, particularly with fractions of inches. There is not always a direct metric equivalent, though we might only be talking about fractions of a mm. Obviously this depends on the tolerances in question.

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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:31
Partial member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
What I do Jul 21, 2007

I usually convert and use the metric units followed by the original units in brackets.

Laura


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:31
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Normally, you don't Jul 21, 2007

because, at least, you don't know which precision of conversion is required. Second, in some cases conversion is not acceptable: for example, if you convert an inch-based size of wrench into metric, this will be absolutely misguiding to a technician that'd have to use it.

Anyway, first ask your client, and if he'd insist, give converted sizes in parenthesis only.

[Редактировалось 2007-07-21 16:06]


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:31
English to Dutch
+ ...
Agree with Nordiste and Laura Jul 21, 2007

I usually get instructions from the client about this.
If not, I use metric units and leave the original units between brackets.

Example:
Source: 40 miles
Target: 64 km (40 miles)
- if it is not really technical but in a story or 'fun' text, I make it 65 km and leave the miles out.

Technicians do not all read English; given the fact that professional translators have trouble finding the right terms, even if they are technically trained, one cannot assume people that operate the machines will understand the original manuals or units used.

I myself was born and raised in Europe and lived here all my life - believe me, non-metric units are not appreciated and far from familiar. I still have to use a calculator to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, to name only the worst... Especially with manuals - they will also be used when there are problems - the last thing a technician wants is to have to convert psi to Pa in moments of panic.

But when in doubt, ask your client/agency.

Have a nice weekend!
Margreet


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Convert Jul 21, 2007

For the document to be meaningful at all to readers, the units will need to be converted. Ask the client if the imperial measurements should be kept in parentheses afterward or if they can be omitted.

If the client is in the U.S. and tells you to just leave everything in inches and gallons and psis, you may have to do some client education to explain just how completely alien these measurements are to almost everyone on the planet.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
conversion engines on the Internet Jul 21, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:

...you may have to do some client education to explain just how completely alien these measurements are to almost everyone on the planet.


And sadly, most US readers won't even consider dealing with meters, kilograms, etc. It seems so silly and insular, but that's the way it is here, and so I spend a huge amount of time converting metric measurements into US measurements.

In any case, Charlotte, definitely talk to the client first. People have raised some important "red flags" about precision when doing the conversions. There are many web sites with conversion engines, but I don't know if the ones I rely on will suffice for a very technical text. Maybe some other ProZers can suggest some ...

Good luck!


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:31
Spanish to English
+ ...
Conversions Jul 21, 2007

My approach is to use one piece of conversion software while translating and a different one during proofreading. That way, assuming they both use different calculation engines, if one program has a glitch the other should catch it.

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Andrzej Mierzejewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:31
Polish to English
+ ...
The best and safest solution Jul 21, 2007

Patricia Rosas wrote:


In any case, Charlotte, definitely talk to the client first. People have raised some important "red flags" about precision when doing the conversions. There are many web sites with conversion engines, but I don't know if the ones I rely on will suffice for a very technical text. Maybe some other ProZers can suggest some ...

Good luck!


AM


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 10:31
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Yes Jul 22, 2007

I always do the conversion. When the US units appear in the text, I immediately convert them. for instance:

"...with a diameter of 1 in (2.54 cm) and a length of 2 feet (0.61 m)"

But if they appear thereafter, I just put the US units because I have converted before.

By the way, is not ridicolous the use ofe the US units? I can't find a scientific reason to insist on it.


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ATIL KAYHAN
Turkey
Local time: 19:31
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
Significant Figures Jul 22, 2007

I would agree with those who say that you should ask the client if possible.

If you do the conversions, pay attention to the number of significant figures that you use.

This is a pretty technical subject but you should have the same number of significant figures in your calculated quantity as the original quantity that you are converting.

This issue of significant figures may be quite important if this is a technical or engineering document.

Regards,
Atil


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Oleg Osipov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 19:31
English to Russian
+ ...
Absolutely Jul 22, 2007

Laura Gentili wrote:

I usually convert and use the metric units followed by the original units in brackets.

Laura


Should be the standard.


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