TRANSLATIONS AND THE
USE OF VISUAL CUES
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF VISUAL CUES?
• A visual representation or drawing can help us translate tacit knowledge to explicit, to convey
ideas and to think differently about a scenario.
• Conveying rules, processes and approaches is a complex task in itself in a technical environment
but add to that the requirement to change a language without losing key meaning increases the
complexity of the task significantly.
• Physical and visual cues are crucial at the earlier stages to determine what something says and as
learning progresses and understanding develops associations can be made and information
connected with a known meaning. Visual cues in instruction at any stage can also increase learner
connectivity, engagement and retention.
VISUAL CUES AND TECHNICAL
• Technical translators ensure that the original information as encoded by the source is
transmitted through a medium (such as a report, manual or information sheet) and decoded
by a receiver without a loss or change in meaning.
• A suitable image or graphical representation of a particular product alongside passages of
text is a welcome sight for the reader as they can interpret it visually even if they have not
understood all the text. Complex images can be broken down step-by-step to make them
easier to understand and follow.
• Images or drawings in technical documentation use visual thinking approaches that
circumvent the need for a specific language. If you draw a picture of an aeroplane and show it
to someone who doesn’t speak the same language you have communicated a concept
without a loss of meaning.
• Avoiding the occurrence of having something “lost in translation” so that there is no
misinterpretation or communication breakdown of the original version is an invaluable skill in
technical translation activities.
CURRENT AVAILABILITY IN SOFTWARE
• Currently word processing software programmes are available with built in drawing tools so
adding a diagram or graphic is readily facilitated and can allow the readers to think with their
• Making use of visual cues can be the most direct way of presenting information. Computer
graphics, interactive applications, editorial design and web design can all be used to create
visual solutions and when used in parallel with text descriptions can be customized for
particular products and matched to the required target audience.
• Technical translators can make use of visual communication to facilitate the understanding of
information from diverse sources in other languages. As the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a