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Writing Technical Documentation for Japanese Readers

Carsten Mende explains how loan words are used in China and Japan. These are English words that are commonly used in everyday Chinese, (i.e. loaned) but may not translate correctly if taken literally. He looks at how the ‘Chinese and Japanese languages incorporate English terms and how they are used’ and gives suggestions on what to avoid when translating documentation into these languages.

Difference between English, Chinese and Japanese syllables

He starts by showing the different between how syllables are created in these languages. And as someone who has studied Chinese for a few years, it’s both fascinating and frustrating. Oranges and apples, so to speak.

Latin – allows ‘numerous variations for combining letters and the amount of syllables is extremely large. English has more than 11,000 syllables.

Chinese and Japanese is very different: Chinese (Mandarin) is written in characters; each reflects a syllable and not a single letter.

Adopting loan words in Chinese and Japanese

He shows three mechanisms for the adaptation of English words in both languages:

  • Phonemic way
  • Semantic way
  • Adaptation without any transformation

For example: Coffee 咖啡 ka fei

Suggestions

He cautions that when translating or transferring into a foreign language, ‘even obvious things may shape up as something completely different. So you should always treat your customer attentively, take him seriously and be prepared to communicate in his mother tongue.’

Read Carsten Mende here

Opportunities

The quality of technical documentation in China is often very poor. It’s not for lack of trying, rather they lack experience technical writers and have had little exposure to international audiences.

For foreigners this represents a huge opportunity. Technical writers who can come to China and test the waters could do very well. The pay is increasing all the time and the cost of living significantly lower than elsewhere.

Fancy moving?

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Are Daily Rates for Technical Writers Starting To Improve?

In December, I looked at the daily rates for technical writers and others in the tech comms industry. At the time daily rates for technical writers are down to $30 per hour in some places in the Bay Area.

However, maybe things are starting to turn around. In Ireland (Euro HQ for most US IT companies) Google has announced 150 new jobs, many in technical roles.  So, is the tide starting to turn?

Articles in Tech Comms publications and on other technical writing sites suggested  that daily rates for technical writers were collapsing in the US, in particular the West coast, as more writers struggle to find roles that match their previous salaries. TECHWR-L (tech-whirl), the oldest site that I know for technical writers, highlighted the case of a technical writer who’s been in the industry for 10 years and been jog-hunting for six months.

When asked what he thought where the tech docs industry was heading, his reply was, “it’s a race to the bottom”. 12 months ago, he left a high-paying tech writing job to travel but returned six months later, and looked for work.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in California

His only job offer had been $30 an hour. Some recruitment sites quoted $40-$60 an hour. Quite a drop!

I know that when I last worked in the states, late 90s, the rates were $40-$60 per hour, and that’s almost 10 years ago.  It’s hard to believe that now, ten years later, and factoring in inflation etc, daily rates are almost cut in half.

Salary for Technical Writing in China

Salary for technical writers in China is between 15-30k RMB per month, which is approx $2.5k.

Not great by US standards but the cost of living here is much less.

Daily Rates for Technical Writing in India

According to a tech writer in Bangalore, the going rate in India is $10-15 an hour. http://www.techwr-l.com/node/1205

Jobs Trends

Many US colleagues have seen their jobs moved to India. In Europe (Ireland and UK) they tend to go to Poland as they have excellent English skills (yes, they do!) and lower tax rates.

India now produces a steady stream of qualified tech writers who are highly motivated and keen to make the most of this opportunity.

Last year I said that,  “as someone who works in Asia, and is seeing at first hand the juggernaut that is hurdling down the motorway, the race to outsource has only started.”

In the next 10-15 years, IT jobs which can be replicated offshore/offsite to lower costs will be embraced more aggressively. US companies have little choice but to do this.

The challenge for technical writers

The question for technical writers and others in this industry is how to approach this.  One suggestion would be to setup consultancy services in places like Bangalore, Vietnam, and Poland where the talent is there but the experience is lacking. Experienced technical writers, who are willing to travel and embrace a new challenge, could do very well in these countries. Staying at home may not be an option.

What do you think?

Should technical writers consider moving to places like India? Do you see signs that the recession is over. Are there more jobs for tech writers than last year?
Fire away below and share what you think.

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7 Ways for Technical Writers to Re-invent Themselves & Demonstrate their Value

You’ve just been fired. The Technical Writing Dept is closed. What do you do?  This is a fact of life for many people today. Indeed, there is now a real fear that US technical writers will continue to lose their jobs to offshore companies, e.g. India & Poland. And it’s true; it’s the shape of things to come, I’m afraid. But rather than moan about it, let’s look at what you can do to re-invent yourself and find new, lucrative opportunities. Continue reading 7 Ways for Technical Writers to Re-invent Themselves & Demonstrate their Value

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What’s the Highest Daily Rate You Can Get as a Technical Writer?

Singing DinosaursKnowledge is power. Knowing the daily rates of others in your industry helps you negotiate fees and get a better deal.

I’ve worked in the US, UK and now here in Asia and have seen a vast difference in the rates that writers work for.

Some of my friends in India work for $15 per hour, which works for them, while I know others in the Bay Area that are down to $25 per hour. Quite a drop as they were on $60 only 12 months back. Continue reading What’s the Highest Daily Rate You Can Get as a Technical Writer?

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How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Better Paid Jobs

I'm a happy birdMany IT professionals, technical writers included, have seen their salaries frozen or reduced over the past 18 months. Contractors are suffering the same fate as short-term projects dry up.

However, several of my colleagues have managed to move out of technical writing and into other, better paid lines of work. Here’s a roundup. Continue reading How to Get Out of Technical Writing and into Better Paid Jobs