Excellent post Rod. I suppose I'm the timid type but I always read the documentation first. I got in trouble very early in my engineering career when trying to diagnose a ladder diagram driving a PLC. Since I'm a mechanical type and not an EE, I had plenty of help from my friends in trying to affect a "fix". We were all wrong and quickly found ourselves in trouble. Our engineering supervisor suggested we read the manual. The equipment was older than dirt, still working and functional and rarely failed so we had little experience with troubleshooting. His suggestion was a wakeup call for most of us. Again, excellent post.
Nancy, I could not agree with you more. At GE, the engineers on specific projects wrote Use and Care Manuals for products they were assigned to. With that in mind, we had to have translations in Spanish for Latin American countries and French for export to Canada, and of course, English. We were instructed to write the U & Cs in language equivalent to fifth (5th) grade students. (I always thought this was sad but those were the ground rules.) Plenty of pictures adorned the manuals with accompanying text. Some of the translations we got back were absolutely laughable. Some words just don't seem to translate. To compound matters, we started exporting product to the Pacific Rim. The documentation going with the product was a nightmare soon corrected by the distributors providing their own translations and manuals.
Truth be told, I don't read manuals as often as I should, whether it has to do with my car or with some product I'm assembling. Part of that is a holdover from the old days, when many manuals were incomprehensible and often written by people who'd rather be doing something else. Manuals have gotten better in the past decade, however, and I no longer have an excuse for my laziness.
@ Nancy & William: It is not only instruction manuals where improper translations can be problematic. When reading the notes on a part drawing, I have come across many tranlations that just leave one to scratch his/her head. One that comes to mind read: Note, Part not to be Bred. After a lengthy discussion we decided that it was not only a poor translation, but a misspelled word as well. The note should have read, Parts not be Burred, and we were being told that the parts could not have burrs from manufacturing. That we could do, but think how much easier it would be for production if you could just breed the parts and let nature take its course.
My notes and memory don't have the answer to your very sensible question - but this was in the lull between Christmas and New Year so I suspect I wasn't on site when the replacement was fitted and the original problem finally solved. To be fair, in those days the paramps were part high tech and part magic and odd things did happen. Temperamental was the best word to describe them.
In any case I soon had other things on my mind - the next afternoon after the incident I went for an aerobatic session with a friend at the local aero club and afterwards was introduced to the girl I later married!
I agree William - and a picture is worth 1000 words when dealing with folks who speak different languages. I was investigating an RMA and could not understand why some Asian engineers were continually blowing up our NV Rams - so I asked for a schematic of their test board which they faxed over and it turned out they had power and ground reversed!
Nancy, you are certainly correct about that. But in my case the person was a native of the USA and claimed to have done technical writing for a number of larger companies. Actually, the really poor translations do provide clues that they are not to be trusted by virtue of their poor translations being so obvious. And sometimes they are good for a few laughs.
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