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Challenges in Technical Translation

Technical Documents
Challenges in Technical Translation
on June, 10 2015

Technical translation involves translating such documents as user guides, owner's manuals, instructions for use or directions for use and other documents that are typically written by technical writers for products and services. Technical documents contain text that relate to technological and scientific information and technological subject matters. Many of these documents contain specialized key terminologies.

Technical translation though is not just about translating the key terminologies accurately. The translator must still understand and stick to writing conventions in addition to having expertise in the subject matter. Overall, just about 5 to 10 percent of the content is terminology and the remaining is natural language. Therefore it is also important that a technical translator understands how technology and culture affect various factors. These elements could be the usage and application of the document in the target language, locale and market, thus the translated document should be culturally-appropriate and written in a natural flowing style that will present the correct meaning yet avoid literal translation of the subject matter.


Scientific and technical industries are booming and together with the explosion is the faster rate of creation of new terminology. Aside from the speed of new terminology creation, the translator has to discern if the phrase or term has a differently recorded name in other parts of the world that would make it difficult for simple word translation.

The technical translator must have knowledge of the subject matter. There is no going around it. The translator must understand a term's deeper meaning so that appropriate research could be made, even if it does not have a semblance to the original language.

It is also a challenge for the technical translator to deal with documents that are usually written in a different style in other languages. For an effective translation, it is not always possible to just recreate the formatting and style of the source document.

Technical translation requires accuracy and precision, unlike doing translation of literature. What is important in technical translation is the preservation of the document's technical content. If it is an assembly manual, the user of the translated document must be able to follow the specific instructions and assemble a product exactly in the same way a person reading the manual in its original text would do it.

There is also the aspect of how to make the instructions as easy to follow as possible in the target language. If the original manual says that the product could be assembled in a specific amount of time, then the reader in the target language must be able to get the instructions easily without spending too much time reading and trying to understand the instructions. This means choosing precise, appropriate and plain vocabulary in the target language, together with conventional document and text formatting.

In the global business context

It takes unequaled linguistic knowledge and a particular skill set that permits the translator to seize the expression. Not everyone could be a technical translator. A person must have a deep understanding of the intricate subject matter of the technical document, guide, journal or manual. The translator should be aware of the client's official vocabularies and style guides.

Text length is one of the major problems, as this applies to the written target languages, since the same idea when expressed in other languages would not have the same number of characters or words. English words would be about 30 percent longer when translated into German, Italian or French. This could affect the number of pages of a manual or even its present layout, which could affect printing costs.

Accuracy is crucial in technical translations, that is why using an experienced professional is a must. A professional translation company can guarantee that the right translator assigned to the project has the right experience and specialized knowledge to ensure that the translated document has the highest level of accuracy.

Day Translations Team

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