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The Technicalities of Technical Translations

Writing Apps
The Technicalities of Technical Translations
on July, 26 2017

Translators work on a variety of printed documents that fall under specific categories, like general translation, legal translation, literary, business and finance, medical and technical translations.

Each category involves quite a long list of document types, from simple translation of messages and notes, to wills and trusts, contracts, medical abstracts, user guides and manuals.

Each one requires a different set of skills, terminologies and subject matter expertise. In this article, we'll be discussing what technical translations are and the technicalities that are required when technical translations are requested.

Technical translations are one of the most demanded translation services nowadays, closely intertwined with technical developments in the modern world. Because of the constant evolution of technology, technical translations have become almost indispensable.

Related Post: Why Do You Need a Subject Matter Expert for Technical Translation?


What Are Technical Translations?


Technical Translation

Technical translations involve documents pertaining to technical and scientific subjects. It is specialized translation, with specific terminology used in the technical or scientific field.

A technical translator is a subject matter expert who has years of experience in the subject and deep knowledge of the particular terms in the field in the source and target languages.

Technical translation encompasses a wide range of materials. It can be as simple as a product spec sheet, which normally does not require a high level of knowledge of information technology.

But it does need a working knowledge of the terminologies used in IT. On the other hand, technical translations might be required for more complex writing, such as technical, engineering, medical and scientific journals, which require translators with graduate training in the specific fields as well as high level of translation and linguistic skills.

Some of the documents needing technical translations include:

  • Instruction and operating manuals
  • Scientific and white papers
  • Technical reports
  • Patents and patent applications
  • Engineering specifications
  • Data sheets
  • Electronic manuals and guides
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Technical specifications
  • Technical e-learning modules
  • Aviation
  • Engineering specifications
  • Data gatherings and research
  • Service and installation manuals
  • Maintenance guides
  • Safety manuals
  • Technical equipment certificates and regulatory documents
  • Technical drawings
  • Materials and products catalogs

Various companies require technical translations because most of them serve the international market. Workers and other company staff in different industries heavily rely on technical information so they can perform their jobs.

Due to the differences in language, it is critical that the end users understand technical documents in their own language. Some of the companies where technical translation is critical include:

  • Tech/software companies
  • Engineering fields
  • Architectural firms
  • Automotive industry
  • Agricultural plants
  • Chemical plants
  • Health Care
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Government organizations
  • Heavy manufacturing warehouses
  • Various scientific fields

Requirements of Technical Translations

Inaccuracy has no room in technical translations. This highly specialized translation service requires precision. As it is all about technical documents, errors of any kind cannot be allowed as research results, devices, contracts, structures, medical procedures, equipment and machinery may become unstable, erroneous, denied, invalidated or malfunction, because of mistranslations.

One of the most difficult parts of technical translations is achieving accuracy. There are many details in technical translations that need close attention. Professional training in technical writing, as well as acuity in languages, aside from years of experience is required of a technical translator.

Technical translations are field-specific, and years of experience in a specific field are required before accuracy in translation can be achieved. Symbology, abbreviations, jargon, terminology and formatting are just some of the elements that must be accurately translated.

Related Post: Challenges in Technical Translation


Characteristics of Technical Translation


What Are Technical Translations

Technical translations are very specific and peculiar. They comprise a host of technicalities. The functional style of the source technical or scientific document influences the type of translation process that may need special ways and methods to be employed.

Likewise, the source orientation affects the stylistic characteristics of the text and influences the linguistic use, features and approach in the target language.

Translating technical documents is demanding and difficult. The process takes time. Technical translations are based on a logical and formal style defined by formal language, the absence of emotiveness and impersonality. But the professional competencies of the translator can be gauged from the output.

Unique features of technical styles are logicality, consistency, objectivity and accuracy, substantiveness, clarity and lucidity. All technical and scientific texts use the language means that fully satisfy the requirements of this type of communication.

On the vocabulary level, technical translations comprise the use of technical and scientific terminology. The terms the translator use must exhibit accurate and clear definition of real phenomena and objects, and establish an equivocal comprehension of the work written by a specialist. The terms must be context-independent and have a single, precise meaning (monosemantic).

Related Post: Why Business Translators Are Key To Your Company's Success


Some Illustrative Examples

To demonstrate the difficulties and peculiarities involved in technical translations, here are a few examples:

1.      Patent translation. Patents are governed by practical and legal requirements and they have special demands as well. As one patent translator puts it, translating patents means carefully crafting a broad claim to cover all bases for every possible applications in the future of a new product, technique, device or method. At the same time, very little new and real information should be disclosed because doing so would limit the scope of the claim of the patent.

2.      User manuals. Online help is included in this category. This is one type of document that is closely associated with technical translation. Its tone must be objective, and without a hint of subjectivity or sign of the author. User manuals require straightforward writing and simplified language to make it easier for the user to comprehend.

In this regard, user manual translation can benefit from automated or machine translation with post-editing by a human translator. The volume of user manuals technology and manufacturing firms must provide can greatly benefit from automated translation to a certain degree. At least using a translation memory tool will help speed up the translation and reduce the cost.

Technical translations are different from regular types of translations. They demand more than just fluency in a target language. They need more involvement from the linguist. The complexity and delicate nature of the technical source material intensifies the importance of a subtle approach that requires years of experience, subject matter expertise and perfect technical writing skills.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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