In any translation project, whether it's large or small, consistency is important, but for specific translation work, subject matter experts (SMEs) assure the quality of the translation. Clients request different forms of translation. Some translation projects can be handled by translators with no subject matter expertise. Others need specialized translators to do translations for specific industries. For each type of industry, such as engineering, medicine, manufacturing, legal, healthcare, information technology, the arts and more, clients must ensure that the language services company assigns the project to a subject matter expert.
Translators are experts
Translators are all experts in the industry, but there is a distinction when it comes to specific content. You can compare it to different situations. For example, if you need help with the grammar and syntax of the paper you are writing, you can ask your friend who is good in English. If you want to check advanced math equations, it is better to have someone, like an engineer to check them.
Let us put under one term – technical translation – all the industry-specific translation projects, in order to facilitate discussion. In technical translations, the subject matter expert ensures that the documents are translated into the requirements of the specific target audience. The SME sees to it that the translation has the right terminology that is specific to the industry.
Subject matter expert translations
Technical translation is document translation targeted at specialist readers and users. It could be the installation and maintenance instructions for electrical engineers installing a naval radar. It could be documentation regarding the adverse effects gathered from a clinical trial for a new treatment or drug intended for doctors. These types of documents would not be understood by the public who do not have knowledge of the specific subjects.
A document that is meant to be understood only by people with technical backgrounds must be translated by linguists who have the same educational background and professional experience as the intended audience.
Technology advances and evolves continuously and becomes more specialized and sophisticated. Technical translators must adapt to the changing times by developing specialized and more complex knowledge. Terminology and specific industry language become more complicated as technology advances.
Technical translation requires more than just knowledge of the language. It needs translators who are well versed on the document's content.
When a translation project requires SMEs, the language services company puts together a linguistic team based on the industry specialization of the translators. An SME team sees to it that the terminology to be used throughout the translation is appropriate to the specific readers of the translation.
The project might be to translate a medical device manual. In such a case, the subject matter expert should either have a degree in a related profession like healthcare or is an experienced medical translator. If it is the full instruction on the operation and maintenance of a machine, the SME should have experience in localizing terminology for engineering. What this all means is that an SME should have a strong command of the source and target languages, in-depth industry knowledge as well as in-country expertise.
Many SMEs have a degree in translation as well as a prior degree in their field of expertise. They could have been practicing their profession for years before they joined the translation industry.
Implications of low quality technical translation
As it is, every translation work requires consistent high quality and accuracy. The level of accuracy and precision becomes higher when a client needs technical translation. It is typical for technical translations to have critical information about practices and procedures. Most technical documents provide detailed instructions about a device or an equipment's proper operation, which is why it is very important to have translations of high quality.
Poor technical translations can put things at risk, such as:
- Industrial accidents due to improper operation or misuse of equipment
- Offensive or ineffective materials for marketing
- Inappropriate delivery of care to patients
- Prompting a claim or compromising crucial court cases
- Failure of company infrastructures or systems
- Rejection of a patent application, which can cause loss of money and time for a company
Use of a technical dictionary
Translators and dictionaries are best friends. But while those who do general translations can also refer to technical dictionaries when needed, it does not mean that a translator can rely solely on a dictionary to learn specific terminology in order to do technical translations. They cannot be called SMEs.
You could say that SMEs are different. Specifically, they have years of education behind them as well as field training, which is why their level of understanding the specialized processes in their particular field is higher.
The SME must fully understand what he or she is reading in order to come up with translation that not only fits the target audience but is also highly accurate. Translation calls for factual definitions, context and connotation. If the translator does not have the proper background in a specific subject, the translator would not understand the nuances and ambiguities of the jargon of a particular industry. The skills of an SME translator cannot be picked up from a dictionary.
Benefits of using an SME translator
A language services company such as Day Translations, Inc. places high value on having SMEs in its team of translators. SMEs enable a language services company to have the following benefits:
- Obtain experts who understand the content, regulations and terminology in different niche industries
- Improve the level of accuracy of translations
- Better turnaround time for technical translation from start to finish of the project
- Minimize the amount of questions during the process of translating the content
- Get help in testing translated content that have technical parts as the SME can give insight on particular formats and information
Further, SME translators are invaluable for localization projects. Their experience and understanding of the subject matter is important in unraveling complex processes in order for the content to be more accessible to specific target audiences.
Even technical documents and other content, including those on websites are used by different audience types. Some documents are for audiences who are highly educated. Some of the readers of technical documents might have specialized education and training. The document could be intended to be read by people who handle dangerous, delicate or confidential processes. They could be changes in the regulatory processes. In these scenarios, the approach to technical translations by SMEs depends on the level of understanding of the target audience.
Aside from the benefits of having an SME do your technical translation, several other reasons help make it clearer that it is critical for language services companies and clients to utilize subject matter experts.
Top among the many reasons is the fact that there are jargons that are exclusive to specific fields. If the reader has no knowledge of the field, it would be difficult for him or her to comprehend the content. Particular terminology makes it easier for people in the specific field to understand related content.
SMEs would understand unfamiliar terms. For example, the word perianth is a term used in botany. You may know the parts of a flower, such as the petals and sepals, and probably the pistil. It would however be difficult to understand what a perianth is. It is actually the term used to indicate a mature flower's outer part.
A good translator would look it up in the dictionary or consult an expert, but an SME who understands botany would immediately recognize what it is.
Likewise, an SME will be able to use the familiar terms the way they are intended to be used. For example, most people equate "theory" to possibility or hypothesis. For a translator who is a science expert, theory means well-substantiated explanation for certain natural world aspects that have been confirmed after several tests. It also means a methodical system of accepted knowledge. Do you see the difference?
Utilizing the expertise of an SME ensures that the translation is professional, clear and accurate. The turnaround time would be faster because the translator does not have to spend too much time looking up specific terminology. Time for research would be shorter because they immediately know which references to use.
Translation is both a science and an art. It is a very demanding job that requires expertise. Technical translation is difficult to do and needs subject matter experts to complete the job. SMEs work on translations that fit their level of experience and expertise. At Day Translations, Inc. we have subject matter experts for different industries. They are in-country experts as well. They are all native speakers and located in different parts of the world. Because they are located in different time zones, it very convenient for them to work with you whenever you need SME translation.
We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year because we understand the importance and immediacy of your translation requirements. You can give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us.