Technical Translation

Everything you always wanted to know about it


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Just like many times a friend can give you advice on a legal matter or a neighbor can show you what refurbishment should be made in your house, there are moments in which what you actually need is the opinion of a specialized professional who understands in a technical and professional way the issue.

The same thing happens with translations. When the time to translate texts of a particular subject with its own terminology comes, it is necessary to resort to a technical translator, expert in the subject and skilled for the task.

What is it about?

Technical translations are, without a doubt, one of the most complex kinds of translations.

When working on a translation of this kind you almost need surgical precision for not to incur in mistakes related to the subject matter or grammar and lexicon. Imprecision may bring about serious consequences since processes might be altered. For instance, in the technology field, damages to equipments might be caused and even the lives of those operating them might be endangered.

Which skills does a technical translator need?

In technical translation it is not only about knowing and mastering the target language but also about having real knowledge of the subject in question (legal, scientific, taxes, etc.). This is a basic list of the requirements a good technical translator must fulfill:

  • Knowledge of subject area

Since technical texts cover a very specific subject area, technical translators must acquire knowledge and understanding on the subject they are going to work on. To understand the source text, it is necessary to possess the knowledge needed to include concepts and the logical relationships between them.

Translators do not necessarily have to have the knowledge an engineer needs to build a machine, but they must have basic notions about how that machine works.

  • Using the correct terminology

A good technical translator must always be documented and up-to-date as regards the corresponding subject-specific terminology. If they are not, they should at least have enough concentration and research capacity to inquire into whatever they do not understand. For this they should always go to specialized texts and publications, and actively incorporate the new terminology regarding the subject.

  • Competence in the main technical genres

Technical translators must know the conventions of the genre they are working on for all the languages involved in the translation. Identifying the conventions in the original text allows acquiring a significant level of meaning. Knowing the conventions of the language they translate into makes it easier to reach an optimal text wording, while following genre rules and bearing the translation project in mind. Obviously, the more formal and rigid the characteristics of the genre are, the more important this aspect will be, because differences in regard to the norms of the language they are translating into will be more evident.

So now you already know, when choosing a technical translator, you have to identify these requirements and, most importantly, that the translator has proven experience in the subject in which you are working.