What to look for when contracting a technical translator

Everything you need to know about technical translations


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Just as a friend can advise you on a legal issue or a neighbour can tell you what needs doing to your house, there are times when you really need the opinion of a professional who understands the technical and professional aspects of the your problem.

The same thing happens with translations. When the time comes to translate texts of a specific subject which has its own terminology, you need the help of a technical translator who knows the subject inside out and has the experience required to translate this sort of material.

What’s it about?

Technical translation is undoubtedly one of the most complex translation types available. The translators who carry out these kinds of translations need a surgeon-like precision so that both grammatical and lexicon errors are not incurred during the translation process. Inaccuracies can lead to serious consequences as they can end up altering different processes, for example, the inaccurate translation of documents regarding technology can cause damage to equipment and even endanger the lives of those who operate it.

What skills should a technical translator have?

For technical translations, it’s not only about knowing and mastering the language of the foreign market you want to communicate with, it’s also about having real knowledge about the subject you’re dealing with (legal, scientific, tax, etc.). Here is a basic list of requirements that a good technical translator should meet:

Knowledge about the subject area

Since the technical texts cover a very specific subject area, the technical translator must acquire a high level of knowledge and understanding on the subject you want to translate. To understand the starting text, they need to have the knowledge that allows them to incorporate the concepts and the logical relations of the concepts. A translator doesn’t have to have the knowledge an engineer needs to design a machine, but he must have some basic knowledge of how that machine works in order to translate the material adequately.

Use of correct terminology

A good technical translator should always seek to be documented and updated as to the specific terminology of the subject they’re attending to. If they aren’t, they have to knuckle down and research anything they’re unsure about. To do this, they must always use specialised texts and actively incorporate the new terminology that appears in the subject.

Competence in the characteristic technical genres

The technical translator must know the conventions of the genre they will translate in each of the languages where translations are required. Recognising those in the original text allows you to acquire an important level of meaning. Knowing the conventions of the language in which documents will be translatedfacilitates the optimal drafting of the text following the norms of the genre, and always taking into account the translation request. Obviously, the more formal and rigid the characteristics of gender, the more important this aspect will be, as the differences with respect to the norms in the language in which it is translated will be more evident.

Now, you know, when choosing a technical translator you will have to identify these requirements and above, that they have proven experience in the subject of the documents you wish to translate.