Technical translation – what is it, how should you order it and what needs to be remembered?

 Instruction manuals, technical specifications, certificates – we all come across such documents on a daily basis. Even if you read them in your language, it is worth knowing that many of such documents were originally created in a different language. You can read them in your language because a certain company provided a service of technical translation. The better the quality of such documents, the more valuable information you will find in them. Keep in mind that the same applies to you customers.

What is technical translation?

It’s not easy to clarify what technical translation is using just one definition. Most often, this service is ordered with reference to the above documents but they do not exhaust the full catalogue of potential content. There are also specialised articles which include technical terms and phrases that have to be translated by someone who knows a given foreign language and also the specifics of a certain area of science. We may say that technical translation relates to all documents which include language, names and elements that require the translator to posses specialised knowledge in a given area, both practical and theoretical.

How to ensure a good technical translation?

Keeping in mind the above definition, it should be stated that technical documentation translation has a very specific nature – it is filled with specialised terminology. The above documents also feature repeatable content such as specific names and the translator cannot use synonyms in such cases. Not only due to practical or meaning-related reasons but frequently also due to legal reasons.

For example: you cannot replace a name of a specific chemical phenomenon with a synonym or a term that has a similar meaning. In such a case, the translator has to be consistent and a given term has to be used every time it is required. Changing a given term may confuse the recipient and in some cases, it may even lead to legal consequences.

What technical documents should be translated?

In the introduction, we have mentioned the most common technical documents that are translated. A manufacturer who is intending to enter foreign markets with its offer needs to remember about translation. Instruction manual, installation tutorial or technical specifications of a product constitute the most common content that the buyer needs to have access to and understand. 

However, this is not the full catalogue of such documents. In practice, it may happen that technical translation is ordered with reference to design documents which are very important in the industry of civil engineering. They include all types of information regarding resistance of materials required to develop a building or structure, etc. This is key from the point of view of safety, and if the quality of translation is neglected, it may result in really severe consequences.

Translation of technical articles – architecture and construction engineering

Technical documentation mainly provides practical information regarding usability and execution but the situation is slightly different in the case of articles and other publications. Their purpose is different, primarily with regard to the following:

  • Image – such publications show that a given brand knows a specific area of science and that it can be trusted in this area;
  • Marketing – such articles improve visibility of the brand online and can also be written to encourage people to choose an offer of a given company.

The specific nature of specialised articles is also slightly different from technical documentation. From the point of view of the recipient, it is important to use the correct terms and also ensure logical coherence of the text as well as linguistic and stylistic correctness. Additionally, if your text features marketing language, you will have to keep in mind that the translator will also have to be competent in this regard. Otherwise, the initial assumptions of the article will no be fulfilled after it is translated.

Does a technical translator need an engineering degree?

Taking into account all the listed properties of technical translation, you may have the impression that this type of service can only be provided by an engineer, which is somehow logical but this rule will not apply in all cases. If such a translator possess the required knowledge in a given field, he/she may not handle marketing parts very well (if they occur in a given document). 

When should technical translation be prepared by an engineer?

The above clearly states that a translator who is an engineer will be great for translating a technical specification, instruction manual, design documentation and other types of content that is strictly informational. A technical translation of an article can also be prepared by such a person but there is one condition to this. You should also ensure a second stage of the translation service, namely proofreading. It would be best if this service was provided by a native speaker or another translator who writes well and is familiar with marketing texts.

Transcreation of technical text – what’s the point?

If you wish to use your article for sales and marketing purposes, it is worth considering a transcreation service. Generally speaking, this method requires creative translation which aims at conveying the message and also adjusting the entire text to the culture of the recipients. In some cases, this requires the text to be completely altered when it comes to the slogans, headers and marketing phrases. This is done mainly so that the used idioms, for instance, can be adjusted to the local market or so that the text can be associated with certain customs applicable in a given country, etc. Finally, the article, description or website content must be remembered by the recipient and it must be associated with your offer in a clear way.

What does a technical translator need to know?

Now that you know what types of documents can be prepared by a given translator, you should think about the competences of a technical translator. This applies specifically to languages where one word can have several meanings. For example, the word “coil” in English can be confusing as it means a few different things. In practice, it will refer to different technical components depending on the context so knowing a given area of science will guarantee that the translation is prepared correctly and it does not mislead the recipient.

It is quite important to note that a technical translator should also be a practitioner in his/her field. Often, theory alone will not be sufficient to ensure correct translation. Finally, a given document has to be understood by the recipient and in order for that to happen, it has to sound natural. This means it has to contain properly translated names and phrases as well as the terms that are popular for a given industry. It’s possible to learn names and phrases but in the case of popular industry-specific terms, only people who work in such an environment on a daily basis will be familiar with them.

How to source good technical translation?

Preparation of a good technical translation requires a number of competences form the translator. In many cases, just the fact that he/she is a practitioner knowing the industry well will not suffice. Some documents are also used for fulfilling marketing and sales assumptions. In such a case, the translator should additionally be able to work with marketing texts, have the skill of creative writing and clarifying any technical aspects in an understandable way. If you don’t have time to find the one best translator, we can help you. All you have to do is use our convenient form to request a free offer to find out how much a technical translation will cost you.