Whether we think about it or not, technical documents are all around us, both in our personal and professional lives. From product manuals and user guides to project plans and case studies.

But what about technical translation? What is it exactly and what does it entail? Can technical translators work with any type of technical text? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and also focus on the importance and best practices of technical translation.

  1. What is technical translation?
  2. What is the difference between technical translation and scientific translation?
  3. Technical translator requirements
    1. Scientific or technical knowledge
    2. Excellent research skills
    3. Solid translation skills
    4. Technical writing skills
    5. Patents
    6. Software strings
    7. Health and safety documents
    8. User manuals
    9. Press releases
  4. Why is technical translation important?
  5. Technical translation best practices
  6. Analyze the source text
  7. Take notes and research
  8. Avoid long complicated sentences
  9. Be consistent
  10. Always proofread your work
  11. Can AI be used for technical translation?
  12. Final thoughts

Technical translations entail the transference of a document relating to science, technology or other technical subjects from one language to another.

Given the subject matters they cover, technical texts make use of specialized terminology or jargon from the relevant field. Moreover, these documents have the purpose of providing information to the reader and, therefore, tend to be written clearly and precisely, and avoid ambiguity. This means that familiarity with the relevant technical terms and an ability to coherently transmit knowledge are essential to carry out a technical translation.

Certified Translation Services

Get your documents translated and certified by a professional translator in 60+ languages for just $24.95 per page with 24 hour delivery.

You might be wondering what the difference between technical and scientific translation is. Well, the answer is quite straightforward. While technical translation deals with the practical aspect of scientific knowledge, scientific translation focuses on the theoretical aspect.

##What do technical translators do?

Technical translators are the ones in charge of transmitting specialized knowledge from one language (the “source language” of the technical text) into another (the “target language”). Therefore, they require both linguistic and technical expertise.

Technical translators need to have a deep understanding of their specific field and be aware of the relevant jargon. You could say a technical translator plays the role of technical writer in the target language and they may also provide that actual service separately.

Due to the technical proficiency required, technical translators usually specialize in one particular field.

As we’ve mentioned, technical translators are specialized professionals, which means they should meet certain criteria to provide high-quality results. Here are some of the requirements a technical translator should meet.

Technical translators should be experts in the subject matter and have a general understanding of related fields.

It’s impossible to know all the technical terminology within a specific field and new terms are often coined. Therefore, a technical translator should have exceptional research skills.

This is true of all translators and should go without saying, but better safe than sorry. Given the level of accuracy required for technical translations, the professionals involved should be skilled linguists as well as subject matter experts.

Translation skills and technical knowledge are not enough. The professional translator should also be a good writer and have an understanding of the conventions of the specific technical genre. The better at technical writing a translator is, the more chances they have to provide a high-quality technical translation.

##Technical document types

Technical documents cover a myriad of fields. However, these documents can be classified into three categories: product documentation (such as user manuals), process documentation (such as project plans), and sales and marketing documentation (such as white papers and proposals).

Here are some of the types of technical documents that most often require translation.

With over 600,000 patents published in the United States alone each year, it’s safe to say this technical area generates a considerable amount of material for translation. Patents cover a variety of subject matters (medical, pharmaceutical, technological, mechanical, etc.) and requirements vary from country to country. Moreover, the claims of the patented product are usually kept as broad as possible so as not to limit its scope. This, paired with the expert knowledge required, makes it extremely important for an experienced technical translator to carry out the job and avoid any issues when submitting a patent application.

Certified Translation Services

Get your documents translated and certified by a professional translator in 60+ languages for just $24.95 per page with 24 hour delivery.

Software strings are what make up the interfaces of websites, apps, or other software. User interface (UI) texts may look simple at a first glance, but it still requires specific terminology and UI knowledge to tackle them.

Software strings often require language specialists to go a step further into localization, which focuses not only on transferring the text from language A to language B but transferring a product from one culture to another. You can learn more about localization in this article.

In this type of text, medical terminology is key. Any mistake or omission can have disastrous results so translators must focus on providing an exact and easy-to-understand translation.

User manuals are meant to explain how to use a specific product and perform certain tasks. Just like with health and safety documentation, clarity is key. Moreover, mistakes can cause safety issues depending on the product.

Professional Translation Services

Get your documents or text-based content translated in 60+ languages by a professional translator for just $0.10 per word with 24 hour delivery.

The technical translator in charge of translating this type of document should have a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the type of product, and be able to convey the instructions in a straightforward manner.

Press releases are often used to announce the launch of a new product or service or share a company’s accomplishments. Translating them into other languages means companies have the chance to reach new audiences. Here, technical translators should be familiar not only with the type of document itself but also with the relevant industry.

Other types of technical documents include FAQs, release notes, repair manuals, datasheets, technical drawings, scientific documents, and API documentation.

In the previous section, we discussed how important it is for technical documents to be translated properly. Mistakes or omissions in a technical translation may mean you can’t use your washing machine properly, but also risk an accident due to mistranslated safety requirements. Technical translation is crucial to ensure documentation is properly conveyed in the target language and avoid any issues.

We’ve established the importance of good quality technical translations so this article would not be complete without going over some of its best practices. Clearness and simplicity are the guiding forces of any technical translation, but here are a few more tips to ensure the best possible outcome.

The first step when translating a technical document is to read and analyze the text. This gives the translator a sense of the context of the document and also of the writer’s style and tone.

While reading the text, the translator can take notes of unknown technical terminology to research later on. They will also put together a set of relevant resources, such as glossaries, dictionaries, and experts they can reach out to for assistance.

When translating, it is best to avoid long and complicated sentences. A technical text gives instructions and these will be better understood if the translator uses short sentences with simple grammar. Translators should also steer clear of redundant expressions and meaningless modifiers.

This goes without saying for any translation, but is particularly important in the technical field. Being consistent when it comes to terminology avoids confusion and any issues that may arise because of it.

Again, reviewing a translation is a given in any field but it is still worth mentioning. This ensures the quality of the translated text. The translation can be reviewed by another technical translator and may also benefit from the eyes of a subject matter expert.

The use of AI in translation has been a hot topic for quite a while. This field has made incredible progress over the last couple of decades and has shown excellent results in some areas. Machine translation is currently used in many fields but usually paired with postediting (a revision by a qualified translator). So, are AI and technical translation a good match?

The answer is yes, but depending on the document to be translated. Machine translation is already widely used for translating patents and there are also cases where it is used for software and websites, as well as other technical documents.

There are many advantages to using machine translation: it’s fast, scalable, and cost-effective. However, the content and the intended audience are two key factors to keep in mind when deciding if this is the best option for a particular document. Regardless of this, you should make sure technical translations are always reviewed by a professional technical translator that specializes in the relevant subject matter. Machine translation is far from flawless and the potential errors it may make could end up being quite costly.

Technical documents are part of our daily lives and we often have translations to thank for them being accessible to us. These documents are key to transmitting important information about products, processes, and businesses; from what security protocol to follow to product requirements to meet when developing a mobile app. This makes technical translation vital for both individuals and companies.

We hope this article has given you a clear overview of technical translations and the importance of hiring professional services when tackling them.

Updated September 12, 2022 in Translation