Technical translation is a specialized type of translation service that involves documents dealing with specialized fields of science, engineering or technology. For this reason, a technical translation service requires the integration of three key competences: fluency in both the source language and the target language, writing skills, and a degree of expertise on the respective technical field. The types of documents for which technical translation services are typically required include technical descriptions, manuals, medical documents and technical instructions.
Main Challenges of Technical Translation
The main challenges of technical translation come from the fact that it requires a very specialized skill-set and the translated technical document must be tailored specifically for the target audience:
- Vocabulary precision is very important due to the specialized terminology. Translation of casual text allows more flexibility with respect to language, but this is not the case for technical translation where words are more specific. This is particularly important when translating documents on technical fields where errors can have serious consequences. Two examples of technical fields that demonstrate the importance of precision are electrical engineering, where errors can lead to risk of fire or electric shock; and medical documentation, where human health and lives are at stake.
- Tailoring the document for the target audience is very important. For example, a technical manual for a home appliance must communicate technical concepts with a language that is understandable for homeowners who might not have technical backgrounds. On the other hand, the manual for a sensor to be used in a manufacturing process can use specialized language since virtually all readers will have knowledge of the technical field.
Another challenge that is present not only in technical translation services, but translation in general, is being able to write the translated document according to the geographic and cultural background of the target audience. Sometimes, countries that speak the same language show considerable differences. For example, a technical document translated for an audience located in Spain will be very different than a version for Mexico, even though the native language of both countries is Spanish. In technical translation services, this aspect is of particular importance for technical manuals, which are sometimes translated to different versions of the same language to account for differences among countries.
Advantages of a Human Translator in Technical Translation Services
There are plenty of automatic translation solutions available on the web, and normally they are very effective when the translation of a specific word or short sentence is required. However, automatic translation solutions are very limited when the document increases in complexity, which is the case for technical translation. For this reason, technical translation services are typically carried out by a human translator with the adequate skill-set. There are several advantages to this:
- A human translator with a technical background can conceptualize technical information in both the source language and the target language; the translator can understand the original message and write a description that will transmit the same idea in the translated document.
- Human translators have awareness of the regional and cultural differences present in languages. Words frequently have different meanings in countries that speak the same language, and it is particularly important to identify words that can be offensive in one country but acceptable in another.
- Human translators can perceive and transmit the tone of a document when providing technical translation services. A technical manual targeted for home users will have a very different tone compared with an article that will be published in a highly specialized technical journal.
Translation services have a higher cost when carried out by a human translator, but in the case of technical translation it is the best way to guarantee a high quality service. The benefits of a human translator are particularly noticeable when the person is from the same country as the target audience, but also fluent in the original language of the technical document.