Technical translation – Is it that complicated?

Technical translation is one of the most complex types of translation!

Not only does it require through handling of the text, but also a very specific conduct from the translator.

So, when choosing a language supplier, it is important to evaluate whether the basic requirements are guaranteed.

This article aims to provide with a more realistic perception of technical translation, the signs to watch out for, and our recommendations to help you make an informed decision when making your choice.

This article includes the following topics

What is technical translation?

Technical translation, in essence, is a specialized type of translation that specifically handles technical materials.

These materials can come in different forms, and the most common formats of technical texts are instruction manuals, official documents, patents, safety data sheets, training courses, software, etc.

In a nutshell, these are all texts containing specific technical terminology.

It is also common to find technical text in marketing copies, websites, or automotive industry promotional materials, for example.

Which is better, a freelance translator or a translation company?

Honestly, a translation company. And we’re not just trying to sell our services, there are specific reasons for our recommendation.

Only those who have worked in translation for many years can appreciate the challenges of maintaining consistency in terminology, tone of voice, accuracy, integration of internal and external glossaries in long projects (or small ones, if large in quantity), while still meeting the agreed deadlines.

Mutual assistance between colleagues is priceless in case issues arise, both from a linguistic and personal point of view.

A technical translator’s talent will stand out if supported by an equally competent proofreading team!

When it comes to proofreading…

One of the greatest frustrations of clients who come to us is having received a technical translation that falls far short of their expectations and needs.

They are looking for a thorough review that can raise the quality of the original translation. However, sometimes, the original translation contains so many terminological errors, inconsistencies, and such poor quality that it becomes less expensive to redo the translation from scratch…

And even in cases where it is possible to just review, the total cost of the project (poor original translation + thorough review + final quality assessment for the client) will always be higher than if the project had been assigned to professional translators and proofreaders to begin with.

To compensate for these risks, a translation company offers more favorable solutions, in terms of cost and end-result, because it counts on the experience and dedication of a team that is used to working together, and whose talents and skills complement each other.

Likewise, when a technical translator suffers an unforeseen impediment (illness, accident, technical problem with equipment/software, etc.), this employee can be quickly replaced (temporarily or for the duration of the project) by another team member until the issue is resolved.

The client receives the translation within the agreed deadline and with the same level of quality.

So, if you have fallen “victim” of an unscrupulous translator and need a thorough review, contact us, as we can make our recommendation—based on the translation you send us—with no compromise and with a free quote, to properly inform your decision.

What are the main characteristics of a good technical translator?

Certain characteristics are crucial to obtain the best technical translation. There are others, secondary, but to avoid making this article too hermetic, we’ll highlight those that are crucial—from our point of view.

Short note: when we refer to “technical translator,” it includes the technical reviewer, so as not to create unnecessary repetition.

The technical translator should:

Be native in the target language — it seems logical, but it’s all too common for technical documents to be assigned to non-native professionals, even within large translation companies. Thus, it is important that the client ensures, as far as possible, the technical translator is a native speaker of the target language.

Be proficient and experienced in the technical field to be translated — a technical text can originate from several different industries and technical translators cannot be proficient in all fields, although this is often wrongfully advertised. Technical translation is a term that covers a variety of situations, industries, formats… it’s important to choose a technical translator or team that’s experienced in their field to get the best results. At our translation company, each project is evaluated before being assigned to a technical translator, with this in mind.

Translate content with rigor and accuracy — Technical translation is a specialization, which doesn’t allow for creative or artistic liberties. A certain degree of interpretation and adaptation of the original text to make it understandable to a consumer in the target language is acceptable, but the technical terminology used must be correct and consistent throughout the project and between projects.

Use and update support material — Following up on the previous point, the way to apply correct technical terminology and maintain consistency of terms and expressions is to use support material, which can be translation memories, glossaries and even software. These tools must be updated on an ongoing basis and be appropriate for the technical area for which the translation is intended. Each translation company has its own approach—here, we create our own glossaries, in which each term is subject to prior approval and, when necessary, we create our own glossaries for each sector and/or client. Our preferred software is Trados Studio, although we occasionally work with others, as it helps to reduce associated costs and to maintain terminology consistency.

Pay attention to and apply clients’ instructions — some clients know what they want, they have extensive reference material, and are looking to maintain consistency with their current material. The technical translator should be able to integrate these instructions, as well as other support material, such as glossaries and translation memories, exploring client reference documents/websites, among others, and combine them with their own materials to achieve the best final technical translation.

Be transparent when communicating — Last but not least, communication is crucial to build a relationship of trust and, consequently, an excellent translation result. Sometimes, ambiguous situations arise in a project, there are doubts, or there is a need for clarification. The way to approach issues that may arise is crucial for the client to understand the technical translator’s position and be able to make an informed decision before moving forward.

Conclusion

We hope to have been of some assistance to the reader regarding technical translation. This is a subject that can be developed in many directions, but we’ve tried to keep the article as succinct and to the point as possible by focusing on your interests.

As closure, we’d like to invite you to reflect on the value of your project, what drove you to create it, and what it means to you.

More than just getting a sale, our intention with this article—and others on the blog—is to help in creating a higher quality language landscape, since the current one has many rough edges.

So, whether you choose us or go on another path, in the end, what matters is that you get a quality translation or language service that matches the value of your project or business.

 

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