If you look up the definition of technical translation, you’ll find that it’s the translation of materials that deal with scientific and technical subjects. But does that go far enough in actually defining this specialty?

Source documentation requiring technical translation varies. Typically, it includes scientific, medical, engineering, industrial, and manufacturing documents.

Other content requiring technical translation includes items such as instruction manuals, operator guides, user interfaces, and journals. While some of these don’t require a high level of scientific background, they do require a working knowledge of the terminology used in these fields.

Read on to learn why technical translation entails far more than a basic understanding of the language required.

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Technical Translation Definition #1: A Multi-Faceted Process That Requires Subject Matter Expertise

Technical translation differs substantially from conventional translation, in that fluency in the target language isn’t enough. Technical translators must have direct industry knowledge to ensure translations will accurately convey the message for the target audience, while maintaining compliance with key sector regulations.

Another aspect that differentiates technical from conventional translation is the need to understand technical illustrations and CAD drawings—any translator providing technical translation must be fluent in the interpretation and explanation of such diagrams. While the translator likely won’t work directly in CAD, he or she must have a solid understanding of how to translate these images appropriately.

Technical translators, as subject matter experts, work alongside project managers to ensure that even the most complex content is accurately translated. This is done by employing a multi-faceted approach that includes editing and proofing, as well as a vigorous quality review to ensure the highest quality translation.

Technical Translation Definition #2: Translation That Requires Native Speakers In Your Target Language To Ensure Accuracy

Accurate technical translation goes beyond understanding grammar, syntax and vocabulary. It includes an in-depth understanding of tone, context, and cultural sensitivities in the target market.

Only a native speaker who is fully aware of context and the cultural nuances of your audience can ensure your technical translation is fully and correctly understood.

While a non-native speaker may be proficient in grammar and vocabulary, it is not enough—he or she may not fully understand the specific local and regional nuances as only a native speaker does. As a result, a technical translation provided by a non-native speaker may result in a confusing, inaccurate, or even offensive translation for your target audience.

You’ll then face the scenario of having to have your translation redone. This costs money and wastes a great deal of time—time and money that could’ve been saved had you selected the right translator the first time around.

Technical Translation Definition #3: Translation That Must Be Accurate, Concise, and Easily Understood by Your Target Market

As manufacturers expand their reach in the global market, technical translation plays an increasingly key role in helping them promote their message worldwide.

Technical translators offer the benefit of years of experience and a keen understanding of their industry speciality while speaking the same language as the target audience. They ensure quality translations by having an in-depth understanding of subject matter, language, tone, nuances, and cultural sensitivity.

In essence, technical translation requires more than simply translating words. It is a multi-faceted, collaborative process that requires technical knowledge of the source material as well as linguistic credentials.

Through a system of quality measures, a technical translator can ensure your message is accurate, concise, and delivered to your audience precisely as you intended.


The Manufacturers Guide to Technical Translation

Learn all you need to know about technical document translation, key questions to ask, and critical pitfalls to avoid.