How to Decode Technical Translation Like an Expert

How to Decode Technical Translation Like an Expert
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


When it comes to technical translation, quality is essential since a cheap and/or inaccurate report rushed to meet a deadline causes more harm than good. That's why translation services provided by knowledgeable humans are more reliable than using automated tools.

Qualified Translators
It's risky to use a translator who admits to not being unfamiliar with one of the languages in a translation. Quality translators only take on assignments they know they can handle and don't try to deceive clients just to get business.

Make sure from talking with references that the translator understands both languages thoroughly. Even slight errors in translation can hurt your credibility, especially if the grammar is improper. Usually, large reputable translation services can help direct you toward accurate translators.

Translating New Technology
Sometimes it takes a while for new technical terms to enter dictionaries. Translation services, however, use strategies to account for missing words that cannot be readily defined or decoded.

So, the translator makes one of the following decisions when confronted with new words that do not have equivalents in another language:

  • Keep the word in its original language
  • Use it as a translated descriptor
  • Create a new word

This decision is made while discussing appropriate terminology with the client, who has the final say. Working with someone who is fluent in specific industry terminology in addition to each language involved in the translation process helps you avoid wasting time and money on correcting mistakes.

Deciding from the start the number of languages to be translated will help narrow your selection for qualified translation services.

Read Also: Technical Translations - A Domain That Requires the Utmost Care

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Graphic Considerations
When presenting graphics in a report; remember that different cultures may view the same image differently. In China, for example, the color yellow is related to pornography. In Arabic countries, if women are not wearing headscarves, the photo may be considered inappropriate. That's why it's important for translators to be aware of cultural taboos and customs.

Variables of Source Text
Only about 5 to 10 percent of technical translation involves terminology while the rest of the translation relies on comprehension of culture, syntax, and industry considerations.

Remember that the meaning of a word in one industry might be completely different in another industry, which is why it's helpful to use translators who create glossaries based on client input at no additional expense. Glossaries can also be used for Translation Memory (TM), which allows the software to recognize repeated words in a consistent way throughout manuals.

Numbers and units of measurement will inevitably come into play in fields such as engineering. That's another reason why the translator needs to be an expert in whatever technical area they are translating. One missing zero, for example, can be disastrous.

Also Read: Technical Translation Services: A Great Option for Companies

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.