Why do you need a technical translator?

Business meeting
I translate during a business negotiation between a manufacturer from Russia and an engineering consulting company from Austria.

What is a technical translation?

This post tell you the reason why you need a technical translator, what a technical translation is about, types of translation, its stages and features, main requirements to technical translator. Earlier, I wrote a post «What do you pay for when you order translation?». Firstly, let’s take a closer look at technical translation. And secondly, we analyze the importance of these services. So, let’s start with the definition of the term “translation”.

The translation is a) intellectual activity; b) the result of this mental activity. For example, here is how the translation was defined by the creator of the Russian Empire, Peter I the Great: “It is not necessary to keep speech from a speech in the translation, but after expressing it exactly, in your language already so to write as clearly as life can be.”

On the other hand, one Russian writer, and translator V.A. Zhukovsky treated the translation as follows: “…always in the translation of his tried to produce the action that produces the original”, “… translator remains the creator of expression because the expression has its material, which should use itself, without any guidance and any manual outsider in one of his works”.

In addition, I.I. Recker wrote: “Only those who can think logically can translate. Therefore, translation is a process and result of the transfer of information expressed in one language using equivalent (adequate) text in another one caused by public necessity”. As specialists note, among the main factors affecting the translation, there is the context, grammatical structure of the language from which the translation is performed, and the language to which it is translated, written and oral traditions, and etc.

Types of translation

Most importantly, a technical translation divides into two types: written technical translation and technical interpreting.
Written technical translation (English: translation; German: die Übersetzung; Chinese: 笔译; Russian: письменный перевод) consists in transferring the meaning of the original text into a written document, and a technical translator takes into account the norms and peculiarities of the written speech of two languages.

Interpreting (German: das Dolmetschen; Chinese: 口译; Russian: устный перевод) is about to transfer the meaning of the statement of a representative of the culture of the source language into the target language, taking into account the characteristics of the oral speech of both languages.

Stages of the translation process

So, the following necessary steps of the technical translation process are:
1) Decoding (understanding) the text in the source language;
2) Translation;
3) Encoding (recording, pronunciation) of the received text in the target language.

The technical translator must first determine the unit of translation. Behind this procedure, there is a complex thinking operation. To decode the full meaning of the source text, during a accomplishment of a translation task, a technical translator must consciously and methodically interpret and analyze all its features. Firstly, this process requires a good knowledge of the vocabulary. Especially, technical terminology of a specific industry. Secondly, it requires to know grammar of the source language. So, a technical translator must have a good command of the language and to be able to decode the meaning correctly.

Certainly, the purpose of the translation is to establish an equivalence relationship between the source text and the target language. Meanwhile, a good translation is one that meets two criteria: accuracy (reliability) and originality (conformity with the socio-cultural and socio-economic characteristics of a particular country or region).

The first criterion is the accuracy with which the translation conveys the meaning of the source text. The second criterion is how a Native speaker perceives the translation not as a translation, but as the original text in the language that corresponds to grammatical, syntactical, and idiomatic norms of the language. The criteria used to assess the accuracy of the translation vary depending on the subject matter of the text, the accuracy of the original content, type, function, and use of the text, its literary qualities, social and historical context.

Features of technical translation

Now let`s touch upon the peculiarities of translation of technical documents (technical translation). We are conducting business negotiations and correspondence with international partners—acquisition of equipment or components, which are accompanied by descriptions and instructions in a foreign language. And if the conversational level for communication in a foreign language may be enough, it will be quite challenging to cope with complex technical texts.

That is to say, any technical text is replete with narrow professional terminology, knowledge of which is of great importance for large industrial enterprises and small start-up businesses. As a result, proper translation will help not only to save time and adequately organize work but also to avoid equipment malfunctions, or misunderstanding during negotiations with a foreign partner. In most areas of business, especially companies working closely with international partners, there is technical documentation, the accuracy of which has great importance.

Technical translation is a translation used to exchange specific scientific and technical information between people who speak different languages. With a simplified approach, professional translation is a translation of technical texts. Technical translation actively uses formal and logical style. This type of translation has accuracy, not emotionality, and impersonality. The vocabulary uses many terms of Latin or Greek origin. The grammar of technical translations is characterized by the use of specific and firmly established grammatical norms: indeterminate-personal and impersonal constructions, passive turn; non-personal verb forms are widely used.

Requirements relating to technical translator

The following professional requirements of the technical translator are the following:

1) Knowledge of a foreign language to a degree sufficient to understand the original text;
2) An ability to use working sources of information;
3) Good understanding of specialized terminology, both in the original and the target language;
4) Good knowledge of the field of technology.

To figure out how it all looks real, let’s look at an example. Translation from English into Russian:

Null and void (a legal idiom)
Correct translation: ничтожный (about a deal, a contract).
Verbatim translation: обнулять и аннулировать (reset and cancel!!)

Thus, it turns out that sometimes the right meaning can catch a layperson. Still, much more often, without the necessary degree of immersion, it is easy to get away from the topic and misunderstand. The technical translation must be extremely precise – this is its main difference, the first requirement, and the main difficulty.

Observance of terminology, a form of statements, a clear understanding of translated words, and what does not need for technical translation – this will distinguish a competent specialist who guarantees the necessary result from an amateur or a beginner. Although there is one crucial point: the client must be in constant contact with the technical translator and be prepared to advise him to obtain the most accurate result. When translating technical texts, continuous contact with the customer is one of the main conditions for success.

The author of this post has a reach experience and know how do a high-quality technical translation. I have translated before documents relating to metallurgy, metalworking, machine tools, electrical equipment, hydraulic and pneumatic equipment. Working languages: English, German, Chinese, and Russian. If you would like to ask any questions or want to place an order, Aleksandr is happy to help you.