Language or meaning – what is more important in translation?

Anyone that deals with professional translation or does research into translation will definitely say that both are the most important. It’s because translation is good only when it captures correctly the meaning of the source content and is correct in terms of the language and style. This is what translation would be like in the ideal world, and, first and foremost, when it comes to fiction and marketing texts. Whenever language itself is important and its form gives meaning to the text, the language of translation must be impeccable. And what about other types of texts, for example technical ones?

Not every translator is or must be a person of letters, as not every type of translation requires literary skills.  In some industries language itself is less important than the meaning and substantive form of content.

Technical translation

Technical translation is a perfect example of rendition that does not require literary skills. What matters most in this case is having knowledge of a given subject area and being able to understand the content and use the jargon specific for this area.

To translate technical texts you also have to be able to read technical drawings or other pictures used to illustrate the content. It may seem that translation of drawings is the easiest part of the job. All you need to do is to look up some terms in a dictionary and the translation is ready. The truth is that this is not that easy. Many words used in a given area are so specific that their right equivalents may apparently mean something completely different.

And this is the most difficult thing when it comes to technical translation. Proficiency in the two languages in question in not enough. You also need extensive substantive knowledge, which is often of primary importance.

Language, industry and a translation agency

Technical translations are now one of the most common specialist translations. Technical texts are translated in so many industries that professional translation agencies hire from a dozen or so to even several dozen people dealing with this type of translation. Such people often have technical or engineering education. They may be, for example, former employees of technical companies or do translation as an additional job. They do not have to be graduates of philology studies, but their proficiency in foreign languages is confirmed by relevant certificates or simply through a reliable language competence test, conducted in the translation agency.

It is worth noting that technical translations may differ significantly from each other, mainly due to the diversity of industries. One translator will deal with technical translations for the railway industry, while another will translate texts relating to agriculture, mining or metallurgy. There are, of course, also professionals specializing in several areas of technical translation. The translation agency’s task is to choose the right translators for a given project and ensure the correct course of the translation process.

Work on the project – technical translations and ensuring the highest quality

Dealing with so specialist areas, it is essential to ensure consistent terminology. Repeating the same terms is a must in this case. Hence the rules applicable to translation of technical texts are completely different from those to be followed while translating, for example, marketing content, which reads better when synonyms are used. In technical industries accurate words are of key importance, and the style of the text is not so much important. This is so because technical texts are to convey a specific message that is not subject to interpretation, but is understood by all readers in the same way.

It is particularly difficult to ensure such terminology consistency when a larger project, involving a whole team of translators, is handled. To enable them to produce translation of the highest quality, the translation agency provides them with CAT tools, i.e. software facilitating the translation process.

With such tools several people can work efficiently on the same translation project at a time, using translation memories that prompt the right terms. The highest quality is also ensured through extensive experience in working for a given industry, and regular cooperation with the same customer. By doing so, software facilitating technical translation is fed with knowledge to be used by professionals. In specialist industries proofreading by professionals in a given area is often done, and sometimes the translation agency cooperates with the customer, that provides educational materials or even training for individuals that are going to cooperate with it on a regular basis.



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