Technical Translation: Why Precision is Key and How to Achieve It

Last Updated March 30, 2021

technical translation

Learn why technical translation requires extensive, industry-specific knowledge on top of excellent language skills.

When it comes to technical translation, precision is key.

The translator must not only know both the source and target languages very well, but must also intimately understand the terminology used in a particular industry as well as the true meaning of the text.

In this article, we’ll discuss which industries require technical translation and who is best suited to take on this task.

Which industries need technical translation?

Technical translation generally covers practical applications of scientific and hi-tech information across a wide variety of industries:

  • Construction
  • Automotive
  • Agriculture

Examples of these kinds of texts include but are not limited to:

  • Installation, operator, maintenance, and user manuals
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS)
  • Technical drawings
  • Engineering textbooks
  • User guides

This type of translation differs from others in that it requires a given word to mean exactly what it should. There can be no room for interpretation on the part of the reader.

What would happen, for example, if an engineer building or repairing industrial machinery chose the wrong type of material or the wrong tool due to a mistake in translation?

Even a slight error in technical translation can put the health and safety of the user in jeopardy.

Why Precision is Key

First and foremost, the translator must be proficient in the verbiage and terminology used in their respective industry.

For example, imagine you are tasked with translating an operating manual for agribusiness workers and another for agricultural workers. One has to do with large scale farming and big business while the other is the art or science of cultivating the ground and rearing livestock. Similar, yet different— meaning the translation cannot be done using broad strokes.

The translator must correctly decipher these words, terms, and expressions, and interpret them in the target language, for starters.

Technical translation services need to pay attention to multiple factors:

  • Command over multiple verticals like industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, industrial manufacturing, software, automobiles, utilities, electronics, informatics, etc.
  • Accuracy of information
  • Consistency of information across many languages
  • A familiarity with any distinct terminology used in a specific industry
  • An ability of translators to get up to speed with a company or product in aspects of usage details, technical terms, and internal glossary
  • Reliability and dependability for a variety of tasks, especially time-sensitive ones
  • Ability to master and use technical dictionaries
  • Excellent skills in both translation and interpretation
  • Expertise in understanding technical jargons specific to a country, industry and region
  • Confidence to navigate any intricate cultural factors that may emerge somewhere

This is why the translation process begins at the time of writing. Simplifying the source material will make it easier to translate and understand. The original document should use clear, simple language for the benefit of everyone.

How to Choose the Right Technical Translator

There are a few things you need to keep an eye out for when hiring the right technical translation agency. Here are a few:

1. They have deep industry expertise

The benefit of working with a translation agency is that they can choose the most competent persons to do a particular job. They can find an expert in the field to get the job done right.

2. They have a wide knowledge base

Look for an agency with deep knowledge of a subject (e.g. translators that specialize in manufacturing) and/or a translation agency with a wide breadth of knowledge, to allow for more flexibility.

Keep in mind it will depend on the needs of your company; if you specialize in one area, you may not need a breadth of knowledge, but if your company has a wider scope, you will need a translator who can do it all.

3. They make use of CATs

To ensure consistent, high-quality translation, an agency may make use of  computer-assisted translation. CAT software is used by translators and translation agencies that care about developing a knowledge base in various fields.

These tools allow for smooth and efficient translation based on previously translated texts and programmable translation glossaries—thematic dictionaries assembled through previous translation projects.

By making using of these tools, technical translators will consistently use the correct terms prompted automatically by the software, making it easier for users to understand the manual.

With CAT software, you can be sure the commissioned translation will be done right. Therefore, manufacturing companies typically employ translation providers that make efficient use of CAT and other translation tools.

Trust the Technical Translation Experts

Summa Linguae’s technical translation services will help you convey your message effectively and powerfully across the globe.

We take care to provide the highest quality, accurate technical translation and ensure your translated text expresses your intended message.

Get in touch to deliver your message around the world today.

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