Have you ever bought a product with “assembly required” and found the directions to be a mish-mash of nonsensical word-salad? Those directions were not much help, were they? You were lucky if you didn’t break the thing trying to get it put together!
Technical translation is a whole sub-field of translation services, and it’s even harder to get it done right.
But technical translation is increasingly in demand as more specs, medical documents, engineering documents, instructions manuals, manuscripts and other specialized texts reach global audiences.
Why is it so tough to get these documents translated well?
Technical documents are difficult to begin with. Do you remember the last time you read a legal contract or waded through a medical paper? The language is dense and difficult, and unless you are an expert in the field it’s easy to get lost.
These technical documents use “jargon,” a specialized vocabulary for a certain field of study. These terms will not be found in an ordinary dictionary, and to use and translate them correctly, you really need to have some background in that field.
More than any other kind of text, these documents need to be perfectly translated in order for the other party to understand clearly. It’s not the time for interpretation; the words have to be there just as they are in the original, or the whole thing could be a failure.
Translators may find words that do not yet exist in the language! This may be hard to believe, but there are highly specialized technical terms that nobody has thought to translate into certain languages yet. This means that the translator will actually be coining new terms, and they have to have experience in their chosen field to do this.
If you need a technical translation done, there are a few ways to find a good service.
First, look for someone who specializes in your field. For example, if you have medical documents that need to be translated, get a service that specializes in the medical field, or has lots of experience doing medical translations. There are translation services that specialize in certain fields, and some that have a few specialties they deal in.
Try to find a translator who has some experience in the field, outside of the translation work they have done. Look for certification and experience. If you need an engineering document translated, look for a translator who is also an engineer. They will have a deeper understanding not only of the terminology specific to engineering, but also how to write for engineers.
You will need a translator who not only knows their field, but also knows the culture and country that you are selling your product to. Find someone who has lived and worked in that country for a long time, or is native-born and bilingual.
Finally, look for membership in linguistics organizations. The more language certification they have, the better.
Technical translation is growing in demand, and in today’s global marketplace, whether you sink or swim could be determined by the translation of your texts. Find a good technical translator once and you can stick with them forever.
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