Technical translation is the process of converting documents written by technical authors into foreign languages – something that requires specialised knowledge of the subject involved, as well as the language expertise to translate the content itself.
The most obvious example of this is translating research papers and studies on technical subjects like artificial intelligence or medicine. However, globalised business has expanded the use of technical translation into a much wider range of practical use cases for modern businesses.
When do you need technical translation?
While translating medical studies and scientific findings are some of the most important use cases of technical translation, corporate businesses are actually the most likely to need this service in a number of situations.
#1: Publishing industry case studies in foreign languages
In today’s data-driven environment, brands are increasingly forced to publish their own case studies with unique data relevant to their industry. The good news is that accessing such data has never been easier, but translating this kind of content requires more than the language skills you’ll get from regular translation.
You also need the technical understanding of the topics being covered in your case studies and the data processes being used to back them up.
#2: Translating patents for foreign markets
Translating patents isn’t only a linguistic practice; it’s also a legal one where your obligations can vary from one market to another. In this case, your translation team needs the right level of technical knowledge about your product and the legal smarts to make sure your patent is both valid in every market and correctly worded in every language.
#3: Translating user manuals for foreign markets
Smartphones essentially mean people today are walking around with computers in their pockets and connectivity is only going to increase as the Internet of Things brings cars, buildings and entire cities into the mix.
Consumer and business technology is only getting bigger and technical translators find themselves dealing with user manuals more and more.
#4: Localising code strings for software
With every new phone and computer comes thousands or millions of pieces of software promising to complete all kinds of tasks. Once again, user manuals are back on the agenda, but technical translators will also often find themselves involved in the software localisation process, particularly when it comes to translating code strings.
This helps developers from all language backgrounds work on the software platform.
#5: Translating health & safety documents
One of the most important applications of technical translation is converting health and safety instructions. This can accompany user manuals with consumer tech, keep workers safe in factories and other potentially hazardous locations, prevent people from getting hurt in public spaces and save businesses from culpability when the worst happens.
Translation powered by technical knowledge
Certain translation projects only require the necessary linguistic skills to convert content from one language into another. However, technical subjects generally require a certain level of topical knowledge to achieve the accuracy you require. A mouse means something very different to a farmer than an IT consultant and technical fields are filled with terminology that has unique meanings regular translators may not be aware of.
At a more creative level, your translators may need to make subtle changes to the wording in your original document for them to make sense in your target languages and it’s imperative they have the subject knowledge required to know any changes they make are 100% accurate.