Technical translation: When you need more than a language expert

Published on August 8th, 2017

technical translation

Technical translation requires far more than language fluency. Its name derives from technical writing and translating such documents in complex fields like software, chemistry, engineering, finance, healthcare – and many more.

Which means language skills alone aren’t enough for translators to understand the meaning of technical documents and capture the same meaning in another language. For this kind of technical translation, you need more than a language expert.


The challenges of technical translation

Of course, we know technical authoring and writing involves technical language, and your translator needs a solid grasp of the correct terminology in both languages. However, technical terms such as these are generally standardised between languages, which actually makes translating these terms more straightforward.

The challenges of technical translation lie elsewhere.


Subject expertise

The first thing you need from a technical translator is expertise in your field. Above all, they need to fully understand your original piece of technical writing before they can recreate it in another language. You can’t translate what you don’t understand – it’s as simple as that.

As various studies have revealed, technical authoring can’t be translated word-for-word. Instead, your translator will interpret your technical documents and create a new meaning for each target audience that fits with each unique language.


Cognitive psychology and technical communication

If you’ve ever tried to explain something complex to someone else, you’ll know it takes more than fluent English to get your message across. Without understanding how people’s minds interpret the information you give them, problems quickly arise.

There is no room for these problems when you’re translating medical journals or safety guides.

Much like a language teacher needs to know how to teach, technical translators rely on cognitive psychology and technical communication skills to do their job. Understanding and translating your documents isn’t enough; they need to be translated in a way that’s easily understandable in each language.


Making technical translation manageable

One of the other challenges you’ll often have with technical translation is the sheer volume of material. The worst part is you tend to repeat chunks of text across different translations and this means you could be paying a translator to do the same thing multiple times.

Thankfully, technical translation lends itself very nicely to technology. First of all, we have translation memory, which allows us to create glossaries of all those technical terms for each language. This means they’re always there when you need them, cutting our unnecessary repetition.

Then we have automatic translation, which generally has higher accuracy with technical translation than more creative texts. This allows technical translators to cut out the first draft of translation in many cases, reverting to a more editorial and proofreading role.

When automatic translation works with technical writing, it works a treat.


As we say, it takes more than language experts to provide perfect technical translation. If you need any further advice on translation or other language services, get in touch with our team today.

Posted on: August 8th, 2017