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Technical translation: What do you need from your specialist translators?

Technical translation is responsible for making sure instruction manuals, user guides, research papers and a wide range of technical documents are accurately translated into other languages.

Accuracy is imperative because any language errors in your technical documents could make you liable for damages if people follow your flawed guidance. This means that you need more than language expertise when it comes to translating technical documents. In this article we’re going to discuss what you need to look for in a team of technical translators.


Technical subject knowledge

The first thing you need from a technical translator, aside from the necessary linguistic expertise, is subject knowledge. If you’re publishing documents for heavy machinery, then get yourself translators with experience in this specific field. Likewise, if you’re publishing a medical study on a new innovative treatment, you need linguistic pros who understand the subject matter and the technical language involved.

This is important because a lot of your documentation won’t translate seamlessly into other languages and your translators need enough subject knowledge to know when literal translations aren’t delivering the intended meaning.


100% accuracy all the way

As we said in the intro, 100% accuracy is crucial with technical translation because people’s safety often relies on these documents. You’ll also find a lot of repetition in technical translation and this can increase the risk of errors or oversights. To help deal with this, it’s worth looking at translation memory to automate the repetitive stages of your translation project. This allows your translators to focus on the unique language in each document and then make sure the automated translations in your documents are accurate.

Not only does this improve accuracy, it also cuts down on time and expenses with your technical translation projects – especially if you have a large volume of documents to translate.


Consistent tone and voice

Technical writing has a reputation for being cold and sterile because its role is to inform, not entertain. However, there are times when it helps to inject some personality into technical writing as well. Imagine a safety manual for construction equipment that needs to make an impression on people using those machines or working around them. While this is a serious topic, you might find people remember the information in your document more effectively if you lighten the tone with some humour and illustrations.

Sometimes a 300-page anthology of text isn’t always the best way to get your message across; other times, it might be the only professional route you feel is viable. Either way, your technical translators need to make sure the tone and voice you choose to deliver your message is consistently delivered across every language.


Consistent level of complexity

Another key area of consistency your translators need to maintain is the complexity of your documents. If your aim is to communicate a technical concept in simple language, you want similarly simple explanations in every language. Likewise, if your target audience is industry veterans with decades of technical knowledge, you don’t want some of your documents to sound patronising or overly simplistic.

In some cases, your translators may need to find alternatives to direct translations for the sake of maintaining consistency in tone, voice and complexity. Once again, this is why subject knowledge is so important – so your translators can make these decisions for you.

If you have any questions about technical translation, you can speak to our team of experts by picking up the phone or reaching out to us on social media.

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