Technical Translations

Did you know that technical translations account for almost 90% of the world’s translation output? This is according to one study carried out in 2002. Well, this does not surprise anybody given the importance attached to technical translation and the multitude of technical information which requires output into understandable languages.

Companies too are becoming global hence; the increased need to be able to effectively communicate with customers.

Technical translation is also a requirement in some parts as part of legislation. An example is the European Union regulation which requires standardized translation as part of provision of technical documentation in a variety of languages.

The aim of technical translation is to convey new technical information to a new audience, often viewed as laypeople by the translator. It is not aimed at reproducing source data as in scientific translation. This is the major difference between technical translation and scientific translation though many people will always use the two interchangeably.

The major functions of technical translation are as below.

Technology education -This is educating the masses about technology. The audience in this case is non-technical. This type of writing leads to the production of user manuals, reports and other technical guides. For an effective education their translation has to be concise.

Traditional technical writing-This is all about writing for an already technical audience. Here the writers need strong technical knowledge and understanding of the descriptions they make. Writings in this type include repair manuals, programming guides and technical specifications.

Technology marketing- This involves writing sales letters, advertisements, brochures etc for technology companies. Writers and translators in this area need as much technical knowledge as the audience.

Types of Technical Documents

There are various types of technical documents produced in industry. The type varies depending on the subject area, products being written about and the industry in which the firm operates. The examples of technical documents frequently produced include the following.

Proposals are ideas put forth by individuals or firms. They generally describe an offer to carry out an undertaking. Their main feature is the persuasive nature they’re written in. The ultimate aim of a proposal is to show that the writer understands the readers needs and give proof that that he is committed to fulfilling his promise. Hence, a translation of proposals has to hold this.

A report consists of a statement containing factual information to enable readers analyze a particular situation and take appropriate action. Accurate translation of the information therefore, is needed in order to retain the writer’s ideas.

Instructions are one of the mainstays of technical communication. Technical writers will probably write more instructional documents than any other type of document. There are several types of instructional document. A few these are user guides and repair manuals. Repair manuals are designed for readers who are not necessarily the actual users of the product, most likely engineers. Hence, the translator in this area has to be a traditional technical writer. Basically, for safety reasons.


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