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What to consider when hiring technical translation services

Technical translation is the translation of texts that can be subsumed under the generic term of technical documentation. Without entering the study of textual typology, texts of this genre have specific characteristics: they are informational texts or content-oriented texts that accompany a product or service, and that describe their characteristics, instruct in their use, etc.

Within the genre of technical documentation there are many textual subtypes (manuals, catalogs, guides, data sheets, etc.).

Depending on the textual subtype, there are established textual conventions regarding their contents, the structuring of these contents and their presentation.

Depending on the target groups (experts, operators, consumers), they can be more or less "technical", that is, the content can be more or less complex and require more or less specialized knowledge.

Depending on the textual subtype, the technical translation may include: product catalogs, parts or accessories catalogs, data sheet, product guides, installation or assembly manuals, product´s instructions for use, maintenance manuals, repair manuals, machine text translation, text translation of diagnostic devices, technical tender documents, teaching guides or tutorials or other training material, software, web applications, translation of online help and technical-legal translation.

The translation of certain textual subtypes of the technical documentation genre requires knowledge of legal translation, for example: sales conditions and service provision, guarantee clauses, license agreements and technical-advertising translation.

Some marketing materials can be considered technical translations as some of them have a high content of technical terms or technical jargon (an unstandardized terminology), precisely to appeal to certain groups of consumers. Advertising translation or transcreation of the following text types requires special skills: advertising brochures, advertising web content, advertisements or advertising campaigns, corporate videos or advertising videos about products or services.

The types presented here are not at all exhaustive. There are more types and subtypes, as well as mixed types or complex textual types (documents that are made up of several subtypes) and each of these types usually follows certain conventions that, in addition, may differ according to the destination market.

The skills of a good technical translator

From the characteristics listed here you can derive the skills that a professional technical translator must meet: a high domain of knowledge area, a high command of the specific terminology of the area of ​​knowledge, both in the starting language and in the target language, theoretical knowledge of terminology and terminology management, different text types knowledge, know how about how to use the techniques of transferring these conventions from one language to another, curiosity and research capacity, astery of the tools used today in professional translation (assisted translation systems and terminology managers) and a professional ethic that forces him to get to the bottom of the issues and look for the best solutions.

Technical translation is much more delicate than the definition allows to perceive and it becomes even more difficult in the case of specialized translation, since there is a wide variety of thematic areas within this sector.

Translating is defined as expressing in one language what was written or expressed before in another. The translation process acquires a new dimension of complexity, since each text deals with a specific field, each of which has its own specialized language: terminology, phraseology, stylistic norms, and own writing and content guidelines.

In recent decades, the accelerated development of technology and science, as well as advances in telecommunications, have triggered the need to establish clear communication between and within the different fields of knowledge. Technical or specialized translation deals with texts that belong to a specific knowledge sector.

That is why the formation of the translator within a particular field is essential: the technical translator must: understand not only the terms, but the concepts to which each of them refers, both in the language of origin and in the language target language; know the writing guidelines or style of the area to be treated; understand the techniques of specialized translation. The translator must know the field that translates and be almost an expert of it, or work hand in hand with a specialist.

Particularly in the industrial, medical or legal fields, among many others, technical and specialized translations are essential. Reference is usually made to four main sectors: technical, scientific, economic and legal, although new technologies should not be forgotten, an international projection field that is advancing at an incomparable rate. However, to define the different areas that are part of the field of technical translation, the UNESCO International Nomenclature on Science and Technology is often used.

It is a technical translator who must perform a technical or specialized translation; It is necessary to have a knowledge of the sector that translates: that is, to know the concepts, to master the rules of writing and style of the field and to be constantly updated, since the technical translation deals with areas that evolve very quickly. Technical translators often work together with experts to ensure the fidelity and quality of their specialized translations.


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