Technical translation deals with fields such as engineering, construction, environmental protection and technology, information technology, transport, automation, etc. Common types of translation texts that fall under technical translation are user manuals, safety instructions, reports, quick-start guides, setup instructions and applications.
Keeping terminology consistent is very important when translating technical texts. While synonyms are perfectly acceptable in translations of fiction and marketing texts, they are avoided in technical translations.
It is a good idea to create a special term base for use in future translations. Ideally, the term base should be created through a joint effort by both the translator and the customer. Even very technically minded translators may not be familiar with the terms normally used by people working in the fields of packaging or pumping systems, for example. If possible, it is also a good idea to provide the translator with any previous translations for reference.
Using translation software
Translation software is indispensable in translating technical texts. Translation software (e.g. Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast, etc.) memorises translated texts by storing them in translation memories as segments.
In the case of texts from the same field, this often makes every subsequent translation easier and should help improve quality as well. This is due to the fact that the translator can use the translation memory to look up previous translations of a term.
When translating a text, it is always important to consider the reader of the translation and the way they might understand it. For example, while Estonians understand the date 01.02.2016 as the first of February, Americans would see it as the second of January. Additionally, the Estonian language uses the 24-hour system. Sometimes it is also a good idea to list prices in the local currency. Here, it is important to remember the rule that, in English texts, the currency symbol comes before the price, while in Estonian it comes after.
A quality translation of a poor original text?
Technical translations should be accurate and follow the original text, but sometimes it turns out that the source text contains errors. This can happen, for example, if the source text itself is a translation as well (English translations of Chinese user manuals, for example, are very common). In this case, it is important for the translator to think critically and also remember to inform the customer of any errors.
Editing and quality assurance
Quality assurance of technical texts is performed using special quality assurance applications, such as xBench. Such applications can automatically identify, for example, errors in the use of terms as well as various inconsistencies (untranslated text, differing translations, number mismatch, etc.). Since translators can sometimes make mistakes too, translations should always be reviewed by a language editorand, if necessary, a specialist editor. Customer feedback is also important.
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