What distinguishes technical translations and why to work only with specialised providers

Contrary to what you might think, technical translations are not exclusive to purely technical businesses, like engineering ones or manufacturers. Almost every company has technical documents that require a specialised professional to write them. Among others, as we’ll see later, manuals and product catalogues. Their accurate translation is necessary to ensure an effective and safe use of your products and services.

For achieving the best result and ensuring that the texts convey the meaning accurately, clearly and adapted to the target market, it’s necessary to take into account the specific characteristics of technical translations and to know what to look at for finding the best translator to work with.

Photo by Antonio Garcia on Unsplash

Types of technical documents

The technical specialisation covers a broad range of texts, mainly with an informative character. Among the documents that require technical translations, are:

  • Manuals (for installation, use, maintenance, security, etc.)
  • Product catalogues, data sheets and product specifications
  • Interfaces of software, web applications and proprietary platforms
  • Content related to regulations and standards (e. g. GDPR, certifications, etc.)
  • Training content
  • Support information and online help
  • Terms and conditions
  • Promotional brochures and advertising materials
  • Corporate videos

It’s a very wide field and the translation of some of these documents is also part of marketing translations or economical translations. Even with such variety, where every document requires a specific adaptation, there are some common aspects that must be considered to ensure that the information can be clearly understood in the Spanish market.

Target audience of technical translations

In technical translations, taking into account the target audience of your text is key. Translating a security manual for building workers it’s not the same as a product catalogue for B2B customers, and neither localising the interface of a platform created for final clients or online training for the company’s employees.

Depending on the specialisation level of the specific audience of each technical text, it’ll be necessary to adapt the style to be more or less formal. And in some cases, abbreviations and technicalities will have to be explained while in other cases it won’t be necessary to do so, since they would be known by the target audience.

Accurate transmission of the information

To make the content unequivocally understood and to avoid confusion and incidences, besides taking special care to the accuracy of the terminology and adapting the style, it’s necessary to make the text simple, clear, objective, and attractive.

The translator must be a native of the target market and know in depth the sector, the specific jargon, and the target audience. This is the only way to tailor the message for fulfilling its informative function, being true to the original, and conveying:

  • Security
  • Professionality
  • Relevance
  • Interest

Most important is avoiding mistranslations that could lead to incidences or misunderstandings. A bad technical translation can incur extra costs arising from claims, incidences, and technical support. In the following image you can see some real examples of technical translation errors found on the Internet:

  • The renewable energy sources that appear in the graph of the first example are called and correctly spelled “solar térmica”, “fotovoltaica” and “hidráulica” in Spanish from Spain.
  • The second example contains spelling mistakes, too many anglicisms (while a choice could have been easily made to use the recommended alternatives “iniciar sesión” and “bloquear”), and its wording leaves much scope for improvement.
  • The text of the third example creates ambiguity. There is no doubt that a professional translation of these contents would have led to clearer texts for the Spanish audience.

Style of technical texts

As we have already seen, the style must be adjusted to the target audience of the particular document, but in technical translations in general, a formal style and a neutral tone are used, transmitting the information with objectivity and thoroughness, and being consistent with your brand voice.

A technical text should be:

  • Clear: understandable and without ambiguities that could cause confusion.
  • Specific: without generalisations and with an accurate use of technicalities.

These attributes should be maintained when translating your text. You have dedicated many resources in developing the original technical documentation and you can ensure to receive high-quality technical translations that accurately transmit the information to the Spanish market.

Working with trustworthy freelance translators for all the technical documentation of your company will allow you to maintain the uniformity and the quality level since we’ll know in depth your business, products and services, your terminology and style preferences, and your specific needs.

The translator specialised in technical translations

Technical translators, besides knowing the market and mastering the target language, are specialised in specific thematic fields, where we have broad experience to offer the best results.

In my case, I’m Environmental Engineer and have a Licentiate Degree in Environmental Science. I worked as a Product Application Engineer in a German multinational company of the photovoltaic sector for 4 years, coordinated a business management project in an SME of the environmental sector, and have over 5 years of experience translating technical documentation in the following fields:

  • Energy and environment.
  • Industry and business management.
  • Trade, distribution and logistics.
  • Technology, IT and cybersecurity.
  • Compliance and data protection.

In particular, these are some of the technical projects I’ve worked on:

Moreover, professional technical translators:

  • Know in depth the specific terminology, both in the source language as in the target language.
  • Have the ability to express complex concepts through simple language.
  • Perform exhaustive research to find the best translation solutions depending on the context.
  • Use specialised tools to ensure the consistency and accuracy of the texts.
  • Learn continuously about our specialisation fields to keep updated.

Format of technical documents

The great diversity of document types that embrace technical translation is found in many different formats. This requires an additional adaptation (not only linguistic). For instance, when the space is limited or if the text is part of graphs.

Depending on the format, is very different to work with the following:

  • Paper documents like manuals and brochures: need to care especially the final layout to avoid detecting failures after the printing process.
  • Contents of training and proprietary digital platforms: need to consider the user experience and the images.
  • Demonstrative videos: need to bear in mind the duration and if the synchronisation of the text with other audiovisual elements is necessary.

Specific terminology in technical translation

One of the characteristics of technical translations is that they contain lots of specific terminology of the particular field. Namely terms and sentences that are not common in everyday language. Each field within the technical translation has its characteristic technicalities and jargon. The terminology accepted for each thematic field is established by various official organisms. In Spain the responsible is the UNE (Asociación Española de Normalización), in Germany is the DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung), in the UK the British Standards Institution (BSI), and at an international level, we have the ISO and the CEI.

Also, many companies have their own terminology, such as trade names and trademarks, products and services, specific terms to describe their properties and benefits, brand jargon, own abbreviations, etc., and have specific preferences according to the brand voice. So knowing the project very well enables the translator to apply specific adaptations for each client.

In this kind of translation, it’s especially important to have access to resources like glossaries, specialised dictionaries, termbases, translation memories, etc. These together with the reference material from the client enable terminology management and ease the documentation process.

Accuracy in technical texts

To achieve a text that is as much specific and clear as possible, using adequate equivalents in the target language is a must. That is, to find technical terms that convey the same meaning as the source text. For a non-specialised translator, it can be very hard to find the proper translation of a specific term in a technical field. But with enough previous experience to understand the source text and its nuances, translation challenges are solved with naturality adapting the content to its specific context and field.

With enough previous experience, the source text and its nuances are understood, and translation challenges can be solved with naturality adapting the content to its specific context and field. CLICK TO TWEET

Professional technical translators are in continuous training in our specialisation fields to know the new terms and latest technical developments. Furthermore, we dedicate part of the translation process to the documentation for identifying, finding, assessing, and consulting the necessary information sources to achieve the highest accuracy of the translated text without compromising the agreed deadlines.

Relevance of consistency in technical translations

Technical texts have to keep a terminology consistency to ease the comprehension of the content. For example, naming an equipment component in different ways throughout the documentation could create confusion, both for specialised personal if the text is part of an installation manual or for the final customer in the case of a catalogue or a user manual.

In addition, the style used should be homogeneous and, in the case of websites and software, it’s important that the user interfaces are consistently localised. For example, that the “Start” button is always translated in the same way and not sometimes as “Inicio”, others as “Comenzar” and others as “Empieza”.

Useful information to provide when ordering technical translations

As you can imagine, in order to have all these aspects into account and making the text as clear as possible, it’s indispensable to provide this information and the relevant reference material (including images) when you order technical translations.

Were you aware of all the elements that have to be considered when performing technical translations? Is there any other relevant factor that you may add? See you in the comments area!

If you want to inform about your products or train your staff, stakeholders, or clients in the Spanish market, I can help you. Thanks to my translation and proofreading services from English and/or German into Spanish, the information will be clear, natural, and accurate.

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