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Difficulties Translating Technical Documents

Difficulties Translating Technical Documents

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Translating any type of document can be a challenge, but technical texts can be even more difficult. Documents such as instruction manuals, user guides, medical documents, court transcripts, or any type of technical or scientific text require not only an accurate translation of the language used but also an in-depth understanding of the terminology and some of the concepts involved. Whether you are about to hire a linguist to translate your documentation, or are a translator about to take on a technical text, it’s important to understand the specific challenges these documents present.

Conceptual understanding

A translator working on any type of technical or scientific text should have at least a basic understanding of the concept being discussed. This requires some background in the field or experience in translating work generated by professionals in the same industry. A linguist with experience in the medical field, for example, would be much more likely to have a basic understanding of some of the concepts put forth in medical documentation.

Knowledge of terminology

Translating industry-specific terminology also requires a linguist who either has experience working in that industry, or experience translating texts in that field. This is particularly true for the medical and legal industries, for example, each of which involves terminology that may be totally unfamiliar to someone with no background in those fields.

Accuracy is paramount

Whether the technical text is a service guide for a lawn mower or a set of patient instructions for prescribed pharmaceuticals, complete accuracy is absolutely vital for technical and scientific texts. The possible consequences of a poorly translated document can be devastating in the medical and legal fields to be sure. But even with less weighty texts – such as the lawn mower service guide we mentioned earlier – a poorly translated document can result at the very least in customer frustration, and that in turn can damage your company’s reputation and maybe even mean the loss of the customer’s business in the future.

Meeting deadline expectations

Most technical or scientific texts that require translation come with a firm deadline, which means it’s extremely important to work with a linguist who can provide high-quality translations within the timeframe required. This becomes even more of an issue when the text is quite lengthy, such as an operator’s manual, for example. For these types of large-scale projects, the translator will not only need experience as a linguist within the specific industry but also have project management skills that ensure completion of the text by the deadline.

Translating for the global marketplace

If your translated document is intended for use in another country, you’ll need the services of a translator who is also a localization expert. Put very simply, localization involves making sure that the text is appropriate for the target audience, some of whom may come from different cultures and backgrounds. Certain language and images may be inappropriate in other cultures, and the translator needs to be familiar enough with the target audience to be able to identify and modify language and images appropriately.

If you’re a translator getting set to take on a technical or scientific job, make sure you’re ready for the task. Keep in mind everything that’s required for your success. Start with smaller projects, if possible, and always be honest with your client about your level of experience.

If you’re looking for a competent linguist with the experience you need to translate your technical documents, we recommend relying on the services of a reputable translation company. Not only can they connect you with a professional translator with suitable experience; they can also do the “vetting” of that person for you, ensuring that he/she has a proven track record of successful projects completed on time for satisfied clients.

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Difficulties Translating Technical Documents

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