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Why is technical translation important?

By Rowena Smyth, 

Q: What’s a guaranteed way to bore your friends at a dinner party? 

A: Start talking about work, using jargon, acronyms, and generally making it impossible for them to understand. 

It’s a guaranteed eye-glazer, and with good reason. There’s really no need for anyone who doesn’t work in the same industry as you to know the specialist terms that you use to communicate complex ideas easily to your colleagues. If you’re not a marketing professional, the idea of ‘lead scoring’ probably means nothing to you; if you’re not in finance, then GAAPs probably represent a gap in your knowledge.  

In almost every industry, there is a language that takes time and expertise to understand. This points to something that those engaging with translation service providers should be aware of. If you require translation that contains more than a smattering of ‘insider speak’, then you may well need a specialised technical translator on your side.

What is technical translation? 

We give a far broader overview of technical translation in a separate blog. But to summarise, it involves the translation of documents written by industry professionals using specialised terminology. A professional technical translation service will use translators with dual specialisms who are fluent in the required languages but are also industry experts in the area to which the documents belong. When you need technical documents translated, a general translator may not be able to provide the required insight and terminology that you need. If the translator is not an expert in the industry, they will essentially have to learn the new terminology on the job. This means the process will take more time, have a higher likelihood of inaccuracies, and ultimately could result in increased spend on your part.

Why technical translation is important

Technical translation is a highly skilled task, but it’s one that is extremely important in our globalised world. Here are five reasons why technical translation is so important: 

Accuracy

Technical documents often contain terms with extremely specific meanings. A common example of a document that may need technical translation is a user manual or product guide. If the guide in question is detailing information such as the installation of a new factory machine, or a complex piece of software, then it’s essential that the correct terminology is used consistently throughout. Ideally a technical translator working on an engineering document will already ‘know their anions’ and won’t be flummoxed when they come across a ‘farad’. 

Differences in format

It’s not just the words that a technical translator needs to be aware of. In some countries, there are significant differences in the way information is formatted. Financial translators, for example, need to be aware that figures are not always expressed in the same way between languages – there’s potential for costly mistakes to occur there! 

Compliance 

Sometimes accuracy means more than simply communicating the idea correctly. It can be the difference between staying on the right side of the law or not. Another type of document that technical translators are often called to work on its patents. A simple error in terminology here could result in your company losing out rights you thought you’d acquired in a new target market. As well as being an expert in the required industry, a technical translator will understand the nuances of the law in the market the documents are being translated for. Thus, ensuring that you tick all the boxes when you translate legal documents such as patents.

Cultural Nuance

The terminology required for technical translation is complex. But effective technical translation takes more than knowing the correct meaning of the terms in the target language. It also requires localisation. Like any good translator, a technical translator will understand cultural nuances in the target language that allow them to communicate the information in the right tone, as well as being accurate. This is extremely important; for example, what may be the correct way to give instructions in one language may come across rude in another.

Brand Perception

As every marketing professional knows, the way your customers see your brand is everything. By making the effort to have technical documents accurately translated, it shows a level of respect and care for your customers that will only be reciprocated. On a broader level, you have spent time and effort cultivating a brand you are proud of in your home country. You want to be certain that this ‘brand persona’ carries into your new target market. A technical translator will ensure this happens, ensuring that the text is transcreated throughout the process.

Hopefully, it’s clear that technical translation is a vital service, and will be relevant to almost every industry at some stage. You won’t always need it, of course, as there will be times when a more general translation service will be appropriate. But, when you do, it pays not to cut corners. While technical translation is more expensive than ‘standard’ translation services, it will almost certainly add value and help avoid potentially costly errors. If you do need technical translations completed on a regular basis, tools such as translation memory and a glossary can help reduce time (and cost) as well.

We are technical translation specialists

If your company needs technical documents translated, get in touch with Brightlines to discuss your requirements. With thousands of specialist translators across the globe, we cover all commercial languages and the major industries from marketing to finance. From healthcare to tourism, and we’re sure to be able to provide your business with the high-quality technical translations you need.

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