What is technical translation?

March 2, 2024
8 minutes
What is technical translation?
Before we move in the realm technical translation, there’s something you ought to know first: technical language is everywhere. Databases, user guides, and other forms of tech writing all contain highly specialized terminology and complex concepts. They require technical communicators and translators alike to be super precise with words. If you’re an international business, you need accurate and effective technical translation to teach your customers about your products and services – no matter where on Earth they live.
Table of Contents

What’s technical translation?

What’s technical translation?

Technical translators translate technical texts – their ideas and all – from one language into another. To do their job smoothly, they’ve got to know how to speak technicalese in both their languages, actually understand the content, and be able to convey the message across.

Technical terminology is more often than not industry specific, and every language and culture express that in it its own unique way. If you translate something the wrong way, you can alter its entire meaning, and thus cause serious damage.

Why is technical translation important?

Why is technical translation important?

Sound technical translation is key to any product or service’s international success. Many businesses want to expand into other markets and therefore need all their documentation and manuals in the local language(s).

Let’s say you’ve launched a piece of software globally: if you don’t localize its interface and manual, your customers abroad won’t know how to use. Problems frequently arise from unrealized sales and disappointed customers. That, in turn, can negatively tarnish a company’s brand reputation on multiple fronts.

Technical translation helps companies:

- Offer complex documentation (e.g. databases, product specs, user manuals) in their clients’ language(s). This boosts the customer experience too.

- Meet national and international standards for products and services (e.g. labels, safety instructions)

- Protect intellectual property abroad (e.g. patents)

- Broaden their reach and sales by localizing the products themselves

How does one translate technical writing?

How does one translate technical writing?

Good technical translation requires technical writers and translators (with subject matter expertise) work together. Many also rely on translation technology, neural machine translation, translation memory, terminology banks, and automated quality assurance checks to speed the process up. Better still, the tools available at their disposal today make even the most challenging of projects run as smooth as Swiss clockwork.

In this day and age, technical translation tends to take on one of three forms, depending on the nature of the project at hand:

Human Translation

Human translation means that real people translate technical documents by hand, and have know-how to do so. One major advantage of this that they guarantee precision – so long as you work with specialized providers.

They understand context and culture behind each language they speak. Hence, they’re good at resolving ambiguities, they know how their target audience thinks, ticks, and communicates, and they strive for high quality.

By contrast, as human translation is a manual task, and thus slow and costly. Moreover, translators aren’t always available time or expertise-wise, thereby delaying the whole process.

Machine Translation (MT)

Machine translation (MT) is fast and cost-effective, because everything about it automated and automatic. Currently, neural machine translation (NMT) is the most advanced and reliable from of MT on the market. Special software translates texts seamlessly from one language to another without any human intervention.

However, it comes with a huge disadvantage: machines aren’t people, and therefore lack the ability to interpret context and read cultural subtleties. Real linguists, on the other hand, know how to write in a wide range of tones and styles, and are creative at expressing their ideas.

The above said, MT is also an excellent candidate for carrying technical translation out because of the highly specialized terminology and equally as structured documents often involved. Technical documentation tends to lack idiomatic expressions and nuances. Accuracy moreover outweighs fluency. Therefore, MT can do a decent job if you embrace the right technology.

Post Editing (MTPE)

Machine translation post editing (MTPE) brings the best of both human and machine translation together, and is now a popular choice among businesses and translation bureaus alike. Here, professional linguists edit draft translations produced by MT engines for accuracy, clarity and excellence.

MTPE is often favored by companies with large localization projects it offers the speed and low cost of MT whilst ensuring high-quality standards. The larger the data set you load into your MT engine, the better the results you’ll get. Moreover, with the advent of machine-based deep learning, every linguist-reviewed MT feeds into the system, thereby improving translation quality over time.

Kinds of technical translation

Kinds of technical translation

Technical translation deals with plethora of disciplines – from healthcare to technology to finance and beyond. The most common of kinds of technical documentation businesses get translated include:

Patents: Companies have to protect their inventions abroad. Patent translations should be accurate and meet the specific legal regulations of each country.

Health & safety documents: Every country’s got its own set of health and safety regulations. However, beware: the slightest mistranslation thereof can cost lives.

User manuals: Translating these are a must if you deal in software, hardware, and electronics, and you want your consumers abroad to know how to use them properly.

Databases: Organizations who write and translate help articles, websites, blogs, FAQs, and other content from their database in multiple languages deliver the best user experience to customers overseas.

Software interfaces: Translating and localizing interface elements (e.g. buttons, menus, labels) for software alongside web and mobile apps is critical for a product’s international success.

Product descriptions: When businesses translate their product descriptions, they can expand their sphere of influence and promote their goods abroad.

The many challenges of technical translation

Quality and accuracy are always a priority in any translation project – and even more so in technical translation. Small mistakes can lead to serious consequences: accidents, fines, lawsuits, loss of reputation, and even patent rejection… you name it. Should any of the above arise, the company in question may have to withdraw from whatever market their working in all together.

In other words, compliance and corporate responsibility are tightly linked how good (or bad) the technical translations are company’s produce. Every field of expertise moreover comes with its own set of requirements and jargon. Linguists who therefore deal with them must be experienced and qualified to handle that.

Quality Technical Translation: Term Management & Subject Matter Expertise

Terminology management is critical for technical translators if they are to achieving accurate results. They must develop and continuously refer to tightly managed term banks before starting and whilst undertaking each project.

Doing so ensures consistency and accuracy across all of your work. It requires collaboration between translators, legal experts and local market consultants. The best approach way to go about terminology management is to keep comprehensive glossaries of technical terms, domain-specific phrases, and abbreviations. Uniformity and precision are everything!

Effective terminology management – combined with extensive subject knowledge – can significantly reduce the risk of technical translation projects running into costly errors or oversights. Companies need to adopt official lists of terms. Reaching a consensus may take some effort, but it’s worth it, for their translators will have access to reliable sources for industry-specific and common jargon.

In addition to the above, sound terminology management also speeds things up and bolsters standardisation.  Likewise, it enhances the integrity of all your global marketing communications, and lets you build a brand into something your customers will know and trust.

Localization technology makes life easier

Localization technology makes life easier

Ever heard of localization technology (LT)? It broadly refers to a range of tools, platforms, and software utilized by linguists to translate and localize digital products and content. They dually help businesses communicate more effectively in and better promote their products in the global market in ways that appeal to the target audience/culture.

Before LT was invented, translators had to do everything manually and rely on spreadsheets during their workflows. This unfortunately led to errors and mistranslations, in turn negatively impacting businesses. LT has revolutionized that and helped many a company boost their global competitive edge.

LT has transformed how we do technical translation and localization projects. For example, translation management systems (TMS) offer end-to-end solutions for managing workflows and automating manual tasks. This includes everything from MT, term management, translation memories, term banks, and automated QA tools. LT makes the translation process more efficient, minimizes errors, shorten turnaround times, and maximizes quality.

Additionally, businesses that invest in LT solutions can also better process large quantities of content, save money, and uphold cohesion – lending them a viable advantage overseas and helping them tackle the complexities that come with multilingualism.

Here’s a few reasons why and how localization tools help businesses solve technical translation challenges. LT allows you to:

- Store company terminology in a central database for quality and consistency’s sake

- Flag undetected errors or inconsistencies, alongside automatically check spelling, grammar, and other potential issues.

- Cut translation time down at no expense to quality.

- Repurpose already translated content for efficiency and cost’s sake.

- Give you a bang for your buck by combining the best of artificial intelligence and the human expertise through machine translation.

If you want to leave a lasting impact on the world, then you can’t afford bad technical translation. When you work with a good localization company like ADH Translation, you’ll never ever have to worry about that happening. We work as a team and never compromise excellence or consistency. Contact us today to learn more!