Technical translation

Technical translation is a form of specialized translation involving documents typically produced by technical writers (owner’s manuals, user guides, etc.), or more specifically, texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts that deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information.

Technical translation covers the translation of many kinds of specialized texts and requires a high level of subject knowledge and mastery of relevant terminology and writing conventions.

Technical translation vs conventional translation


Technical translation differs from conventional translation in that fluency in the target language is not sufficient on its own.

Some estimates have placed the proportion of specific technical terminology in texts typical of the manufacturing industry at between five and ten percent.

In order to ensure that this important information makes it to the finished localized document, technical translators must possess direct industry knowledge to guarantee a level of understanding and maintains compliance with any key sector regulations.

Another key area of relevance to manufacturing is an understanding of CAD machinery and drawings, and any specialist linguist involved in providing technical translation should be fluent in the interpretation and explanation of these diagrams.

For a translator working on a railway engineering text, for example, a plain and simple train transforms into a Pandora’s box of terminological mix-ups:

Overhead line or contact wire? Pantograph or current collector?

Finding the right technical name for train parts can be a daunting task even for a translator with an engineering background. Why? Because a current collector in electrical engineering becomes a pantograph in railway parlance.

A translator may boast of excellent language and engineering skills, but would be literally at a loss for words, unless they are familiar with technical jargon in both languages.

To complicate matters, there are regional differences in names: A freight car in America becomes a wagon in England; a railcar refers to a diesel multiple unit (DMU) in Ireland.

Glossaries and Translation Memory

These examples for railway translation show that getting translations right isn’t as easy as it may seem. There can be significant differences in English terminology between seemingly similar fields.

To ensure that the correct language is used we will work with you to agree translated glossaries of terms specific to your company or industry.

We’ll also use translation memory to ensure that paragraphs and sections of text which are repeated throughout your documents are re-used by our translators.

Translation memory helps to increase quality and turnaround of your translations. It also helps with cost as previously translated text is charged at a reduced rate.

Technical translation – Quality Controlled Specialist Translators

Whether it be aircraft, construction, agriculture or any other specialist subject, technical translation must be perfect. That’s why we only use translators with a proven track record and solid technical understanding when working on technical documents.

We work with over 6,000 in-country translators from around the globe, giving us access to every conceivable type of industry specific knowledge All our translators are thoroughly checked to confirm their technical expertise.

We will always work with you, and where possible your in-country reviewers, to ensure that the style and knowledge of the translators involved meet exactly with your requirements.

To ensure that the translations we deliver to you are as accurate as possible, we ensure that at every point in the translation process, quality checks are built in.

Successful technical documentation localization strategies can be the key to meeting your time-to-market, budget and corporate quality objectives. Learn more about general content development for international audiences please contact us.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Oct 22, 2011 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness