Terminology and technical translation: research and specialist knowledge

technical translation research

Terminology and technical translation: research and specialist knowledge

You may have heard of technical translation, a field with inherent difficulties that requires in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. But why is the combination of terminology and technical translation so important, and what characteristics should a professional technical translator have?

We may not realise it, but we deal with specialised texts more often than we imagine: university manuals, instruction booklets, safety documentation, and many other ocuments are full-fledged ‘technical texts’ related to a specific topic, and as a result, are potentially incomprehensible to those who are not experts in the relative field.

Of course, considering that the original documents are often complex and extremely precise, their translation into another language will have to produce an equally precise text: in these cases we therefore speak of technical translation.

Producing an accurate technical translation that conforms to the original will require specific knowledge of the source text’s subject matter and proven experience in the field. In short, one can hardly improvise being an expert!

We at Creative Words know this well; we work on each technical translation with the utmost care to ensure quality and reliability. If you would like to learn more about how we tackled a real-life technical-industrial translation project, download our free case study.

Terminology plays an especially key role in specialised translations. The combination of terminology and technical translation is exactly what we want to talk about today, detailing the particularities and challenges of technical translation in some specific fields.


Technical translation: features and peculiarities

We have already mentioned that a technical translation usually refers to specialised documents such as manuals, instruction booklets or scientific texts.

In addition to familiarity with terminology, technical translation requires a thorough understanding of the communication norms and conventions used in the specific field. Of course, the technical translator must also be able to fully understand the concepts illustrated, so that they can transpose them clearly, comprehensibly and in accordance with the original.

In general, a technical translator should therefore be able to guarantee:

  • Experience in the field: a translator who is not an expert in a certain field would not be able to provide a quality technical translation because they lack the specific necessary technical knowledge.
  • Terminological correctness: as we have already mentioned, terminology and technical translation go hand in hand. Each sector has its own specific language, which will then need to be understood and transposed correctly to ensure an optimal result.
  • Confidentiality: technical translations very often include patents or confidential legal documents. In this case, it will be crucial to ensure the utmost secrecy and discretion in order to avoid data leaks and violations of any NDAs.


Terminology and technical translation: what is meant by terminology?

When we talk about technical terminology and translation, we are primarily referring to the translation of words and phrases related to a particular industry or topic (so-called ‘technicalities’), which will need to be consistently and uniformly transposed into the target language.

technical translation terminologyThus, we are not dealing with simple expressions or formal syntactic structures (which often have the sole task of elevating the register of a text), but with actual words that are often incomprehensible to those who are not specialised in the relative field.

Some examples of technicalities might be spondyloarthrosis (from medical parlance), subprime (from the business sector) or subsidiarity (from the legislative sphere). So in order to translate these – and many other – specific terms properly, it is essential to be familiar with and understand them as well as possible.


The importance of specific terminology in product data sheets

Now we’d like to take a closer look at some areas where terminology and technical translation must be reconciled as best as possible.

Let’s start with product data sheets, which are usually displayed in physical and online stores and include, among other things, the name of the product they refer to, the brand name, technical specifications, and sales price.

A translator of a product sheet must pay attention to several aspects:

technical translation product

  • For starters, product data sheets often contain technical and specialised terms that need to be accurately translated to avoid providing consumers with incorrect information.
  • If a product data sheet is translated into multiple languages, it’s important to maintain consistency between the different versions. Therefore, the same terminology and style should be used in all languages.
  • Finally, product data sheets should be adapted to the culture and needs of the target market. This could require changing some information, such as unit format or safety regulations.


The importance of terminology and technical translation in the translation of manuals

Also in the case of translating technical user manuals, it is crucial that the translator pay attention to several aspects:

  • Specific terminology: manuals often contain numerous technicalities, which may be difficult to translate correctly without thorough knowledge of the relevant field.
  • Acronyms and industry language: manuals often contain industry-specific acronyms that may be unfamiliar to those not specialised in the field.
  • Context of use: of course, manuals are meant to provide information on the use of a product. Accordingly, the translator must consider the context of use for the target audience, making adjustments where necessary so as to provide precise and accurate information to end users.


Creative Words is an ISO 9001:2008 (Quality Management Systems) and ISO 17100:2017 (Translation Services) certified translation agency. We have been guaranteeing the highest quality technical translations to our clients for years by working exclusively with experts in the field. If you need to translate a specialised document, contact us obligation-free: we will be happy to find the best solution for your needs together with you.

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