What is technical translation and what are the different Types?

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What is technical translation?

Technical translation is a specialised branch of translation that involves the translation of technical documents from one language into another. It is a specialized translation service among different translation services that are highly systematic & skilful – a subtle art of translation that requires, impeccable accuracy, absolute precision, a good understanding of the process, subject matter & terminology, a language expert who is also a trained technical translator, to translate specialized documents that could range from confidential scientific data, sensitive software content, detailed engineering plans, critical medical data right through to any other document that requires specialised knowledge of the subject & its terminology.

Therefore, more specifically, technical translation deals with documents having specialized key terminologies to translate texts that are related to technological reforms, technical subject matter or texts that deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information. Technical Translation is, far more than, just translating any specialist language and key terminologies accurately. It requires an astute translation of technical terms to develop a very specialized terminology, & to accomplish this herculean task, technical translators must be equipped with the vital knowledge, of all the specialized terms of that field, both, in the source and in the target languages to give meaning to the text, and as much as possible, resemble the meaning of the original text.

In general, technical texts have a neutral tone & only around 10% of the entire subject matter in every technical document, deals with technical terms. Rest is the natural language where, co-ordination is the key to blend the two together, seamlessly. These documents are usually written by writers who have a technical background by virtue of their experience or those who are trained specifically for technical products and services. Translators who are not from a technical background or are not thorough with the technical content, face immense challenges while translating technical texts.

Why is technical translation important?

Technology has its imprint on every aspect of the world. To make technology understandable to everyone, it needs to be available in the respective local language, all across the world so, people can understand and connect.

The importance of technical translation is growing in the globalized world. As an example, let’s suppose a British company wants to launch an electronic product in Dubai. To be able to cater to masses in Dubai, they need to provide operational details, specs, warranty related information, product description, utility etcetera in Arabic, which is Dubai’s native language. Hence, technical texts about the electronic product shall require translation from English to Arabic.

On a similar pattern, companies filing patents in the host country, or local companies launching their products in foreign countries need their texts to be translated from the source language to the language of the target audience! That’s how the demand for technical translation in every part of the world is growing.

Here lies absolute importance of technical translation – ‘It makes complex scientific and technological information with all its terminology, available in the native language a person can understand’.

Businesses are thus employing technical translation to promote products and gain customers.

What goes behind a technical translation?

Technical translations undergo multiple complex intricate processes that are highly technical in nature using specific terminology tools, such as under:

  1. Translation glossary

Comprehensive terminology management is paramount for translating a technical document.

The glossary of translations and key terminologies that are commonly used within a specific technical field also referred to as lexicon, termbase, terminology collection, or translation glossary, are widely used as a tool to eliminate uncertainty in the translation process, and shorten the translation time, which then results in reduced overall cost.

The glossary could also contain, as required, a variety of metadata – such as context, definition, part of speech, to aid the translator with as much information as possible, especially for similar or conflicting data, in order to streamline the process and make sure the language is consistent.

  1. Translation memory

Apart from the translation glossary, leveraging translation memory is also an important part of the process for technical document translation.

The translation memory tool works by building a permanent database, of source and target phrases, from a previously created technical glossary, of a technical document, worked on, in part by a technical translator. The tool also makes new memories, learns, stores and suggests translations based on previous translation activity – all in real-time.

This futuristic tool is then reused, wherever the same phrase reoccurs in the same or a new document. Thus, the translation memory, not only allows the translation team to save a lot of time, recycling the existing, pre-approved translations, but also equips them to fully focus on developing the new content with greater expertise.

Sometimes multiple translators work on the same project at the same time, and sometimes they work with the same client on a similar document, years apart. Translation memory helps takes away dependency from a single translator, allowing the first available translator, to work on the technical document, that may have been, previously worked upon by another translator. And, despite the change of hands, neither is lost, time or quality, nor is the consistency of translation compromised. This is possible it due to the pre-existing set of preferred translation of certain strings, words and phrases, saved with the previous work that remains as a reference forever, along with the related document.

When a translator works on an original technical document for the very first time, in absence of any similar existing document, the translation memory tool, is not able to provide any time or cost savings, due to lack of any previously built memory to refer! It will, however, increase consistency in the first document by reusing the same phrases several times in the document, as may be required.

  1. Using machine translation

Technical translation tasks blend beautifully to automated translation software compared to other types of translation, owing to their language that tends to be highly structured leaving no room for personal nuances.

A standard language is always chosen for any technical translation, over every local dialect, thus, the text remains free of colloquialisms and subjective expression. Machine Translation was never the need of the hour, in the world such as ours; it was a dire necessity, to process work faster, accurately & at lesser costs!

Machine translation is not the right approach for every project, however, in some cases, it is extremely useful. It provides a background or base translation, that could be further worked upon/ reviewed, by an expert specialised technical human translator, to add logical flow, retain the true meaning & precision to the translation document.

Machine translation engines are now able to help human translators more than ever before, as a result of their dexterous, progressive development, in recent years, that enhanced these machines, & equipped them, with super intelligent-advanced algorithms, & more efficient-smart statistical models for explicit translations. Machines are also to maintain & provide, large bilingual databases packed with industry-specific terminology, glossaries & translation memories for future reference.

In exceptional cases, (such as, for low priority information purpose documents), while not replacing the value of the technical translator, advanced algorithms even make it possible to translate documents completely.

Experienced language transcription companies, guide clients with the right mix of human & machine translation. Your technical translation service provider may provide you with a variety of technical translation options to suit most needs.

Critical documents may be strictly dealt by, humans for their entire lifecycle, while high-volume and low importance documents, that are run past machines, for a review later by technical experts, serve to speed up translation, provide a level of consistency in multiple translation tasks and overall provide a cheaper, yet no less accurate product.

When does one need a technical translation? What kind of documents require technical translation?

If your source text contains complex or industry-specific terminology and concepts, you will likely need the help of a specialist language partner who is also an expert in technical translation.

Following are a few specific types of source texts that often require technical translation:

  1. Articles (scientific, medical, engineering, or technical journals)
  2. Computer product specs sheets
  3. Patent Translation
  4. User manual translation
  5. Software Strings
  6. Health & Safety documents
  7. Journals
  8. Brochures
  9. Feasibility studies
  10. Internal communications
  11. Manufacturing and engineering articles
  12. Marketing communications
  13. Material safety data sheets
  14. Patents related applications
  15. Product labelling, packaging and catalogues
  16. Product specifications
  17. Regulatory documentation
  18. Service, maintenance and policy manuals
  19. Site surveys
  20. Software strings
  21. Technical reports
  22. Textbooks
  23. Training materials
  24. User and operating instructions
  25. Website translation
  26. Online help
  27. IT manuals
  28. Software product manuals
  29. Product manuals

 Preparing for technical translation

Technical translation, requires a little more preparation, than any other kinds of translations, due to the level of technical and specialist knowledge needed to effectively translate the document.

Some important points to consider, to get better, faster and pocket-friendly results from a technical translation service provider, are listed as below:

  1. To help identify any linguistic or cultural nuances in advance, you need to be fully equipped with specifications about your target market and audience.
  2. Translation documents must be closed with last bit detailed editing, signed off & finalised so as to avoid any last-minute edits that could result in unwanted delay, hassle and confusion.
  3. One must identify & mutually agree to a suitable supported file format and a platform that works best for both of you.
  4. Consistency is key when it comes to technical translation, and a translation glossary is an ideal tool to ensure that terminology is consistent. Hence you must provide your translation partner with your specific, technical terminology to create a translation glossary that will help streamline the translation process.
  5. Throughout the translation process, the document is likely to expand or contract. Hence, it recommended that one ensures there is enough room/white space as a part of your document design from the very beginning.

What does it take to be a good technical document translator:

To be a good technical translator:

  1. Technical translators must be subject matter experts, possess mastery over scientific terms, and knowledge of writing conventions. At the same time, they must be expert in linguistic knowledge in the target language & its cultural components!
  2. It takes a lot of knowledge and understanding of both linguistic skillset and scientific knowledge to be able to be a good technical translator. The subject matter needs more thorough understanding and an unprejudiced brain to perceive and process the necessary information. The translator needs to be thorough with the kind of work the particular client does and expects.
  3. One should have the basic knowledge of technical skills if they are using computer-assisted translation (CAT) or Machine Translation (MT) for translation purposes.
  4. A technical translator who possesses technical knowledge or previous work experience in the technical translation industry is most sought after. However,if it’s your first time working with a language partner, then putting together a glossary of preferred technical terminology after discussing with the client, could prove to be extremely beneficial for current & future document translation projects.
  5. One must be equipped well with technical knowledge & must be able to understand the preferred terminology and vocabulary of the company. A technical translator must be able to make the most of the client-supplied/ available terminology databases, translation memories, glossaries, technical dictionaries, and encyclopedias.
  6. Technical translators must be able to effectively and effortlessly communicate the translated text in a natural & culturally appropriate way while staying focused on the agenda & writing the facts accurately with expertise.
  7. A technical translator must be able to maintain the same style, tone and meaning as the author of the original text in the target language.
  8. Technical texts by default, have a neutral tone. However, technical translators are trained to be able to retain the same tone, as in the target language. At the same time, it is interesting to note that, the register of the text is dependent on it’s text type. It can be a formal text, a scientific text, or one that can be easily understood.

A linguistics translator who translates literary texts exclusively, might not be right for a technical assignment & should not take technical translation project upon himself, as this is likely to hit the health & quality of the work! We have ample reasons shared herein to believe and agree that, technical translation is a challenging task & can’t be taken for a cakewalk.

Why are technical translation rates often higher than language translation?

Technical translation differs in costs to general business translation due to the complexity of work and time duration involved. The costs vary with the following parameters :

  1. The degree of scientific or technical knowledge/ complexity involved with the project depends on the subject matter – This can vary immensely from short descriptions of how to use a particular drug through to lengthy scientific research papers and technical manuals.
  2. The number of specialized translators available in the required language is less – They could be freelancers who may have started their career in a particular technical field, such as the medical profession, then diverted into translation at some point.
  3. The demand for those translators is very high – Technical translators are usually already well qualified in their particular field. And hence, tend to expect a higher rate of payment for their work than more general translators.
  4. Technical translation is a timed game of precision and accuracy that requires a technical translator equipped with a language translator – Using technical terms correctly and consistently is of paramount importance for the technical translation! One needs to have in-depth knowledge & understanding of the complex subject matter and be s language expert at the same time!.
  5. The time required for such specialized translation – In addition to the higher cost of technical translation, it would be expected that the turnaround time for technical translation would be longer than for simpler translation tasks.
  6. Technical translations seek a technical subject matter expert, a linguistics expert, a culturally sensitive resource that provides great accuracy & several other requirements all in one! This combination is rare and proves very expensive.

How does Transchamp help you?

At Transchamp we are determined to provide you with the best resources and services for technical translation in the industry. We would request you to equip us with your company style guides, technical glossary if any & official vocabularies as references,  post which we would be able to frame & develop specialized terminology that will ensure right terminology and accuracy throughout your material.

We uphold utmost transparency, in all our client transactions & hence, we would like you to know, that it can take time & financial investment, to establish the terminology. However, your initial investment will pay off with future projects, as it enforces consistency, reduces reworking from scratch, would help reduce timeframe during tight deadlines, & provides savings in the overall cost of translation over time.


  1. The need for a technical subject matter expert, coupled with a linguistics expert, along with several other requirements all in one is rare to find and proves extremely expensive. As a result, regular translators are sought after with certain skill sets to step up for these specific translations! While the translator needs to be thorough with the kind of work the particular client does and expects, he/ she might not have the complete subject knowledge, or linguistic knowledge or cultural sensitivity or produce great output. He/ She may use their subject knowledge from other disciplines similar to the original subject or does research to complete the translation.
  2. Technology is dynamic in nature & it is evolving at a great pace along its terminologies. This leads to increased research work wherein translators are caught unawares on the newer terminologies or change in naming systems opted for different parts. These aspects make a simple translation twice as tough as translation already is.
  3. A translator is already gripped with challenges such as ‘stick to the meaning without overlooking the underlying emotion or sentiment’, however, with technical translation, the degree of difficulty is raised to another dimension!To begin with, a translator must be able to understand & deduce the technical outcome of the texts, & then translate the text, without changing its meaning. There is no escape from the knowledge of the subject matter! The translator must also understand the precise meaning of each term of the terminology used, so as to lead the research in the right direction.
  4. To achieve an effective translation it is pertinent, that the translator imitates & imbibes the style of translating to the target language. Now that in itself, is like opening a Pandora’s box, given that each different language has its own style of expression & writing!
  5. A translation is considered successful, only if, it is accurate, precise & is able to overcome the biggest challenge in technical translation – ‘to clearly relay the meaning from the original texts in intended languages with simplistic words using vocabulary that aligns with the text formatting and meaning’. An example could be, ‘Manuals’, that are classified to be user friendly, only when they are translated in a way to suit the needs of the reader. However, if the translations are not up to the mark and the reader is unable to understand things, the translation is said to be a fail & it classifies as a failure for the translator too.
  6. Another major problem that translators face is the text length, & as we know the target language might have a completely different set of words for the same sentence, this is where the translator needs to show his skill and excellence in linguistics and make it simpler. A good example would be a translation from English to Spanish, English to French, German, Japanese or vice versa. The idea is not only to get the job done but also to help people make the best out of the translated texts.

Hiring the right Professional:

If you need someone who can do technical translation from English to Hindi or English to Tamil, Hindi to English, or in any local language, Transchamp is the name you could trust on! As your professional translation partner, Transchamp would provide you with experienced professional translators, for translation services in India offering technical translation services, for all Industry sectors and languages.

Transchamp is engaged with the leading IT companies in India & overseas, for the professional, reliable, accurate translation of their technical documents. We could offer you a free session with our online translator, or you could choose to a free translation of your technical document as a sample of work before a formal engagement. You can click here to understand more about the technical translation services by Transchamp.

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