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How to translate technical documents

How to translate technical documents

How should we go about translate technical documents? Translation generally is a tasking profession. Be it a general, marketing, business, legal or medical document.

Each field requires a different skillset. But translating any technical document requires greater expertise than most documents.


Why do companies need to translate technical documents?

Technical documentation is usually either about technology or about scientific subjects. Documents are steeped in specific terms, and only subject matter experts can translate them accurately.

The project could be as simple as translating a datasheet. Of course this usually requires deep understanding of the specific product. Or it can be as complex as translating a scientific paper for an academic journal.

A good technical translator should

  • have highly developed technical skills
  • several years of experience in a relevant field (engineering, pharmaceutical, etc.)
  • be a graduate in the field, and
  • have a high level of competence in the target language.

Examples of documents that might need technical translation

  • Aviation training manual
  • Data gatherings and research
  • Data sheets
  • Engineering specifications
  • Instructions and operating manuals
  • Installation and service manuals
  • Maintenance guides
  • Materials and products catalogs
  • Patents and patent applications
  • Scientific and white papers
  • Technical reports
  • Specifications
  • Technical equipment certificates and regulatory documents
  • Troubleshooting guides
  • Technical drawings

Why technical documentation translation?

Organizations that serve international markets require technical translations. For example, suppose you bought a product from a Chinese website. You’d expect to find a guide in English that walks you through how to use the item.

Or perhaps, the company has foreign partners who rely on its services. In which case, they will need to translate documents for their foreign partners. An excellent example is the Amazon web service, which offers cloud-based solutions around the world.

By translating technical documents, companies and individuals can easily use read-up and follow instructions. Regardless of native-tongue.

Requirements for technical translations

A high degree of accuracy and precision are a must for technical translations. A technical translator is expected to

  • have native-level proficiency in the target language
  • have professional-level expertise in the source language
  • be able to deliver concise, error-free translations that retain the original meaning.

As a result of the precision needed, many technical translators usually study technical writing. They should also have several years of hands-on experience.


Top 3 tips for technical document translation

  • Ensure you follow technical writing best practices. For example, writing short, concise, one-idea sentences. Try to avoid use of idiomatic expressions and making cultural references. They are easily misinterpreted.
  • Account for longer text in your translation. Keep in mind that most languages use more and longer words than English. Be sure to allow for additional space in your translation.
  • Link your graphics. The best way to handle graphics and images in a technical document is to add a link to the graphic. This way it becomes easy to replace. And also, linking your graphics reduces the size of your file.

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