Engineering Translation Techniques
Engineering Translation Techniques
Engineering is a prolific field where translation is required extensively. Technical documents need clear and precise translations that preserve the initial meaning of terms. In the engineering industry, translation will be required in many situations. Some examples are: technical drawings, operating manuals, different plans, technical patents, technical reports, engineering specifications, safety manuals, responses to RFPs and academic work regarding the topic. We must specify that it is very important for the translator to master perfectly the engineering terminology and to have extensive knowledge about the topic. Of course, there are a lot of techniques that will make the life of the translator much easier. We will discuss a few of them in this article.
Experience is vital
The first rule regarding engineering translation is to hire an expert in the field. The reason is that even a small mistake could have extremely serious consequences, so it is important for the translator to have engineering skills. This way, he will know the subtle differences between the technical names commonly used in different industries and in different countries. For instance wagon in British English is freightcar in American English. Furthermore, in the case of safety manuals for instance, the lack of understanding of the topic can lead to life-threatening mistakes. This is why the translator must be extremely careful. He must read the topic very well and clarify all ambiguities of the text before starting the translation. After finishing the translation, he must consult other experts in order to make sure that everything is accurate.
Clarify the ambiguities of the text
The polysemous nature of both technical and general language can cause difficulties for the translator. In some languages, a word can have even 10 different meanings, which of course is going to be slightly problematic for a translator that does not know them. For example, in German the word Auftriebskraft means: buoyancy, lift, upward thrust. There are three different meanings that can be easily confused even if we talk about engineering translation. Sometimes this kind of words are problematic even for native speakers, thus any ambiguity in a term must be researched thoroughly. A moment with lack of attention can give a whole different meaning to the text. Each translator knows that this type of issues can give the wrong impression to the employer. There is probably not a single technique that will help you avoid this. There are plenty of ways in which you can make sure you deliver a perfect work. What I think it’s really important in this case is for the translator to remain critical towards his work. Paying attention even to the things that seem very easy is recommendable because very often mistakes are made in the least expected parts of the text.
Choose a specialization
There are multiple engineering branches, but usually a mechanical engineering translator will be able translate concepts related to chemical engineering for instance. The condition is that the translator has extensive knowledge about the generally used technical terms. Nevertheless, if a translator is specialized in a certain field, he might find work much easily because the employer will have more trust in his capability of delivering work of a very good quality. The conclusion is that an engineering translator should choose a certain area of expertise if he wants to have more job opportunities. For example, computer or aeronautical engineering are fields that requires translation very often.
Have a clear style
Clarity and consistency are the most important elements of engineering translation. Avoid making phrases too long and complicated. At the same time, the meaning of the sentences must remain intact. If you are translating an instruction manual or academic work about engineering, you must keep your style very clear. Those who read it must be able to understand what the author wanted to explain easily. Even if we are talking about engineering, a technical field, it is important for the translator to adapt the phrases in order to make the text easier for the readers.
Computer assisted translation
The technical terminology of engineering translation makes computer assisted translation especially appropriate. This doesn’t undermine the importance of the actual translator, it is rather a helpful tool for those who want to save time and energy. Computer assisted translation is particularly useful for the large projects, that require months of work. Using a computer means that the amount of work is halved. Obviously, the translator will have the responsibility to proofread the text and correct eventual mistakes. This means that the translator remains the main actor in the process, but he now has the opportunity to benefit from the advances of technology.
Be a writer, not only a translator
The role of the engineering translator is to not only be a transmitter of information, but also to be a constructor of procedural discourse and knowledge through meaning, particularly because often, the translator must identify himself with the writer that created the original text. This applies particularly to academic work (book, manuals etc). This emphasizes the important role that technical translators play in making meaning, whether they are doing technical translation in one language or in multiple languages.
At a first glance, it might seem that translation and engineering are not very compatible. A translator can have numerous roles in the engineering industry. He might be required to prepare detailed installation specifications and drawings in accordance with applicable industry standards and maintain allocated project schedules and planned budgets. Translation is also required for engineering specifications, catalogues, E-learning, labels, marketing materials, multimedia, manuals, patents, technical proposals, websites, hardware and software UI. For those who never thought that engineering required translators, I believe these examples prove the opposite.