Technical translation and editing

Technical translation and editing are embedded probably within the largest subcategory in the wider field of translation services

Technical translation and editing encompass fields that can be highly specialized.

Technical translation and editing Signewords

The fields which technical translation and editing cover are such as:

  • science
  • engineering
  • architecture
  • economy
  • accounting
  • math
  • IT
  • medicine
  • law

Also, the types of texts that each of these fields require technical translation and editing for is even more diverse:

  • ranging from instruction manuals,
  • to blueprints,
  • to patents, etc.
  • The list is endless and incredibly varied.

The thing is, research has estimated that about 90% of all translation work is done by technical translators and editors,

which makes sense considering that each field has its jargon, almost a separate language in itself.

Ever since the 1960s, technical translation and editing have been recognized and studied as a field in its own right.

This way, yielding some interesting research.

Here, we’ll discuss some general principles that a technical translator and editor must keep in mind, regardless of his/her specific technical field.

Professional qualifications to provide technical translation and editing

Technical translation and editing are, by nature, interdisciplinary fields.

Obviously, proficiency in both the source and target languages is a must, one that immediately comes to mind.

But, beyond that, a technical translator and editor must also be well-versed in the field of translation studies.

This involves awareness of:

  1. current research in linguistics,
  2. strategies for working around challenges
  3. and modern trends in the field of translation.

Besides, a technical translator and editor must also be an expert in his/her specialized field.

A pharmaceutical translator, for example, needs to be well-acquainted with the specific vocabulary used in the health professions.

Surely, you wouldn’t want a legal translator, no matter how successful he/she may be, translating your doctor’s prescription.

Not just any technical translator will do.

Technical translators and editors’ workflow

technical translator and editor Signewords

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to peer into the mind of a technical translator and editor?

How do they tackle the daunting task of translating something as complex as a clinical research protocol, for example?

Research gives us some insight into:

  • the translator and editor’s workflow
  • and the challenges he/she may come up against.

First, the technical translator and editor must read through and analyze the text he/she will be translating

It’s not as simple as just taking the source text and translating it word-for-word.

The technical translator and editor need to understand:

  • the context,
  • the tone,
  • and the vocabulary of the text:
  1. Does it use formal or informal language?
  2. Is the tone objective, serious or lighthearted?
  3. Who is the intended audience?
  4. What is the purpose of the text?

The answers to all of these questions will inform the linguistic choices that the technical translator and editor will later make.

Let’s say, for example, that a medical translator is translating all the paperwork for a clinical research trial.

The documents involved in this process, also include:

  • the scientific protocol
  • amendments to the protocol
  • periodic progress reports
  • informed consent forms for the patients

Due to this, the technical translator and editor will ask, who is the intended audience for each of these documents:

  • The scientific protocol will be designed for the investigators and the safety review board and,

therefore, will be highly scientific.

  • The informed consent forms, in contrast, are meant for patients,

so the language used to explain study procedures will need to be simpler and less scientific.

scientific translation and editing Signewords

Next, further research may be necessary.

There may be concepts or vocabulary in the source text that the technical translator and editor doesn’t fully understand, so he/she may need to:

  1. refer to technical dictionaries or encyclopedias
  2. take short courses on the subject matter to fill in any knowledge gaps
  3. speak with the original copywriter of the text to clear up any doubts.

Let’s say a particular protocol is being translated,

which evaluates the safety of an experimental medication for the treatment of Alzheimer’s.

A specific technical medical translator and editor may be an expert on certain neurodegenerative diseases but not on Alzheimer’s,

so he/she may have to do some extra research.

Considering how specialized technical translation and editing can get,

it is no surprise that the technical translator and editor may come up against topics he/she is not fully familiar with at some point.

When the technical translator and editor begins to tackle the actual technical translation and editing process,

↳ additional questions may come up.

And thus, prompting him/her to seek more information.

Since the process isn’t linear, and often, involves a cycle of research.

The final step of the process is the technical revision

technical edition Signewords

Which is usually done by a translation agency’s, like SIGNEWORDS, technical translators and editors or proofreaders.

Like technical translators, technical editors or proofreaders must be well-acquainted with the specific jargon used in the text,

requiring a high level of expertise in that particular field.

Editing and proofreading services are sometimes overlooked and overshadowed by the translation process, but in reality, they are just as crucial, if not more.

Even if your text requires no translation,

consider submitting it to a technical translation and editing agency,

like SIGNEWORDS for review

Because professional editors or proofreaders can help catch spelling or semantic errors,

that could potentially ruin the text.

Technical writing is not easy, so having a linguist expert in your field read over your text is always a good idea

Trends in the field of technical translation and editing

mechanics translation Signewords

Decades ago, in the field of technical translation and editing, there was more of a focus on the source language and remaining loyal to the text,

favoring more of a literal translation.

That, however, has shifted towards a focus on:

  • the target audience
  • and the purpose of the text.

Leaning towards localization.

This approach places the technical translator and editor in the shoes of the audience, asking:

  • How will the reader perceive and interpret this information?
  • Will it make sense and sound natural?

This strategy is especially important in the case of the informed consent forms mentioned in the example of clinical research translation and editing.

Since these documents describe to patients the medical procedures they will undergo during the research trial, the technical translator and editor need to ensure that:

  • information is being transmitted in a way that will be understandable to the audience
  • nothing is lost in translation

Research suggests that only 5-10% of any technical text is actually terminology:

  • the rest acts as a vehicle for communication
  • and, there, we find a lot of wiggle room for stylistic choices that can facilitate the reader’s comprehension.

Studies have also found that technical translators and editors don’t merely transmit information in another language:

  • they really create new meaning in that target language,
  • essentially taking on the role of a technical copywriter as part of the process.

Signewords technical translation team

Technical translation and editing agencies as SIGNEWORDS

As you can see, technical translation and editing are complex.

But there are professional technical translation and editing agencies like SIGNEWORDS,

that can provide the expertise you need to make sure your text is top-notch.

With a qualified team of technical translators and editors,


you can’t go wrong ✔️