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3 Top Tips on Engineering Translations…

The most comstock-photo-77386107-concentrated-on-projectmon but also most overlooked difficulties with maintaining excellent quality in engineering translations are having both the theoretical understanding, which most usefully comes from practical experience, and a sound knowledge of industry related vocabulary in both the source and the target languages.
Engineering projects can be extremely complex, particularly because the broad umbrella term of ‘engineering translations’ can encompass such a wide spectrum of specialised knowledge areas; ranging from bio and chemical engineering right through to civil and mechanical engineering, all involving very difference technical processes and each with particularly specific and precise vocabulary.

As Shen (2009) explains, “perfect translation is a cumulative process of practice, experience an expanding professional knowledge and the mastery of terminology” (p.18). The three steps below will help translators in working effectively within the complex field of engineering translations.

  • Familiarisation with Source Documentation

Success in achieving exceptional standards of quality in engineering translations relies firstly on a sound understanding of the source documentation. Understanding the principles behind a particular project as well as having a complete grasp of the technical language and terminology is essential. This requires effective communication between the translator and the client about subject-specific technical vocabulary which may be unusual or ambiguous. It also requires in depth pre-reading of the source documentation prior to starting the project, enabling the translator to acquire a full understanding of the project as a whole, including the wider context in which the project is set.

  • Technical Vocabulary in the Target Language

Engineering translations are completed with technical terminology which is as precise in meaning in the target language as in the source language. Furthermore, technical drawings, plans and similar documentation may contain abbreviations of terminology which are obscure and difficult to translate. In order to be successful, therefore, the translator must have an in-depth knowledge of the field in the target language and, indeed, additional sources of accurate information from which to gain support and guidance. With engineering translations often being completed within a fluid workflow schedule, there is no room for error, given the timescales and often wide range of participants in a particular project. It is, therefore, essential that the translator has a wide theoretical and practical understanding of the specific field of engineering to which the project applies.

  • Seeking Advice

It can, of course, happen that in the course of handing an engineering translation a translator encounters a spelling error or a non-standard abbreviation which has no obvious equivalent in the target language. In such cases, the translator must make a professional judgment as to what should be done. Because the costs of making even the slightest mistake in an engineering project could be so significant, the translator must make the judgment to engage with the client in order to be fully aware of the terminology. Making such judgments will ensure that the translator delivers a final product which is accurate and meets the needs of the client. Working with such an attitude will additionally ensure that the translator further develops his own skills and knowledge in the specific field of engineering, which is an important element in a translator’s professional development.

Shen, Y. (2009) ‘How to perfect the interpretation and translation in engineering projects’, in International Journal of Marketing Studies, 1 (1) pp.16 – 18.

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