What exactly is technical translation from the linguistic point of view?

A description of the process of translating technical texts is possible to comprehend only if one understands the general idea behind translation. What is meant by the above is specific type of communication, where both the addressor and the addressee of the message are limited to a particular technical field of study and use a language which is typical for the industry or even company they operate in. Thus the first characteristic of technical translations is the technical style, i.e. the mode of expressing one’s thoughts. Within style we can use various concepts which in case of technical texts shall convey particular information contained in a given document. Other language functions are limited to a minimum so that they do not disturb the usefulness of a text in particular applications of a given field of study. In other words, technical translations are to convey a message in its new language version to a speaker of that language without losing any data of the source text. However, 1 to 1 (or word for word) translation is not possible due to language differences since each language uses distinct scopes of meaning of particular words and describes certain ideas in various ways. In simple terms, the rules of particular languages vary to such an extent that it is not possible to translate a text using exactly the same words and sentences as in the original document. Free selection of words is not possible as it would be – for instance- in poetry. In case of non-poetic language one has to use strict rules of creating sentences which are commonly used, and violation of those rules would cause a misunderstanding. The technical style draws specific attention to avoiding such misunderstandings and wrong interpretations. Technical translation is a largely limited process with certain linguistic rules, repetitive structures and set expressions which apply in a given industry. It requires a certain “set of tools” to be used both while working on a translation and using the target language version of the text by its recipient.

What does the technical translation process look like?

Technical translation, similarly to any other type of translation, is not a linear process and looks more like chaotic efforts to clean up one’s house before a new person moves in together with all their belongings. This person has to fit (translate) the old furniture (words) into the new rooms (language). They come back to the same place at multiple occasions moving or removing objects in order to create a new whole. The objects have different colours and sizes and it is possible to combine them with other objects. The work is finished when everything fits in perfectly and both the host as well as the person who moves in are satisfied with the final outcome and have no doubts about it.

How does ATT Interwers Technical Translation Agency work with the text received from the translator?

First, a member of the Proofreading Department reviews the source document and becomes familiar with the general idea of it. Then, they read carefully a longer piece of the first paragraph and try to acquire the first thought and the rules of the text formation. The next step is to open the translation received from the translator and verify whether the first few sentences convey the message of the source text. The next fragments must be logical and refer to the introductory sentence, as the structure and style of the entire text are predetermined. Initial proofreading of the translation fragments sets the standard for the rest of the tasks for a proofreader with regard to a given text. Consistency of style and vocabulary is checked and introduced throughout the entire document. Names and numbers are carefully verified. Any acronyms which are unclear in the target language shall be explained.

Document formats

The process of translating technical texts begins with determining the format of the supplied documents and checking the word count. Back in the days, the documents were delivered as hard copies. Nowadays this applies only to old technical documentation, a majority of texts are supplied in the electronic versions. The formats which are used the most frequently include Word, PDF, Excel and Power Point.

Translation unit

In order to obtain precise word count one shall convert a PDF file into a Word file and determine the number of words or characters with spaces. This can be done using the standard word count feature in a Word document.
 The number of characters with spaces is then divided by the number constituting one full translation page. The usual translation unit, i.e. the translation page applicable in the Polish market is anything from 1125 to 1800 characters depending on the concept of a given agency. This, however, is changing as the international market standards are constantly evolving. The standards date back to the 1990s and in our opinion are a good definition of the amount of translation. Other market trends are clearly visible in the countries of Western Europe where the unit is constituted by a word of the source text. This method does not provide for all possibilities of precise calculation of amount of work since the unit rate per word does not always take into account the fact that in some languages the target text will have more words than the source text. The Polish way of calculating the amount of text always refers to the translated text. Hence, it is possible to settle the payment for the translation without any doubts as to the number or translation units, since the exact number of characters in the target text is taken into account. No language-specific rules apply in this case.

Translation pricing

It is not always possible to obtain a precise number of words from the source text since some of the documents are not editable or contain images with text which also needs to be translated. In this case, the final cost is estimated roughly, and then our services are settled on the basis of the exact count of the target language document. The smallest translation unit at ATT Interwers is one translation page of the target language text. The number of characters is rounded to the nearest full translation page on the basis of mathematical rules, i.e. rounded down to the nearest full translation page if the fraction is below 0.5 or rounded up to the nearest full page if the fraction equals or exceeds 0.5.