Technical translations, in the broader sense, involve any non-literary translation, i.e., translation of texts dealing with electronics, medicine, law, economics, or sports. In a narrower sense, technical translations deal with texts from the world of engineering, including chemistry, computer science, automotive engineering, geology, etc. The number of technical fields is infinitely large, and terminology is expanding and changing daily. Moreover, even within the same field, competing companies often use different terms for the same object to differentiate their products from those of their competitors.
Ideally, a technical text should therefore be translated by a specialist in the specific area in question, who is familiar with the terminology of the company for which the translation is being done. For example, it is highly desirable that a text dealing with IBM computer parts be translated by an IBM computer specialist, because chances are the same part is called a different name by Apple, Dell, or NEC. Obviously, this is not always possible in practice. What is important, however, is that the translator be familiar with the technical concepts involved in the text, so that the translation conveys the right idea to the engineer or technician reading it. The client can greatly contribute to the quality of the translation by providing the translator with any related documents written in the target language, as well as with the drawings and source-language documents dealing with the same topic. Then, especially if the translation is for publication, the terminology must be refined via a dialog between the translator and the client.
Dictionaries do not always provide the right answers to technical terminology problems. The non-technical translator may translate the German word Spannung as stress or voltage, and the word Geschwindigkeit as speed, velocity, or rate. A claim may be reclamo or reivindicación in Spanish. Obviously, the correct choice will depend on the context. A technical translator will know the proper term to use.
Translation/conversion of units of measurement poses a special challenge to the translator. It's not only finding the correct conversion factor from pound per square inch to kilopascal, but also choosing the right fractional units to avoid expressing the weight of a microchip in tons or its dimensions in miles. Competent technical translators know that converting a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius units or vice-versa requires a different formula from converting a temperature difference between the same units. They realize that some units (like standard screw sizes) are not to be converted. They know when to round numbers and how.
Even if the terminology and all information contained in the document is correct, technical writing has a style that is difficult, if not impossible, for a non-technical person to imitate. A high-quality technical translation combines correct terminology and a style appropriate for the type of document and the intended audience. A text describing a surgical procedure will use a different terminology and style depending on whether it is intended for physicians or laypersons. Excessively technical terminology may not be understood by the layman, while the specialist may be offended by use of popular language. Therefore, the translator must know when to use "kidney toxicity" and when to use "nephrotoxicity."
At Sparkton, experienced technical translators handle your text using correct and appropriate terminology and a style known to your target audience. You can get cheaper technical translations elsewhere, but none that's handled with the care and competence recognized as sparkton's trademark.