“A translation can’t be right or wrong in the manner of a school quiz or a bank statement. A translation is more like a portrait in oils. The artist may add a pearl earring, give an extra flush to the cheek, or miss out the gray hairs in the sideburns – and still give a good likeness.” Comments, please?
That was page 218 in David Bellos’ “Is That a Fish in Your Ear?”
For most general and commercial translation—and for virtually all technical translation—that particular statement by David Bellos is preposterous. “How could modern science and engineering advance if all translators subscribed to such fuzzy-headed absurdities?” Kevin Hendzel
Here’s another example—a website description of a company’s new product line: livinglight : une nouvelle gamme d'appareillage BTicino à forte valeur ajoutée Lancée début 2011, LIVINGLIGHT a révolutionné l'offre d'appareillage de BTicino en Italie pour le tertiaire et le résidentiel. Outre un contenu technologique innovant (moteur hautement performant ; solutions électroniques d'économies d'énergie ; intégration de la technologie radio Zigbee), LIVINGLIGHT propose des fonctionnalités inédites autour d'un design très contemporain et de lignes minimalistes. En savoir plus Voir la vidéo En savoir plus Voir la vidéo
Livinglight—BTicino’s new premium wiring- device range Launched in early 2011, the new Livinglight range has revolutionized BTicino’s wiring- device offer in Italy for residential and commercial markets. It combines all-new functions in a sleek, contemporary design with innovative technology that includes a high-performance mechanism, energy-saving electronics and integrated Zigbee radio technology. Learn more See the video
What is technical writing—and, by extension, what is technical translation?
“Technical writing transmits technical information accurately. It conveys information with an objective tone and with the focus on the technical content. It is a style of writing used in fields as diverse as computer hardware and software, engineering, chemistry, the aerospace industry, robotics, finance, consumer electronics and biotechnology. It explains technology and related ideas to technical and non-technical audiences.” Karen Tkaczyk, PhD, CT
Why are many tech translators so… shy and unassertive? Why do they stop short of taking control of their texts?
“Words are simply the glue that holds ideas together. More often than not, you remember the idea long after you have forgotten the words. If we translators concentrate too much on the glue, ironically we, and our clients, risk coming unstuck.” Ian Hinchliffe.
Non-negotiable Master your tech field (continuing education; industry events; exchanges with experts—and not just with self-described specialized translators).
Non-negotiable Add writing skills to your subject-matter expertise. Enhance the skills you’ve already got with structured input! Invest in yourself: there are courses and books out there. (You might start with Karen Tkaczyk’s webinar on Technical Writing at
Non-negotiable Beware slippery slopes: over-use/abuse of translation technology; working too fast; not getting enough “distance” from your text.
Technical mastery of your subject is essential. Being a passionate nerd is good, because there are clients out there who need your services, and they are also passionate nerds. Translate in the Townships August 2012