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Technical translation

Technical translation

Have you ever wondered how instruction manuals are translated? Or the documents for major construction projects such as suspension bridges? Well, this type of work belongs to the realm of technical translation.

What is technical translation?

Technical translationTechnical translation, also known as specialised translation, is the translation of specialised documents that use specific words and phrases associated with a particular industry. These words and phrases are not generally used in everyday language.

For example, a translator working with marketing texts must have knowledge of transcreation (translating and creation) in order to give them that special touch that will successfully sell products in the target culture.

Most translations are specialised or technical, in that they focus on specific fields, (think medicine, law, engineering, wine making), that the translator must have technical knowledge of. A crucial aspect of technical translation is transmitting the information in an objective, comprehensible way, so that the reader will understand, for example, how to put together a piece of furniture or use a diecutting machine.

If your company works in a particular sector, it is very likely that you will need a technical, specialised translator.

Is scientific translation the same as technical translation?

Technical translationIdentifying a clear difference between technical and scientific translation is often challenging, since they are both specialised types of translation that share the same field: science and technology.

However, there are differences between the purpose and intention of the source texts and, consequently, their translation.


  • Scientific texts generally have a theoretical focus and an informative purpose: to transmit the author’s knowledge in written texts that develop theories or present studies. The scientific translation of this kind of text geared towards professionals in the same field, who read the texts in order to learn. This is why these types of translations use formal, academic language. Examples include laboratory tests, academic articles, theses and academic books.
  • Technical texts generally have a practical focus, since their goal is to transmit information for a practical application. Technical translation of these texts and documents often takes place in the industrial sector and can be found in instruction manuals and assembly or user guides.

Characteristics of technical translation

This type of translation requires strong linguistic and professional skills. Not all translators are capable of professional translation of technical documents;—the translator must be specialised in the relevant subject area and have prior experience in this type of translation.

One of the biggest challenges associated with this type of translation is the particular terminology it involves. For example, when translating a document about the operation and use of a machine from the textile industry, the translator will need to know the names of the specific parts of the machine in the target language, as well as other terms regarding textile work or particular functions. Additionally, they should always maintain terminological coherence, using the same term whenever it appears in the source document to avoid confusing the reader.

Technical translations also present a significant challenge at the conceptual level. When comes to translation, knowing the right terms to use isn´t enough: the translator must also fully understand the text to capture the information accurately and objectively.

The terminology used in technical translation must be clear and precise, and the language formal, to avoid any ambiguities that could confuse the reader. The degree of specialisation will affect the text’s target audience.

Examples of technical translation

There are many kinds of technical translations, including the following:

  1. Company procedures

Company procedures define the steps that need to be followed to achieve specific results. They include administrative procedures, legal procedures, operational procedures, computing procedures etc.

  1. User guides or manuals

User guides or manuals are the technical documents that explain how to use a product, explaining its characteristics and possible uses.

  1. Instruction manuals

Instruction manuals contain information about the product, assembly instructions and required tools, and user warnings. This information is provided by the manufacturer.

  1. Engineering texts

These are technical documents from the field of engineering, such as academic papers, practical reports, research projects and civil engineering documents.

  1. Patents

Patents are technical and legal documents explaining the parts and working of an invention or product, and all the legal documentation involved. Translating these documents into different languages is essential for marketing the product abroad.

  1. IT translations for software localisation

This consists of translating the content and features of an application into different languages for use by people all over the world.

  1. Equipment catalogues

These catalogues include photos of the products being sold and a brief description of their technical specifications.

Technical translator qualities

A good technical translator must be a professional translator with training and experience in the industrial sector and the subject matter of the document that needs to be translated.

Professional translators always translate into their native language and have a perfect command of the source language. They should also be rigorous and meticulous with terminology, pay attention to details and have high standards when it comes to the final result. 

Technical translators must conduct research and use reference material such as glossaries, as well as their technical knowledge in the relevant field.

A key characteristic of the technical translator’s work is the need to stay on top of the changes and developments in their field of specialisation.

Why choose Acantho for your technical translations?

We translate technical documents for a range of clients, including universities, laboratories, SMEs and multinational companies.

There is no margin for error in technical translation, which entails great terminological and conceptual complexity. It therefore requires the best technical translators, with a high degree of specialisation in the field, who offer guaranteed quality in their translations—translators like the Acantho I&C team.

If you have any questions about our technical translation services, need more information or would like to know the cost of your translation, please call us on (+34) 976 910 302, or send an email to, and we will be more than happy to assist you. We’ll give you a quote based on your documents at no cost and with no obligation.

This post is also available in Español.