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Written by Montserrat González

Montserrat is a professional translator who likes to read and write fictional stories. There's nothing she enjoys more than spending time with her friends and family.

September 23, 2020

The challenge of translating technical terms


When we go into specialized translations, we usually find technical terms that turn into a real challenge, especially if they are new concepts or there are more words in the source language than in the target language.

Any professional translator, regardless of having 30 years of experience or just one, may feel in trouble when facing a large number of technical terms in the same text, especially if they are “new”.

Facing this great challenge, the translator has the task of finding concordance between the terms of both languages and go deeper into the context to be able to express the essence of the source text in the target one. All of this research work is explained in our article about the translation process.



How to translate technical terms?

When you work as a professional translator, the frequent use of foreign words it’s inadvisable because the translator job is adapting those words into the target language, and not about leaving the texts as is.

Nowadays, the use of unneeded anglicisms (especially within the advertising field) is a very common practice, since many of those words have their own equivalent in the target language. However, we know that there are some topics full of technical words which are difficult to translate.

In these cases the translator’s job becomes a tough challenge. The translator is forced to know and analyze the format and background of the topic in general. Whichever the case, a translator must be intelligent enough to know how to react according to the translation target audience.

For example, although there are terms that have an equivalent in the target language, sometimes using the established translation isn’t the best thing to do; as is the case with the word “chip” which in Spanish is “circuito integrado.”

Most Spanish speakers -who don’t speak English- know, or have heard the word “chip,” but its Spanish equivalent is known only by specialists in the electronics field. So, if the target audience of the text isn’t specialized in the field, it’s better to use the “most popular” term.

There are occasions when the equivalent term isn’t fully accepted yet. so you can use an explanatory parenthesis, but it will depend on the client’s preferences and the importance of the term within the text.

These would be very special cases since, fortunately, a lot of technical terms have their own translation. The translator can easily change the word “app” by “aplicación” or “wireless” by “inalámbrico”, because it is preferable to avoid using terms in the foreign language to express concepts that are currently known by the audience in the target language.


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