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September 23, 2020

The importance of terminology in specialized translation

Terminology is a key element in translation, specially when translating a specialized area such as medicine or legal documents.

Translating specialized, technical, or scientific texts is difficult. That is why there is a specific subject about this in college… so the translator can learn the different forms a term can be designated depending on the text. These kind of texts must be made by specialized translators or people familiar with the translation area.

The specialized documents aim to inform and their target audience may be specialists or professionals within the area, because they are familiar with the area’s terminology that the translator must know in order to translate.

The following article will let you know what terminology is and its importance within the translation world. In addition, if you are interested in any translation field, the importance of quality in a translation is a key element to offer the best product to the clients.

But first…


What does terminology exactly mean?

When you look for the word “terminology” in a dictionary, you will find a wide definition of all the aspects it covers. You will find that it is “the set of words or terms used in scientific, technical or specialized documents”, as well as “the study and linguistic determination of those words or terms.” But, what does it refer to when we talk about a certain kind of specialized terminology?

In order to avoid confusion within the term, terminology has 3 different meanings according to the author Emma Rodríguez Camacho:

  • As a science: From this point of view, terminology is the scientific study and theoretical analysis of the conceptualization and denomination of ideas and words.
  • As a discipline: It is the study of the denomination of ideas that belong to one or more fields of expertise.
  • As vocabulary: It is the set of terms that forms semantic hierarchies within a certain area.

In this article, terminology will be defined as a science, and its importance will be explained. Terminology assigns and describes specialized terms. This is something new, only since the 1970s has this been done in language sciences.

Terminology is a field that starts from other disciplines, such as science, medicine, law, linguistics, among others. Terminology is a word also used as a reference to gather, describe, and show terms in a systematic way, as well as the vocabulary of a certain specialized field.


And, who is in charge of terminology?

Terminology can be in charge of a terminologist, who identifies the word or standard term that corresponds to every idea, and assigns its variants using a specific system. Translators can assign these terms and variants too, as long as they know the specialized field.


Why is Terminology Important for Translators and Interpreters?

It is well known that their profession has a theoretical-practical basis, but both professionals might be specialized in certain fields, such as in technical, scientific, legal, and literary translation, among others. Each field has its own technical terms, that means, words that are specifically related to the area. These terms can only be used by people who knows and has studied the terms in order to apply them without making any mistakes, for this can’t be allowed to happen in translation.

For specialized translation, it is necessary to be familiar with the topic and/or know how to make an informed decision to name terms. In this case, the translator or interpreter must know the theoretical-practical basis of the profession, the two languages used, and have the ability to make decisions about the technical terms of the specialized area with which he/she is working. Many times, this fact is unknown to the professional, and the translator or interpreter shows a poor performance. That is why terminology is fundamental in the life of specialists, as well as of translators and interpreters.


So… Have you translated or interpreted in specialized fields?

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