Vincent Devisme

Vincent Devisme

Published on 26 October 2023 • 2 mins. to read

Technical translation is a demanding field, requiring constant precision and rigour to ensure that the documents, processes or information concerned are fully understood. Professional translators rely on various tools to achieve this, and the technical glossary is a key element. Let’s find out why glossaries play a major role in the translation of technical and industrial documents.

The challenges of technical translation

The field of technical translation encompasses many different types of document, such as user manuals, scientific reports, quality standards, technical specifications and so on. These texts are often punctuated by a multitude of specialised terms and jargon characteristic of their sector of activity, such as aeronautics, pharmaceuticals or renewable energy.

Complex vocabulary and sector-specific terminology

This variety of fields presents translators with a constant challenge: mastering the expressions and words specific to the field being translated, while respecting the nuances required in each target language. A term may thus have several equivalents in another language, with subtleties linked to usage or local contexts. This is where the technical glossary comes in.

The contribution of the glossary to technical translation: a common, centralised reference

Among the many tools available to translation professionals, the technical glossary provides them with a centralised database listing all the terms specific to a field or company, as well as their translation into different languages.

  • Shared language: the glossary helps to create shared language between all the employees of an organisation, whatever their geographical location.
  • Consistent translations: using this terminology repository, translators ensure that they propose consistent translations for each term, thus avoiding ambiguities and misunderstandings that could result from a variety of translations for the same concept.
  • Saving time: a well-developed glossary also facilitates the work of professionals by saving them precious time when faced with a new or particularly complex expression. This means they have the right translation immediately, without having to search for it or find it in previous documents.
  • Ease of access: these days, glossaries are often available in electronic form and integrated into company information systems, making them quick and easy to consult for all employees.

The process of creating a technical glossary

To produce an effective technical glossary tailored to the needs of the organisation or its customers, the translator must follow a precise methodology.

Identification of specific terms

The first step is to identify the words and expressions specific to the field in question (or to the company), which require particular attention when translating. This stage sometimes requires prior research to become familiar with all the specialist vocabulary.

Creation of a multilingual list of terms and translations

Once these terms have been identified, the translator then translates them into the various target languages, taking into account local contexts as well as the nuances specific to each language. It is often necessary to consult different sources of terminology data or call in experts to ensure the relevance of each translation.

Maintenance and regular updates

Finally, a good technical glossary should be regularly updated to incorporate new terms linked to developments in the sector concerned, as well as new translations from past projects. This maintenance work involves constantly monitoring technological innovations, current standards and regulations, and lexical developments.

In conclusion: a key tool for translators

Covering a multitude of specialist fields and using complex and evolving vocabularies, technical translation is a demanding profession. The use of appropriate tools such as technical glossaries enables professionals to ensure the quality and consistency of their work, while helping to create a common language within organisations. Developing and maintaining an effective glossary is therefore an essential step in mastering the specific challenges posed by technical translation. It may also be useful to use a glossary for more specialised translations such as legal or financial documents.

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