Carving out a niche in technical translation requires more than having a bilingual or multilingual capacity. While the job entails converting written text from one language to another, it also combines the skills of a linguist and technical writer in one professional package.
Some of the technical materials that require expert translation include project proposals, scientific reports, software and hardware licensing agreements, and legal briefs. To be able to effectively translate technical content, the translator is expected to have native-level proficiency or mastery of the source and target languages. This also includes having an in-depth knowledge of the rules of grammar, composition, and syntax governing both source and target languages.
In many cases, these skills were acquired by the translator through writing and conversation in a personal or professional environment.
But more than having the required linguistic and language translation skills, the technical translator should also be a subject matter expert in a highly specialized field, such as law, engineering, medicine, telecommunications or any of the different scientific disciplines.
As a subject matter expert, the technical translator has completed a degree or acquired certification and training to be considered qualified for the job. In many cases, education and training are combined with years of on-the-job experience in a specific industry. A combination of these essential elements provides the technical translator with insider knowledge as well as an understanding of the terminologies that define the industry.
This know-how comes in handy when professionals translate technical content. As an example, a scientific paper on a revolutionary drug treatment program may require knowledge on the pharmacological history of the substance in two languages. A translator with a health or medical background could easily work on this type of document.
Localization is also an important aspect of the job. Through this process, translating a legal, scientific, or technical text into another language meant understanding and adopting location-specific context and nuances into the final work. For example, a technical translator working on a legal or judicial document in a particular country must not only be a language expert but also have an in-depth understanding of the legal context and processes in that jurisdiction. The job requires more than converting a word into another language. It also entails knowing the story and reasoning behind the choice of words in a document.
Currently, most translators are employed in the professional, technical, and scientific field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the translation and interpretation profession is expected to grow by 29 percent from 2014 to 2024. This is due to a growing demand for services that require experts to translate technical content.