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Technical translation

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Technical translation is a specialised type of translation that involves particularly specific work, meaning that technical translation requires the most accurate reproduction of various technological solutions and processes in the target language, the proficient translation of narrowly specialised terms, and compliance with the appropriate presentation style. Likewise, for the translation of technical documentation, equipment instructions and software, one needs perfect knowledge of the source and target languages, and to be proficient in professional terminology.

Due to the globalisation process, a wide exchange of technical information can be observed all over the world both between local and foreign information technology companies, as well as manufacturers, science and innovation centres, and designers. Opportunities for cooperation are increasing; therefore, a service such as technical translation is becoming more and more in demand in the language services market. For other types of translation, more information is available in the sections “website translation and localisation”, “interpreting”, “translation of legal texts”, “translation of advertising and marketing texts”, “translation of various general documents” and “notary-certified translation”.


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Technical texts often contain terms that lack appropriate target language equivalents, so translators sometimes also deal with term creation by contacting experts in the relevant field and/or reading additional literature to gain an understanding of technological innovations or scientific discoveries. If the term is used by a very limited group of specialists, experts recommend rendering it very similar to the word in the source language to avoid misunderstandings. One of the ways to reproduce unknown terms in the target language is to study the international distribution of the source language word, that is, the internationality of words is one of the criteria for borrowing terms into Latvian. The more languages in which ​​a certain international term is found, the more reason there is to borrow it in the Latvian language as well. Such international terms also tend to become synonyms for Latvian terms, because next to the Latvian term, which facilitates clear communication within the Latvian language, the international synonym facilitates communication on an international scale.

When translating technical texts, translators must follow a formally logical writing style. This style is characterised by factual accuracy, impersonality and transfer of information without additional emotional undertones. However, these characteristics do not fully reflect all the peculiarities of the scientific style that a translator should follow when translating technical texts.

Most often technical translation is carried out in written form. The written form is more convenient and reliable, as it is less likely to allow any inaccuracy, which may not be that important in everyday communication, but in the context of scientific and technical text can cause serious misunderstandings. When translating technical texts and documentation, no graphic element, sign or symbol should be omitted in the target language, as this may lead to a distortion of the meaning of the original, which may have serious and lasting consequences.


Carrying out technical translation doesn’t just require the professional competencies of translators and interpreters; specific literacy in the areas covered by technical documentation is also required. Technical translation usually involves not only translators and interpreters who have the appropriate specialisation in translation but also editors and terminologists who work with terminology and its creation, as well as consult with industry representatives and academic staff. It can be beneficial if translators, interpreters and editors also have practical work experience in a particular narrow field of specialisation.

Translators and interpreters of technical texts must also be able to navigate and work with a large amount of additional information, such as local and international technical standards. Searching and checking information in reliable sources is an essential part of the technical translators’ work.

Technical translator education in Latvia can be obtained at Riga Technical University’s E-study Faculty of Technology and Humanities, which offers the Technical Translation study programme.

Technical translation is unthinkable without appropriate technological solutions. These are systems provided by the client, especially for specific needs, or solutions used by the translation agency. We have described them in more detail in the sections “Translation Tools” and “Neural Machine Translation”.


A technical text is a text that represents special information intended for a specific target group, which is necessary for the performance of precise actions or the transfer of science-based information. Therefore, the technical text has a clear, precise and coherent tone, that is, the technical text describes and explains to its reader in professional language, every smallest detail and operation, or provides theoretical information about the application of methods or tools unfamiliar to the reader. The language of technical texts is characterised by the extensive use of terms, abbreviations and numbers. The expression is laconic, precise and unambiguous. Furthermore, technical text has descriptive and demonstrative characteristics, which are related to the fact that the text presents processes that are based on various scientific knowledge and facts, or the text talks about the peculiarities of the use of the tools or devices mentioned.

Technical documentation is the end result of technical writing, or a prepared set of documents on the characteristics, parameters and application of a technical product that is being created or is already in use. Technical texts cover a very wide spectrum of life areas, starting with relatively simple instructions for the use of household appliances and ending with nationally important military or engineering projects. Many believe that technical documentation is a large volume of texts that can be understood and read by anyone without special education, but this is a myth and it is not true. Interestingly, nowadays technical documentation is often supplemented with audio-visual data, such as video projections or sound elements, which significantly eases the perception and application of the information described in the text. The text in technical documentation must be formal and business-like, be as precise as possible, and use uniform terminology, including accurately reflected numerical facts, calculations and measurements.


  • Translations of technical projects, specifications, certificates and methodological instructions.
  • Translations of construction documentation.
  • Translations of operating instructions and catalogues for equipment and devices.
  • Translations of assembly and operating instructions.
  • Translations of command and control manuals.
  • Translations of the descriptions of special technology of various industries.
  • Translations of production plans.
  • Translations of technical presentations.
  • Translations of other documents related to the specific industry.


Generally, the translation of technical texts tends to be contrasted with translations of fiction, non-fiction and other creative texts, because when translating technical texts, free interpretation of the text is not allowed. The term “technical translation” refers to the transfer and exchange of specialised technical information from one language to another between people who speak different languages. The translation of technical texts is closely related to the translation of scientific and technical materials, as they widely use scientific and technical terminology. In the translation of technical texts, the task of the translator is to adapt the texts of narrow specific technical fields to the audience of users in the target language. Taking the rapid technological development into account, when translating technical texts, the translator often has to work with concepts and terms that are difficult to find a corresponding equivalent in the target language. In the Latvian language, many technical terms today come from technical texts in English and take root in everyday communication much faster than terminologists and linguists are able to offer an appropriate equivalent, thus causing wide-ranging discussions in society about the correctness of the language and the professionalism of translators. Many researchers, language specialists, translators, and interpreters admit that, when comparing technical translation with the translation of technical or scientific texts, it is very difficult or even impossible to distinguish between these types of translations.