double arrow

Lecture 2. Technical text.


Technical translation, involve translation of texts dealing with electronics, medcine, law, economics, or sport. In a narrower sense, technical translations deal with texts from the world of engineering, including chemistry, computer science, automotive engineering, geology, byology, etc. The number of technical fields is infinetly large, and terminology is expanding and changing daily. Moreover, even within the same field, competing companies often use different terms for the same object to differentiate their products from those of their competitors.

Idealy, a technical text should therefore be trnslated by specialist in the specific area in question, who is familiar with the terminology of the company for which the translation is being done. For example, it is highly desrable that a text dealing with IBM computer parts be translated by an IBM computer specialist, because chances are the same part is called a different name by Apple, Dell, or NEC. Obviously, this is not always possible in practice. What is important, however, isthat the translator be familiar with the technical concepts involved in the text, so that the translation conveys the right idea to the engineer or technical reading it. The client can greatly contribute to the quality of the translation by providing the translator with any related documents written in the target language, as well as with the drawings and source-language documents dealing with the same topic. Then, especially if the translation is for publication, the terminology must be refined via a dialogue between the translator and the client. Dictionaries do not always provide the right answers to technical terminology problems. A technical translator will know the proper term to use. Translation/conversion of units of measurment is a special challenge to the translator. It is not only finding the correct conversion factor from pound per square inch to kilopascale, but also choosing the right fractional units to avoid expressing the weight of a microchip in tons or its dimensions in miles. Competent technical translators know that converting a temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius units or vice-versa requires a different formula from converting a temperature difference between the same units. Even if the terminology and all information contained in the document is correct, technical writing has a style that is difficult, if not impossible, for a non-technical person to imitate. A high-quality technical translation combines correct terminology and a style appropriate for the type of document and the intended audience.

Technical translation is known to be the most difficult kinds of written translation^ because a translator has to cope with a really hard task: to translate the technical text skilfully and correctly, and, in addition, not to lose the meaning or make sad mistakes which may lead not only to damage of the equipment but endanger health or even life of people. For that reason, there are some requirements for scientific translators. In scientific works, subject matter takes priority over the style of the linguistic medium which aims at expressing facts, experiments, hypothesis, etc. The reader of such scientific works does not read it for pleasure which reader of literary work usually seeks, but he is after the information it contains.

Scientific words differ from ordinary and literary words since they do not accumulate emotional associations and implications. This explains why the translation of a scientific work is supposed to be more direct, freer from alternatives, and much less artistic than the other kinds of prose. The language of scientific and technical texts is characterized by impersonal style, simpler syntax, use of acronyms, and clarity.

The main element of the scientific and technical text is term. That is why another important problem is correct translation of the terms. There is a classification of the terminological expressions:

- Simple terms, for example: oxygen, resistance, velocity.

- Complex terms, for example:

gas+meter = gasometer (газгольдер)

Sometimes there is a cutting of the components in this case:

turbine + generation = turbogenerator
ampere + meter = ammeter


- Word combinations, components of which are in attributive connection:

direct current- постійний струм
barium peroxide – перекис барію


Very often the attribute element is expressed by the word combination, which is semantic unity:

low-noise penthode – малошумний пентод

doubling-over test – дослідження згинання


- Abbreviations:

e.m.f. = electromotive force (електрорухома сила)

Abbreviated may be also only part of the word combination:


D.C.amplifier = direct current amplifier (підсилювач постійного струму)


- Syllable abbreviations:

loran (long range navigation) – система дальної радіонавігації “Лоран”

radar (radio detection and ranging) – радіолокація

- Warranty terms (Літерні терміни):

T-antenna – Т-подібна антена

V-belt – клиновидний пояс

Sometimes the letter is non-motivated sign:

X-rays – рентгеновські промені


Translating the terms we can face with such peculiarities of the English terms:

a) Some international terms can be conveyed through transliteration:

аntenna – антена

feeder – фідер

blooming – блюмінг

b) Some terms have their direct equivalents in Ukrainian language:

hydrogen – водень

voltage – напруга

c) Sometimes we use loan translation:

single-needle instrument – однострілковий інструмент

superpower system – суперпотужна система

d) Very often there are no direct equivalents for the terms. In this case we use descriptive translation:

video-gain – регулювання яскравості позначок від відбитих сигналів

combustion furnace – піч для органічного аналізу

wall beam – балкаб покладена вздовж поперечної стіни


During translation of the terms, it is better to avoid the words of foreign origin:

промисловість instead of індустрія

сільське господарство instead of агрокультура

повний опір instead of імпеданс

For correct translation, translator must know not only English, but also correspondent Ukrainian terminology. It is difficult to choose one Ukrainian equivalent in such cases, as, for example, with the word “to switch”

switch – вимикач; перемикач; комутатор

In this case, in order to choose the best variant, the translator should have background knowledge. Let’s translate the sentence into Ukrainian:

Most of the modern radio-transmitters can communicate both telegraph and telephone signals.

The translator, who doesn’t know special terminology, will translate:

Більшість сучасних радіопередачів може посилати як телеграфні, так і телефоні сигнали.

But correct technical translation will be the following:

Більшість сучасних радіопередачів може працювати як в телеграфному, так і у телефоному режимі.

For illustration all peculiarities of the technical translation, it is essential to focus the attention on the stylistic and grammatical special features of the Ukrainian and English texts.

a) In English personal forms of verbs are used more often than impersonal, whereas in Ukrainian we have more impersonal and indefinite-impersonal forms of the verb. For example:

You might ask why engineers have to supply us with a.c. rather than d.c. for our household needs. – Можна спитати, чому для домашніх господарств зазвичай використовується змінний, а не постійний струм.

We know the primary coil in the ordinary transformer to have more turns than the secondary one. – Відомо, що первина обмотка звичайного трансформатора має більше витків, ніж вторинна.

b) In English scientific texts Future Tense is often used instead of Present:

The zinc in the dry cell accumulates a great many excess electrons, which will move to the carbon electrode. – Цинк в сухому елементі акумулює велику кількість зайвіх електронів, що рухаються до вугільного електрода.

Fig. 10 gives a drawing of a bulb; the filament will be seen in the centre. – На мал. 10 представлено креслення електричної лампи; нитку накалювання можна побачити в цетрі.

с) In English texts passive constructions are frequently used, whereas in Ukrainian active constructions are more common:

This question was discussed at the conference.

This sentence can be translated in such ways:

Це питання було обговорено на конференції.

Це питання обговорювали на конференції.

Це питання обговорювалось на конференції.

Конференція обговорила це питання.

d) The author of English scientific papers use abbreviation, which have no equivalents in Ukrainian:

d.c. (direct current) – постійний струм

a.c. (alternating current) – змінний струм

s.a. (sectional area) – площа поперечного перерізу

b.p. (boiling point) – точка кипіння

e) Some word combinations in English contain the image, which is not corresponding for Ukrainian language. During the translation, such images should be replaced by their analogues in the target language:

We have learned to manufacture dozens of construction materials to substitute iron.

Instead of the word “dozen” дюжина in Ukrainian we use the word “десяток”.

Ми навчилися виготовляти десятки будівельних матеріалів, що можуть замінити залізо.


Lecture 3.

Сейчас читают про: