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On Translation of Technical Manuals (I)

featured image The translation of a technical manual may concern the whole manual or some parts of the manual or individual instructions of same product or related products. For the former, due to the provision of complete information & context and explanations to many key specific terminologies, translators can guess the meaning of technical terms; while for the latter, translators need to search for the context required and more words they do not know the meanings. The translation of technical manuals is characterized from three levels: word, sentence and general purpose. The translators shall meet three requirements in their work: information accuracy, logical clearness and readable, which can be specified as below:
  • Accurate translation of technical terms;
  • Accurate reflection of relationship between words;
  • Accurate reflection of relationship between clause and sentence;
  • More use of sentence structures in Chinese;
  • More use of layouts & formats in English;
The last two points refers to using sentence structures in Chinese to increase understandability and using layouts & formats in English to deepen the understanding and memory (for example, using list above rather than pure text) if possible unless there are special reasons.
  1. Technical terms
Technical terms may be divided into four types in E-C translation, namely, “known & undoubted”, “known & doubted”, “unknown & existing” and “unknow & not existing”. The translation of technical terms is on principle the same with , but due to its characteristics different from that of general words, and may proceed in the following steps: “Guess”, “Search”, “Determine” and “Express”. “Guess” means to guess the meaning of a word from the context. In translation of words in a technical manual, the meanings of words usually can be know from guessing, particularly for product manuals. For example: Panning mode: when you take a picture following the motion of a subject which moves in a certain direction such as a runner or a car, the background will show some motion blur. This special effect is called “panning”. To achieve good pictures in panning mode, pick a horizontal plane – and then pan as you fire shots. Guess: 从上下文中可以看出panning表示手执照相机对着拍摄目标做横向移动,再按下快门,造成目标清晰但背景模糊的视觉效果。所以,panning mode可翻译成“平移模式”。 The long-term goal of peer-to-peer networking is to enable computer users to communicate securely and share information with one another without a dependence on centralized servers. Guess: 从上下文中可以看出peer-to-peer networking是一个网络,而且是在没有中央服务器的情况下能让几台计算机的用户安全地交换信息和沟通。而“peer-to-peer”一般译为“点对点网络”,故此将“peer-to-peer networking”译成“点对点网络”比较合适。 “Guess” is the first step; if the translators are unable to guess the meaning of a technical term form context or cannot determine whether the meaning they guess is correct, they must turn to “search”.

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