Scientific translation is for real experts

Scientific translation is a complex field in which “anything goes” is more useless than ever. As with any type of translation, a basic understanding of the topic is necessary, but this understanding is absolutely crucial when dealing with the translation of scientific texts.

Scientific language is very specific, specIalised and requires years of study. This includes medical translation also: only a doctor can perfectly understand a text about the symptomatology of an illness and only a biologist understands an article about the different strains of a virus. They are expert professionals!

In fact, scientific translation involves fields so specialised that it doesn’t just adapt one language to another, but also includes a professional having to change the jargon or adapt a purely scientific text for informative purposes. Availing of a scientific dictionary would be a safe bet!

Scientific translation: the requirements

Scientific translation requires a comprehensive understanding of the language and scientific vocabulary. The professional carrying out the translation must be an expert in the target and source languages. In addition, in order to adequately translate a scientific term, they must have extensive training in the field of the text with which they are working.

The challenges of scientific translation

Translation errors, along with great economic investment and the time-consuming nature of scientific translation projects, can result in a complete disaster.

Nidia Amador Domínguez states in the article “Ten common errors in the translation of scientific articles” that a translator in the field of biology must know that the English word “fungal” in Spanish is translated as “fúngico” even though the suffix “-al” is also used in Spanish in similar contexts.

Furthermore, they must also have a perfect grasp of the style of the scientific field, particularly that of the target language, and know how to apply it. In Spanish, for example, scientific translation should use short phrases that retain the meaning and detail but avoid the passive voice.

Understanding science

Understanding of context is crucial when working on a scientific translation that changes the original text from one language to another. Likewise, when the goal is to adapt the level of the text for informational purposes. This process causes native translators many problems!

In fact, there is an entire field of humanities dedicated to studying how to transfer research results carried out with test tubes, microscopes and lab rats in a way that can be understood by common people.

To carry out this type of scientific translation, we must simplify technical terms and expressions. This requires sacrificing the essential specificity necessary in science not meant for a general audience.


Get the right translation agency for the right job

As you can see, scientific translation requires the work of professional translators. They must be experts in linguistics as well as specific fields of study in order to get off on the right foot. Although, don’t be fooled, scientists are also capable of a little humour! Take the paleontologist who, in love with a woman called Ella, decided to call a fossil he found Ellaquismus (Ella kiss me).

What would the scientific translation of this name be in French or Spanish anyway?

If you’ve got any doubts about your scientific translations, contact us!

About the author

Oscar Nogueras

Es el CEO de Ontranslation y dedica algunos ratos libres a escribir en este blog para compartir sus conocimientos sobre internacionalización, cross-border ecommerce y Traducción SEO. No es para menos, ya que entre su formación cuenta con una licenciatura en filología inglesa, un máster en tradumática, un posgrado en elearning y un MBA. En definitiva, una declaración de intenciones donde la cultura y los idiomas se sirven mezclados, no agitados.

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