The Importance of Technical Translation to the Engineering Industry

Last Updated On: September 6, 2023


Technical language is difficult enough for native language speakers. It involves an understanding and familiarity with a very specific terminology and jargon. If a technical document translation is required, it is important that it is handled by professional translation services that specialise in technical documents. In fact, the more specialised the translator, the better. For example, if it is a medical document, the language used is going to be quite distinct from that used in an engineering document.

Engineering documents include information such as:

  • Warning labels
  • Safety data sheets
  • Functional specifications
  • Design requirements

To give a single example of how important it is to choose the right translator, consider what is needed to translate safety data sheets (SDS). These are often required across boundaries within the EU where similar technical equipment is in use. If you are in charge of a multi EU nation chemical engineering firm, you will be required to make sure that all the SDS you use are written according to the European Chemical Agency’s language requirements.


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    This may seem an unnecessary bureaucratic burden, but in the end it saves injuries and lives. A badly translated safety sheet could easily end up in tragedy if the instructions are not fully understood. The EU will not hesitate to fine a company that tries to shortcut these requirements.

    Take another example, this time from the United States. Safety training in the U.S. is under the direction of the federal agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Organisation (OSHA). All safety training is required to be available in the principal languages of the employees who are working in that particular industry. The sort of training they mean includes things like posters, brochures and handbooks. Apart from English, the main secondary language in the U.S. is Spanish. That means that every employer that has employees that speak Spanish as their first language must have safety training literature in at least English and Spanish.

    What are the risks of mistranslations for an engineering company?

    • Injuries and Fatalities
    • Penalties such as fines or cancellation of licenses to operate
    • Lawsuits

    Professional technical translation services are not just important or mandatory for employees. They are also important when an engineering firm is communicating information about a product or a service to potential overseas clients. Every company has to be aware of its need to seek out expansion where there is an opportunity and making technical information available and accessible in the languages of your target clients is certainly an opportunity.

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