Best Practices

Translating Technical White Papers from English to Spanish: Ensuring Clarity and Precision

Writing can take many forms. There are numerous writing genres, and many distinctions when it comes to style and traits.
Romina C. Cinquemani
6 min
Table of Contents

Writing can take many forms. There are numerous writing genres, and many distinctions when it comes to style and traits. When approaching these documents for translation, you need to consider a few relevant features in order to produce a proper Spanish version.

First Understand, Only Then Translate

Translating technical documents, such as white papers, from English into Spanish requires a thorough understanding of their structure and specific goal. Just to start on the same foot: white papers are detailed reports that present problems and propose solutions. Usually, they are aimed at experts in a given field. A typical white paper has informative or educational purposes. In-depth comprehension of this document involves not only being familiar with the technical terminology, but catching also the logical flow and argumentations presented therein.

Terminology as a Russian Doll

Industry jargon is one of the main features in all white papers. You will find specific terminology that belongs to the main field of science developed. But then again, you will encounter academic or technical language that helps highlight the subject matter at hand. Your translation should respect both the tone and standards of technical writing in English.

Useful Translation Techniques

For precision and clarity purposes, there is a big chance you will need to apply a couple of key translation techniques. Parallel translation is one of these. In this instance, the translator works on linguistic structures side by side to preserve context and proper alignment. That is to say, you need to work in parallel, comparing the source section with the new translation. Another resource to apply is back-translation. Here, one of your colleagues should translate back into English your Spanish version of the text. Ideally, this would help as a quality check to make sure the target text follows the source. Since, as we know, Spanish is quite a verbose language, you could break down long sentences into shorter units to reinforce clarity in Spanish.

Quality Assurance: the Belle of the Ball

“Always” and “never” are too strong and final words. They tend to disappear in these fleeting times. At best, they do sound excessive. Whereas in this case, we could safely use both terms without fear of aiming too high or missing the spot. Quality assurance should always be a multi-step process, and it should never be left to amateurs.

The first step in quality assurance should be peer review. This means that an equally qualified translator must read, correct and review the target text. A second step would involve the collaboration of subject matter experts (SMEs). Clearly this is a must in scientific or technical fields where razor sharp meanings demand even finer utensils (words). Indisputably, automated translation tools are fundamental here to help preserve consistency throughout the text.

Cherry on the Cake: Final Review and Responsible Feedback

The original translator is in charge of the final review step with a thorough reading. This stage involves checking that the document is precise and well-polished. Then, end-users and native Spanish speakers with proven expertise on the field will provide feedback on the white paper. The translation team will collect and incorporate their feedback, so that it can help detect inaccuracies.

Bear in mind that the institution in charge of publishing might apply their own standards in the case of public academic white papers. Whatever goes in English, standard wise, must go in Spanish as well. Private companies, within numerous technical fields, might require their own white papers translated into Spanish, in order to reach wider audiences, and expand their target market.

White papers, when available on private or public websites, might be the free gateway to a myriad of monetized content and learning opportunities. Make sure to be a worthy part of such reading and learning experience. It might even change or enrich someone’s vision on the developed topic. Reading and writing matter. Pour your heart out into translation, even if within the framework of technical writing. Breath life into the target version, so that translation matters as well.

Romina C. Cinquemani
Spanish translator, writer, language lover, and constant life apprentice.
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