Whoever is interested in Translation Studies, or eager to go through translation theories, may have already noticed the disregard with which authors usually address technical translations. On the one hand, it is possible to find publications about the fallacies when translating technical texts, and even articles describing some research paths to be taken in order to find a specific term; on the other hand, the number of publications associating the translation activity with literary texts exceeds in a great number the ones that mention other kinds of text translations.
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Literary translation, which can be traced back to the early literary production and its consequent distribution, is covered with a certain glamourous veil. It is commonly treated like the (only) kind of translation that requires re-creation, and which places the translator in the searching for the genuine meanings of the words, usually giving him the feeling of being deceitful toward the original text. Consequently, all the discussion about fidelity – wheter to the author or to the target public – goes around literary texts. There is no theory-related text addressing the question of fidelity to the original ‘author’ of mechanical manuals, even if in some cases this supposed ‘author’ is actually a company, or reproduces a whole ideology.
When we think about fidelity issues, we usually have an ideal author as being a single person, whether alive or not, but a sole source of original significances, while the translator must only be able to bring to the target text all the meaningful load of the original words. However, as nowadays the world translation demand shows, technical translations are much more requested on a daily basis than the literary ones. The reason for so is simple: technical texts are much more used in the forms of manuals, contracts, instructions, and so on, in the daily life of companies, hospitals, industrial plants, and ordinary people. Professional translators may corroborate with the fact that we translate much more technical texts than literary ones.
And we are mistaken if in a certain way we agree with the underlying assumption that technical translations are inferior in terms of text creation, whereas the literary ones are a wide open door for the language goldsmithery. Technical translation is usually seen – especially by initial translation students – as something closed, with set terms which just need to be conveyed from one language into another: There is no creation, no way of leaving my mark as someone who manipulated the language in order to transmit the original meaning. Nonetheless, we come to face the importance of text writing when undertaking a proofreading task of a technical translation previously done. It is clear, most of the times, that the translator was only attached to the searching of the correct terminology, but has forgoten the text construction. The job of the proofreader, then, is to rewrite whole sentences, or even whole texts, whenever he can understand the purpose of the translator word choices (wherever they can be recognized). Therefore, he must use all his creativity tools in order to translate/rewrite something that flows for the target reader, along, of course, with all the proper terminology used in that field, or in that specific company.
My intention here is not to diminish the importance of literary translation. Rather, literature texts are there, and they need to be translated as much as the technical ones. However, we must bring to the academic field, and therefore to the formation of new translators the notion that technical translations also involve text creation, and that they are by no means less worth of praising. Whoever has translated a technical text must know how long it takes (and how hard it is) to recreate a whole sentence in the target language that will flow as natural and ‘technical’ as the original one. And for the literary translation defenders I apologize, but it is time to stop with this category segregation, for the real limit between literary and technical texts is so thin that these days we can see literature being written in the forms of mobile phone manuals.