Topical issues in scientific and technical translation  

Today scientific and technical translation in Russia is having hard times to put it mildly. Although the shelves of bookstores are literally crammed with an abundance of insanely expensive translated scientific and technical literature (in particular, computer), frequently the quality of this product is so daunting that competent readers with their own intuition often have to mentally recover the original text, hopelessly spoiled by an unscrupulous translator.

Translation hackwork in the technical field, unfortunately, becomes a habitual norm. This happens mainly because the customer is out to get the desired translation as quickly and cheaply as possible, and the performer with zero responsibilities and receiving for his translation work a paltry sum of money has to “churn out products”, transforming quality into quantity.

Under such conditions, it’s useless to talk about careful study of new technical terminology. Does an always bustling “churning translator” have any time for self-education, grubbing in dictionaries, geographical atlases, encyclopedias or on the Internet in search of grammatically and etymologically correct Russian equivalents? Nonexistent cities, duchies, states emerge here; famous names and surnames are mixed up, Russian words and phrases are replaced by their English analogues, e.g. “izmenenie masshtaba izobrazhenija” becomes “zooming”, “probuksovka” – “thrashing”, “cheredovanie” – “interleaving”, “postavshhik uslug” – “provider”, “peredacha raboty vneshnemu ispolnitelju” – “outsourcing”, and then, suddenly, there will be “computing”, “recorder”, “plugin”, “peering” and other meaningless translation loan-words.

However, the worst thing is that, as correctly written in the magazine “The World of translation” by my colleagues from the Kazan regional branch of the Union of Translators of Russia I. Lichtenstein, S. Muravjev and R. Tabeev, “the customer, even if he pays a good deal, will still get a hackwork, because he already does not understand the difference between a good translation and a bad one, and the churning translator is no longer able to create anything serious.”

Translation of scientific and technical literature is a sphere of ​​translation activity, in which the professional performance of the work can be done only by highly trained technicians who have good knowledge of the subject area and its specific terminology, who speak a foreign language perfectly well, and (most importantly) who know how to properly express their thoughts (without getting off the point and style of the original) in the target language. And here comes the primal problem: finding good translators, for the practice of making large translation projects shows that, at best, among the hundreds of “techies” who believe in their ability to translate, you would find on average only two specialists, who are really capable of doing it professionally.

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