Wessex techies talk

ITI Wessex held a lively exchange of views about Technical Translation at the Romsey premises of corporate member Wessex Translations on 7 June in the afternoon following lunch at the nearby Bear and Ragged Staff pub. The group of professional translators discussed a range of topics some dealing with definitions, sources, targets, and resources, others dealing with language versus specialised knowledge and work issues. The looming matters of machine translation, agencies and artificial intelligence also attracted debate. It was noted how WT’s dictionary library now had the air of an archive. Upstairs the translation company carried on its business almost entirely online.


Patent language

The translation of a patent involves a particular use of language to describe in a formalized and quasi legal way the claimed innovative aspects of the invention. There is a particular structure to the whole thing which among other things includes references to previous techniques and other relevant patents. There is usually a description of  the invention itself in relation to the appended drawings with a listing of its specific claims. Certain phrases recur such as “in a preferred embodiment”, “according to the claim” and “another object of the invention”. There can at times seem to be an excess of repetition while other things are left to the knowledge “of those skilled in the art”. It all ends up in producing a text that at first sight appears impenetrable, but this is also its purpose which stems from the patent industry’s domain. Identification and protection. As such their translation is especially circumscribed. Happily access to patents has been considerably improved through international cooperation and computer power as evidenced by WIPO the World Intellectual Property Organization (www.wipo.int).

Digital Age

The LSP Symposium When Translation Meets Technologies: Language Service Providers (LSPs) in the Digital Age on 9 June 2016 at the University of Portsmouth had excellent presentations by Dr Maeve Olohan (University of Manchester) whose speech asked Who makes decisions about translation techonolies, and why? and by Henry Dotterer (Founder and President of Proz.com) who spoke about The respective roles of Proz.com (and other translator forums) and LSPs in the modern translation world. A lively panel discussion followed chaired by Sarah Griffin-Mason (ITI Chair) with Andy Walker, Senior Lecturer in Translation Technology at the University of Roehampton, Susan Hoare, Production Manager at Sandberg Translation Partners, and Henry Dotterer. There were plenty of opportunities to network over lunch and Focus Group sessions were held in the afternoon to answer questions on the place of MT (Machine Translation) and CAT (Computer Aided Translation) in our day-to-day operations.


To share some years of experience in the translation industry I have committed to mentoring an MA student at the local university. He comes for an afternoon session roughly monthly and I tailor the things we discuss according to his needs. So far these have tended to be on the side of what is entailed in setting up as a freelance translator: keeping records, managing workflow, approaching agencies and potential clients, pricing jobs, using computer translation tools, etc. Behind these day-to-day organisational topics lie meaty questions about how to specialise and what the assumptions are in the translation process. Watch this space.

Summer doors

This is all about the fact that this month sees me handling near 20,000 words dedicated to glass door frames. A large international company with a French division is having the technical specifications of its product range translated into English. These specs cover both the design and manufacturing aspects of its contemporary aluminium frames. The terminology is specific and this entails cross-referencing with existing documents and best engineering practice for the field. The output has to reflect the transparency of the glazing system technology involved and I am aiming to satisfy the client’s deadlines and expectations.

Spring change to art

I have a welcome ongoing translation task in my non-technical field of interest. I’m working in tandem with a Paris-based colleague on descriptions of the artists work shown in the exhibition “Chercher le garçon [Find the boy]” at MAC/VAL the Val-de-Marne contemporary art museum. It’s all about the alternative representations of masculinity offered by over a hundred artists working in all media.

What’s technical?

I tend to think that any document directed to a specific public is likely to be technical in one way or another. When I’m translating a technical document, I try to imagine being the person reading it, who it is intended for – an engineer, administrator or operator. What does the document’s author or the client want them to get from their reading? My father, a technical author for the Royal Navy, always said that the communicator was responsible for the intended reader’s understanding of the technical message. That is the approach that I follow.

Business clinic – 8 November

Welcome to Portsmouth

Welcome to Portsmouth (Photo credit: Auntie P)

This workshop organized by Katie Belo dos Santos, the coordinator of ITI Wessex, led by Sue Leschen of Avocate, and held in Portsmouth Uni was attended by a dozen translators and interpreters with a wide range of experience and languages from Spanish across Europe to Turkish. The thrust of the session driven by Sue Leschen’s background in legal matters was that we should take ourselves seriously as a profession and assert this through subject specialization and continuing professional development (CPD) leading to the strengthened confident marketing of our services. She drew attention to a drift of interpreters to translation following the government’s changes to court procurement procedures. We were encouraged to improve returns by accessing direct clients rather than agencies which tend to hold down prices. One way of doing this is to have quality business cards, brochures etc and to visit company stands at relevant trade fairs and to spend time in the language country, all of which can be claimed as legitimate business expenses. Definitely an afternoon well spent.

Translation services to industry and commerce

After spending 12 years in France working full-time as the Senior English Translator with ATT in Clermont-Ferrand, I returned to the UK to provide freelance translation services to a variety of agencies and companies whose requirements for high-quality confidential technical translation I have been satisfying for the last several years.