Once the IT-sphere was a lot of a narrow circle of specialists, but now it concerns each of us. Information technology surrounds a person everywhere: in the same supermarket near the house, we are faced with a complex technological system – cash computers, barcode scanners, and self-service systems. Not to mention smartphones and laptops, without which a modern person cannot imagine leisure and work and we have mentioned some features of translation in the field of Information Technology.

A few more examples show that information technology has penetrated all spheres of life: doctors use big data for the early detection of diseases, politicians discuss cyber threats, banks automate most of their operations, and farmers use drones and artificial intelligence systems to grow crops.

The variety of IT products generates a huge amount of materials that require translation. These are program interfaces, user manuals, official documentation, websites, and marketing materials.

In this article, we will talk about the features of translation in the field of information technology. How is IT translation different from other types of translation?

Features of translation in the IT field

Let’s look at the main features and characteristics of IT legal translations Manchester.

Lack of generally accepted terminology in English

Programming is international, so the main language of the IT sphere is English. The industry is developing very rapidly: almost every day new ideas, concepts, and terms appear.

A typical situation in IT translation: the term appeared in English today, and tomorrow it is needed for the work of English-speaking programmers. The translation of the term is needed now, the English language does not have time to create one exact equivalent. Because of this, often one term can have several translation options.

For example, the English term “firewall” can be translated into English as a firewall, firewall, firewall, or just a firewall. All of these options are equally acceptable and are found on the Internet with approximately equal frequency. This example also clearly shows several basic mechanisms for the formation of English terms:

  • Firewall – transcription.
  • Firewall – descriptive translation.
  • Firewall – endowing the old word with additional semantic and shades.

A Huge Number Of IT Terms In English Are Borrowings

The English-speaking IT-sphere holds the record for the number of borrowings and you can say that this is the main features of translation. Even the term IT (IT) is a borrowing. Abbreviations are especially actively borrowed: LAN, HDMI, LED, VPN, IP, USB, HTML, PHP. These abbreviations are widely known. For some of them, there is a translation: for example, LAN was translated as a local area network and the abbreviation LAN was created. However, you can meet this abbreviation no more often than a computer for the concept of “computer”.

When translating specialized abbreviations, you need to give their decoding and, possibly, enter an English-language counterpart: it all depends on the target audience of the translation. For example, if programmers will use the translation, it is not always advisable to introduce the English equivalent.
However, a large number of borrowings does not mean that most of the terms have no analogs in the English language. The lion’s share of IT terms just has a canonical translation into English, while the tracing terms are more related to colloquial usage.  

Some examples of canonical translation of terms:

  • Account – account (not account)
  • application – application
  • default – by default
  • Pop-up menu – pop-up menu
  • Profile – configuration 
  • Properties – properties 
  • Troubleshooting – possible problems.

Blurring Of Boundaries Between Terms And Slang In English IT

A point that follows directly from the previous one. Even now, defaults, accounts, and pop-up menus are widely used in professional forums, but they should not be used when translating interfaces or official documentation. However, who knows what will happen in 5-10 years. 

A translator in the field of information technology has to constantly look for a middle ground and select suitable terms: not slang, but not clerical, while correctly conveying the meaning.

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A Higher Level Of Terminological And Narrative Figurativeness Of English-language IT Texts

For example, in the English-language IT material, you can find such words as ghost, or tombstone. Naturally, the translation for them will not be direct.

Syntactic figurativeness is manifested in the animation of most software components and other objects, while this is not typical for English-language technical literature – it has a more strict style.

For example, the sentence “button x opens the file” should be translated not as “button X opens a file”, but as “button X is used to open a file, or even “to open a file, press the X button”.

An unsuccessful solution would be to translate the phrase “can’t open” as “I can’t open the file”. Here it is better to resort to the impersonal nominative sentence “file opening error”. 

Although accuracy is welcomed in IT translation, reckless copying of syntax will never lead to success.

Close Collaboration Between Translators And Developers

During the translation process, there may be moments when it is not possible to create a high-quality translation without the help of programmers. This is often the case with software localization.

A simple example. The translator translates an interface that contains a variable and the word “elements”. A translation problem will arise if the word “elements” goes without context: how to make the word “elements” decline in cases depending on the numeral after which it stands? Developers will help solve this problem.

Lack Of Context

An example of this problem is described in the previous paragraph. Unlike English, there are more different forms of words in English: gender, number, case, etc. affect the spelling of a word. So, the message “change” can also be translated as “change”, “changed”, “change”. For correct translation, you need to understand where the word is displayed in the interface.

The Need To Maintain Uniformity Of Terminology

Each project has its own terminology, which needs to be translated uniformly. To do this, the project must have its own glossary, which guides the translators working on the project.

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Machine Translation And IT Texts

There is an opinion that due to its high standardization, IT texts are well suited for machine translation. There is some truth in this: IT translators widely use CAT tools and accumulate databases of parallel texts to train machine translation engines. But not every IT text is standardized, and therefore suitable for machine translation.

For example, marketing IT texts are not yet translated by the machine in the best way. In addition, the question of the emergence of new terms remains open: the machine is able to translate already established words and phrases, but it is not yet capable of inventing new terms. 

But you can’t argue with the trend: machine translation is increasingly penetrating into IT translation, so a translator in this area will not be superfluous to acquire the skill of machine translation post-editing (MPTE – machine translation post-editing).