How do you determine whether or not a document submitted for translation qualifies as a technical document?
When we review a document to determine whether or not it qualifies as a technical document for translation purposes, we consider the subject matter, the terminology used, the purpose of the document and its intended audience.
TheFreeDictionary.com defines technical documentation as “… documentation [that typically] contributes to the study of human or mechanical factors, procedures, and processes in the fields of medicine, science, logistics, research, development, test and evaluation, intelligence, investigations, and armament delivery.”
Technical documentation in industry jargon is often referred to as TECDOC.
Documents that typically qualify as technical would include: material used for instruction purposes (user instructions, operating instructions, servicing instructions); manuals (installation manuals, software manuals); scientific texts laden with subject-specific jargon (medicine, pharmacology, chemistry, statistics, the law, to name some).
However, not all ‘scientific’ documents (be they medical, legal or otherwise) are technical. In medicine or pharmacology, instructions intended for a patient’s use of medication would typically be drafted in layman terms. Similarly, a commercial contract would usually not be technical whereas legislation would most likely qualify.
There really is no single definition that clearly captures the nature of what would qualify as a technical document for translation purposes.
It reminds us of the observation once made by a judge in a case relating to obscenity, wherein he stated [paraphrasing] “I can’t actually define pornography with any precision, but I know what it is when I see it.”
So go ahead and submit your document to us and we’ll let you know whether or not it qualifies as technical. When we’re unsure, we can oftentimes arrive at a determination by the feedback from our freelance translation resources; if our more capable translators refuse to tackle the material because of its level of difficulty, then it clearly qualifies as technical.