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March 2016
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LiBRI: Risk-Assessment for Stylistic Problems in Writing and Translating Technical Texts

Nadia-Nicoleta Morărașu and Luminița Drugă acknowledge not only the importance and utility of technical translation, but also the risks that this transfer of meaning imply if the translation is not accurate. The two authors aim at clearly establishing the hazards implied by an excessive usage of technical jargon, the evaluation of specific risks and the proposal of certain precaution measures.

Risk-assessment is considered to belong both to technical jargon and business speak and it is identified as a five-stage process including: identifying the hazards; identifying who may be harmed and the type of harms; evaluating the risks and deciding on precautions; recording findings and implementing them; reviewing assessment and updating if necessary. Then, the two professors attempt to transfer these concepts into the field of language studies so as to perform a reliable risk-assessment for technical writing and, subsequently, for technical translation.

Steps involved in risk-assessment
Steps involved in risk-assessment

Rick-assessment in technical writing may prove to be rather challenging when having to establish the types of hazards, considering the fact that the message delivered in technical documents is produced by anyone working in a professional setting. The forms of this type of communication are divided into: instructions and procedures; specifications; descriptions; and technical reports.

Because of their technical character, these documents are to respect some essential governing conditions, namely: plainness, simplicity, orderliness, clarity, and modesty. In addition, there is a set of stylistic features that should be present in this type of writing, more specifically: conventionality of expression; a higher degree of abstractization and specialization of terms; absence of any emotiveness; the encoded character of abbreviations, acronym, conventional symbols; and variety of syntactic arrangement.

Ignoring such rules oblige writers to assume certain risks that may be classified into: purpose related risks, linguistic risks, risks related to legality or discretion, and those related to logical coherence. Specialists recommend in this respect some possible mitigations: to use modified formal style; consider the audience and the context when deciding the degree of jargon within the technical piece of writing; and to scientific popularization materials which may be used to address to a larger audience.

With respect to risk-assessment for technical translation, this paper offers a detailed evaluation of the hazards of this type of translation that is seen not only as a communication process, but also as a professional service. Some of the risks met by translators, which are to be considered, fall into the following types: traps in translation contracts, and financial and legal risks. Furthermore, the target texts may lead to inadequate technical product documentation. There are clear legal provisions of the European Union, for instance the EU Resolution C411, that clearly state the need for accurate translations of technical product documentation into the language of the target market.

A case study conducted by the two authors, which consisted in analysing the user manual of an MP5 payer, is related to the case of technical documentation translated into Romanian. According to their study, there were found errors at all linguistic levels (grammatical, graphic etc.). In all cases, the translation quality imposes various risks that lead to serious consequences that may imply the prejudice of clients’ reputation, extra financial costs or even grounds for complaints.

In conclusion, this paper raises concerns for both writers and translators of technical texts at the level of risk-assessment. It is clear that, even though the work of these people may seem to deal only with linguistic concerns, in fact, they must be also careful with legal and economic issues. In order to avoid negative consequences of inappropriate technical writing and translation, it is highly recommended to consult all relevant resources, from previous versions or/and patterns to internet reliable resources. Finally, the two authors consider the process of risk-assessment to be incomplete as long as those findings may lead initially only to some recommendations and not to their implementation.

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Iuliana-Alexandra Fleșcan-Lovin-Arseni