A keynote paper presented at the 2009 Translator as Writer Conference at the University of Portsmouth. First published in: Ian Kemble (ed.) (2010) The Translator as Writer. Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth
Technical translators have traditionally been regarded as being solely concerned with matters of specialised terminology and factual accuracy. The issue of writing skills in technical translation has tended not to receive much attention with the prevailing view that as long as what was written was clear and concise, there was nothing to worry about. But the role of the modern technical translator has evolved to such an extent that it bears little resemblance to the traditional notion of a translator. Various external factors have resulted in technical translators implementing writing strategies more commonly associated with areas such as technical writing, information design and even creative writing. This places technical translation firmly at the frontier of the accepted view of translation and it is now time to decide whether to press on into uncharted territory or whether to turn back and return to safe, familiar ground. This paper discusses how traditional distinctions between the work of translators and writers are rapidly fading and examine ways in which a translator’s writing skills play a central role in the evolution of technical translation.
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