Neologisms and Technical-Scientific Translators

Translators who specialize in the technical-scientific field come across difficult words to translate almost on a daily basis. This is not just because of the specificity of the text but also because most discoveries and research in this area usually comes from foreign countries. Often times, their recent discovery has not given the target language enough time to find an appropriate term to describe such events. The presence of neologisms in the  technical-scientific field is fairly common, and it’s interesting to talk about the way translators deal with this.

New Terms

The presence of English terms is more than evident in the  technical-scientific field since most discoveries are usually published in this language. Thus, Spanish translations for these terms often lead to direct translations, or the use of loanwords from English. Technical terminology is closely related to the development of science. The creation of new terms should go hand in hand with such development, though this would be complicated for terminologists, translators and linguists, since technologies and science advance at such a rapid pace that by the time they gather the information to try to create glossaries or terminology databases, their content may be obsolete.

In addition, often times language professionals create their own vocabulary to excel in their field of expertise, precisely because of this lack of appropriate translations of new terminology.

Possible Alternatives

Everything I’ve talked about brings us to the fact that translators resort to using foreign words, or most often, leave a given term in the original language, mainly English, not being able to find a better option. They probably think that the professionals who will read the translation will be familiar with English words.

Although language professionals have the option of trying to explain the term through an explanation or definition, this would not be appropriate since in most cases the translation would be too wordy, especially in documents where certain technical terms are repeated many times (as is the case of patents).

Unfortunately, there is no organization to regulate and standardize this type of technical and scientific terminology, and when the translator tries to consult with a technical or scientific professional, looking for an equivalent in Spanish, he/she will usually say that it is best to keep the term in English, and may even be surprised that we insist on coming up with a Spanish version for such term.  Thus, the translator does not have a real and reliable source to resolve these issues.

While I believe this situation does nothing but to undermine the richness of the language, it seems that the tendency is to leave the terms in the source language (mainly English) or use some sort of direct translation, until a consensus is reached on this issue.

(Versión en español: