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Acronyms: tricky words to translate

The use of acronyms is becoming more frequent in every language, especially in some fields, such as telecommunications, finance, IT, medicine, etc. Therefore technical translations usually involve plenty of abbreviations which is different in every language and can’t be translated literally, but there are various tactics and rules that a technical translator must always bear in mind.

There are some abbreviations which can sometimes lead to confusion when translating because an equivalent does not exist in the target language. So, technical translators resort to a variety of dictionaries and glossaries of terms, initials and acronyms in different fields.

Here are some commonly applied tactics in technical translations, but it’s always best to check!
  • For initials that represent international organisations, there is normally a standard translation, which you will have to find out. For example WHO=OMS, UN=ONU.
  • The same applies to medical initials, which often have a standard translation, and you must use this and not the source language’s abbreviation. Some examples include: AIDS=SIDA (Acquired immune Deficiency Syndrome), DNA=ADN (Deoxyribonucleic Acid), STD=ETS (Sexually Transmitted Disease).
  • There are many other situations where you may encounter them. Some don’t have an equivalent acronym or set of initials in other languages, like CEO= Ejecutivo, or FAQ = preguntas frecuentes. Others have a different translation and acronym in the other language, like USA = Estados Unidos de América (EE. UU). Finally, there are many acronyms, especially in IT, which are also used in Spanish (PIN, DOS, CD ROM).

We can recommend the website Acronym Finder to check acronyms and initials in English. It contains more than 5 million acronyms and abbreviations, which you can search by category, or a backtracking search, which is to say that you can search for a word or words and find the corresponding acronym. This is a really useful tool for technical translations.

Do you know any other useful tools for translating acronyms? Please share with us!

Find out more about technical translations on our website.

 

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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