TRANSLATING SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL STYLE
The main function of the scientific and technical style is informative. To convey logical information, prove its novelty and significance is the main goal of a scholarly, scientific or technical author. This style is used in professional spheres of science, humanities, technology.
The scientific and technical style involves the following substyles: scientific, technical, instructional (educational), popular science substyle. The substyles are classified into the following genres: monograph, manual, textbook, article, report, technical description, discussion, etc.
The distinctive features of scientific and technical style are preciseness, clear logic, compressive character, impersonality, formality.
Preciseness is a basic property of a scientific and technical text, and it should be strictly maintained in translation. A translator must be fully aware of what s/he is translating to render precisely the content of the text. Special attention must be paid to terms*. To translate precisely, it is not enough to know an equivalent of the term. It is crucial to know the exact place of the concept, denoted by the term, in relation to other concepts. Therefore, translators in science and technologies have to specialize in a foreign language and a particular subject field. In fact, there are two types of translators: linguist translators and engineering translators. The former usually require penetration into the subject matter, the latter need good language skills.
In specialized translation, search for interlingual equivalents is a time-consuming activity even for an experienced translator. Therefore, the mid-1960s and early 1970s gave rise to term banks, or terminological data banks, that is systems for storing specialized vocabulary in electronic form. Term banks are commercially available (TERMIUM, for example, is available on CD-ROM).247
Preciseness and reliability of a scientific text is also established with references and citations. The Russian style researcher N. Razinkina compared references with currency, by which scientists pay their intellectual debt to their predecessors.248 The bibliography is considered to be a kind of social control over scientific value and reliability of the results of research.
In the target text, references in the source language and foreign languages are retained in the original form, so that the receptor would not search for a non-translated book, thinking that it has been translated. For the same reason a translator keeps untranslated quotations in a third language. (Though, for the receptor’s convenience, the translator may do a quote translation in parentheses, footnotes or after-text commentaries.)
The translation of units of measurement depends on the system they are expressed in. If in metric system, weights, measures and quantities are usually retained. If expressed in imperial system (miles, pints, pounds, etc.), they are normally converted to the metric system.
Clear logic is achieved through a system of logical connections and interrelations. A stock of linking phrases will help a translator make a connection between a point in the past and future, to refer a receptor forward or back. For example, As we will see… – Как будет видно… As I said earlier… - Как было сказано раньше… Linking phrases help to develop a point (Moreover… – Кроме того… Despite this… - Несмотря на это…According to our estimates,… - Согласно нашим подсчетам…)*
A specialized text tends to emphasize thematic components by various means because the theme serves as a linking element between what has been said in the text and what will follow (new, rhematic element). English texts, though, often manifest their implicit character and do not verbalize the thematic component of the sentence. Therefore, in the more explicit Russian text, a translator has to extend the sentence by adding an implied thematic element: The fundamental principles of alternating current are presented in this chapter. Included are the basic principles of some alternating current machines. – В данной главе изложены основные принципы переменного тока. Здесь же изложены основные принципы действия некоторых моторов переменного тока.
Logical enumeration of classification in a scientific text is a matter of graphical hierarchy: first come Roman numerals (I, II, etc), then Arabic numerals (1. 2.), then, if necessary, Arabic numerals with a parenthesis: 1), 2), followed by capitalized letters (A, B), lowercase: a, b, or lowercased letters with parenthesis: a), b). It is advisable not to change the hierarchy of enumerating elements, since a different order will seem illogical. In marking the enumeration, the translator (like the author)should be consistent: the numeral I implies the numeral II. If the text receptor sees only the numeral 1), not to be followed by the numeral 2), s/he might be confused. After saying (or writing) a, it is necessary to say (write) b.
Economy and compressive character of the text. A scientific text must provide a reader with maximal information within a minimal time period and with minimal effort. This stylistic feature is achieved with lexical and grammatical means, such as: using compressive structures, like attributive clusters (a liquid rocket – ракета на жидком топливе), Complex Subject (these devices were proved to be sufficiently reliable), Complex Object (assume this to make…), reduced adverbials (if found), article ellipsis (General view is that…); abbreviation (PC = personal computer; CD-ROM = Compact Disk-Read-Only Memory; NC = Norton Commander).
It is necessary that a translator decipher all the abbreviations in the original (by using every available dictionary and reference book) and render them according to the standards. If the form has no standard abbreviated form in the target language, it is given in full form. The abbreviations that cannot be deciphered are retained in the source language.
Impersonalityis a measure of the extent to which the producer of a textavoids reference to him/herself or to the receptor.249 Such avoidance is far commoner in written than in spoken texts, and in Russian than in English. Using impersonal and indefinite structures, passive constructions, infinitive clauses, etc. provides the impression of the impersonal and objective style. Several experiments were run. – Было проведено несколько экспериментов.
As has been mentioned, in English texts a smaller degree of impersonality is acceptable, as compared with Russian. This results in a more frequent usage of personal pronouns (I, we, you) in English. Such sentences are often translated from English into Russian by infinitive clauses or impersonal constructions: If we introduce an extra member… - Если ввести лишний элемент…250
English instructions and directions normally list instructions in the imperative mood. To observe impersonality as a characteristic feature of a Russian technical style, it is recommended translating the imperative verbs by Russian infinitives:251
To run test 3,… you needto attach the loopback plug to your EtherLink board.
To Attach the Loopback Plug
1. Locate the personal computer that contains the board you are going to test.
2. Identify the EtherLink board connector on the rear or side panel of the computer…
3. Push the loopback plug onto the round BNC connector and twist the sleeve clockwise one-quarter turn until it stops.
Для проведения теста 3 необходимо прикрепить разъем к плате Эзерлинк.
Чтобы прикрепить разъем, нужно
1. Установить компьютер с платой, подлежащей тестированию, на его постоянное место.
2. На задней или боковой панели компьютера найти гнездо платы Эзерлинк…
3. Вставить разъем в круглое гнездо BNC и повернуть муфту на ¼ оборота по часовой стрелке до фиксации муфты.
Some authors prefer to use the so-called ‘royal plural’: we – мы. Today this usage is considered somewhat outdated. It is better to keep an impersonal style.
Formality. This feature results from the author’s tendency to avoid connotative words in the scientific text. However, research by N. Razinkina and other linguists has shown that English scientific text is not void of expressive elements, which greatly differs from the Russian style. Metaphors and bright similes are not infrequent in the English scientific text: Many of us are amused by grammatical acrobatics. (R.Quirk). Since this feature is so different in English and Russian, translators generally leave out metaphors in the Russian translation according to the rule of functional equivalence.
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