Review by Karen Yesowich Schmucker
Topic: Science and Technology
Presented in English with Chinese examples
Speakers: Evelyn Garland and Aaron Hebenstreit
I wanted to review this session because I have a liberal arts background and have translated a few patents myself. While I have some knowledge of engineering and manufacturing terminology from previous work, I found patent translation daunting and I hoped to come away from this presentation with a few helpful resources.
The presentation was based on the premise that liberal arts majors, while not a natural fit for translation of scientific work, can still become good patent translators. The speakers discussed their experiences working with translators educated in liberal arts and how they helped them to deliver high quality patent translations. They also pointed out that sometimes a translator’s lack of scientific training actually helped because it meant they did not have preconceived notions about the subject matter and were able to look at the matter objectively. Since patents are produced for new ideas, someone without hardened ideas about subjects can be a valuable asset.
In addition, the speakers stressed that translators with a liberal arts background were well-suited to paying close attention to the language used in patents and to clearly telling what they called the “story” of the patent. They encouraged new translators unfamiliar with the idiosyncracies of patent language to look at other patents in the same field and the same jurisdiction to gain an understanding of how particular terms and turns of phrase are used and get a sense of what is considered normal in patent style.
The examples given in the session were in Chinese, but I did come away from the session with a few resources that would be useful for anyone interested in translating patents. Since the speakers had worked for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the resources they mentioned were related to WIPO:
- WIPO Translate https://patentscope.wipo.int/translate/translate.jsf An instant machine translation tool designed specifically to translate patent text
- WIPO Pearl (multilingual terminology portal) https://www.wipo.int/reference/en/wipopearl
- Google patents (where you can read full text of patents)
If you want to learn more about translating patents, the speakers suggested starting with the Patent Cooperation Treaty.
Finally, because patents must be translated, they are a good source of work for translators. One of the speakers mentioned that Russian was one of the languages where there was always a need for linguists.
Karen Yesowich Schmucker is a certified Russian into English Translator in Bellevue, WA. Karen holds both an MA in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Toronto and a BFA in Graphic Design from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org (www.kysdesigns.com).