About military translation and difficulties for beginners

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In his practice, a military translator must deal with a wide variety of types and methods of translation: from the written translation of various military documents, regulations, and manuals to the interpretation of conversations of military specialists, as well as working with military-political texts of various nature.

The term “military translation”

First, let’s define the “military translation”. According to the legal translation agency Manchester, its most complete description is given in the wording below.

Military translation is one of the types of special translation with a pronounced military communicative function. Its distinguishing feature is great terminology and extremely accurate, clear presentation of the material in the relative absence of figurative and emotional expressive means.

All military materials differ from any other materials in the saturation of military special vocabulary, which can be divided into three main groups:

military terminology, conveying concepts that are directly related to military affairs, the theory and practice of warfare, the armed forces, etc.

military-technical terminology, represented by technical terms from the military field.

and slang, i.e., emotionally coloured military vocabulary, consisting of words and expressions that are used mainly in the oral colloquial speech of military personnel, and in fact are stylistic synonyms for the corresponding official military terms.

We should also mention one more feature of military materials – the abundance of abbreviations that are typical only for the military sphere, as well as symbols, without knowing which translation becomes very difficult, and sometimes impossible.

It goes without saying that the accuracy of translation is of paramount importance in military affairs, since the most important decisions are made based on the translated material, and the lives and health of many military personnel, as well as the civilian population, can depend on the smallest inaccuracies.

Types and methods of military translation

In his practical activities, a military translator has to deal with a wide variety of types and methods of translation: from the written translation of various military documents, regulations and manuals to the oral translation of conversations of military specialists, radio exchange materials directly on the air, not excluding bilateral translation during the interrogation of prisoners of war and interviewing local residents, and simultaneous translation at conferences and international meetings, as well as working with military documentation, correspondence, annotating and summarizing military, military-technical and military-political texts of various nature.

Fields of military translation


However, in this article I would like to focus on those aspects and difficulties that ordinary translators who have not received special training and do not have the skills mentioned above can encounter in the field of military translation. Apart from those areas of classical military translation and interpreting services, when a professional military translator performs his official duties in combat conditions, under enemy fire or interrogates a prisoner of war, an ordinary translator can be involved in the following areas of activity related to military translation.

First, this is a military-technical translation – it is used at exhibitions of military equipment and weapons. This is a kind of lightweight version of military translation, which, however, requires the translator to have a deep knowledge of special terminology, an understanding of the design features of military products, their tactical and technical characteristics, advantages over other samples, knowledge of the names of manufacturers of military equipment and weapons, samples of manufactured equipment and much more. Specialists in military-technical translation are in high demand, for example, at military-technical forums “Army”, MAKS air shows and during other international military-industrial exhibitions.

Specificity of military terms

Summing up, it should be noted that the military language consists of various technical and specialized terms, slang words and expressions, abbreviations and abbreviations, a huge amount of specialized vocabulary. Military terminology is used in technical manuals and manuals, catalogues of military products (aircraft and helicopters, warships, combat vehicles and radar stations), contracts for the supply of military products, presentations, electronic databases, various brochures, etc. At the same time, there is a rapid development and improvement of military equipment and weapons, methods of conducting combat operations, which, in turn, leads to the development of the military language, the emergence of new terms, and changes in old ones.

Changes are happening so rapidly that even the latest military-special dictionaries can’t keep up with them. This becomes the reason that the translator’s lack of the required qualifications leads to a misunderstanding of the meaning of the terms, a distortion of the meaning, and even a variant of translation that is opposite in meaning. Not to mention the fact that amateurish translations make military professionals laugh.

How to choose a diploma topic at the Faculty of Translation

April is in the yard, and this means that graduates of the philological and translation faculties have taken up writing diplomas with might and main. I can see this in the increased number of translation orders as students outbidding professionals at low prices have moved on to other things and our clients have finally been able to see what real professional translation should look like. But there is another sign of the beginning of the graduation “boom” – my mail, where only freelance orders come, was full of offers to write a diploma in translation studies or translation theory, or to do a thesis in the form of an author’s translation. And this made me once again think about higher education in our country. The best way to think about this topic is precisely based on an analysis of the current situation with the subject of student qualification papers at Moscow universities. You know, what is interesting is that this topic is unchanged from year to year. And last year, and the year before, and five years ago, I received letters listing the same topics. And I saw most of them in my student years, posted on the bulletin board of the graduating departments of my Alma Mater. The only thing that has been added recently is the topic related to the use of online resources for translating from English or teaching a foreign language. To be honest, I would have taken on such graduation projects myself. Just like that, for the love of art. And in general, for a long time I wanted to put in order all my thoughts about online dictionaries and interactive translators of the modern World Wide Web. In such a situation, even if a student is seven spans in the forehead, he will not be able to compose something new. Well, how to write an original and unique thesis on translation studies on a topic that has already been covered by armadas of diploma students before you? What can be said that is new in the science and theory of translation if the topic set by the teacher and approved by the dean’s office is already being studied by almost sophomores of language universities? Any such work – and everyone understands this – is as far from reality as Shakespeare’s language is from modern English. Such work can pass all anti-plagiarism checks but have absolutely nothing to do with either science or practice. It will most likely be well-written, contain slightly corrected other people’s results of lexical analysis, which, perhaps, no one has ever carried out, and, starting from the time of the Ochakovskys, everyone writes them off from each other … This is fiction, not research, although such the work is easy to read and pleasant to listen to during defines. In my opinion, having received such a hackneyed topic, it is better for a good student to do something more useful, to entrust the preparation of the text of the final work itself to those who do it professionally. Search the Internet, you will surely find companies with good reviews and humane prices.

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