Translating Acronyms

Aug 24, 2015 · 2 min

Acronyms are an important aspect of translation, and it’s essential that we understand and know how to process them in order to maintain consistency in a text.

Translating Acronyms  | One Hour Translation

Acronyms are an important aspect of translation, and it’s essential that we understand and know how to process them in order to maintain consistency in a text. To ensure smooth reading of the translation we must know how to translate acronyms, and also when it’s appropriate to do so.

Let’s take a closer look at translating acronyms; with some examples to make it easier to understand. When we come across an acronym in translation and it’s not accompanied by a definition or explanation, it’s generally because it’s easily recognized by most people – like UN, UFO, and so on. At other times, however, we’ll come across an acronym that’s unfamiliar to us: when this occurs, our first step is to search for its definition within the context of the document. If that fails, there are other channels we can use.

Helpful Acronym Websites is a very helpful site if you’re looking for acronyms in English, and for Spanish acronyms try Once you discover what the acronym stands for, your next step is to find out what the official translation is. As an example: in English, UFO stands for Unidentified Flying Object and this corresponds to the Spanish acronym OVNI, which stands for Objeto Volador No Identificado. WHO – World Health Organization - translates to OMS in Spanish, which is Organizacion Mundial de la salud; and the UN – United Nations - translates to ONU in Spanish, meaning Organizacion de las naciones unidas

Two Options for Translating Acronyms

Sometimes, there just isn’t a translation for acronyms within a text, so if this occurs, you have two options. The meaning of the acronym can be translated, with an explanation as to where it comes from. To do this you provide the reader with a one-time reference, and if it comes up in the text again, no explanation is necessary. The second option is used when you choose not to use the acronyms contained in the source language: so, you make up an acronym according to the definition in the target language. Remember that this option can only be used when you’re certain there’s no official translation.

The Client: Your Greatest Resource

Generally, the greatest resource a translator has is the company or person requesting the translation. If you client has a preferred acronym to be used in the translation, this should be communicated to the translator at the beginning of the project. Now the translator has all the answers they need, thus saving time and promoting consistency within the document.

Working together with the client helps maintain accuracy when translating acronyms, which makes the translator’s job so much easier; and of course the reader’s comprehension is greatly improved.

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