Chemistry for translators – Miriam Bianco writes:

On Saturday October 3rd, Yorkshire Translators’ Network held it’s first-ever Chemistry for Translators workshop in York.  Attended by about 40 translators covering a range of languages and specialisms and gathering from all parts of Yorkshire and beyond (including Ireland,  Birmingham and the south), the one-day event gave a thorough overview of chemistry from the basics to the more advanced.

Designed by PharmaGuide and presented by its founder, Dr. Ed Zanders, the course aimed to provide “a thorough grounding in the essentials of chemical science assuming little, or no, scientific training” and to enable participants to “gain more understanding of the terms that arise in technical translations and be more aware of the intricacies of the terminology used in this complex subject” (from the Course Guide).

Having established the scope of chemistry in technical translation, such as medical and scientific subjects, five key areas were covered in the course: Foundations of chemistry; Chemistry in practice; Nomenclature and classification; Chemical reactions and synthesis; Document examples and chemistry translation issues. Each area was covered in some depth, and there was a significant variety in the topics chosen, ranging from a practical understanding of chemical methods and processes to a focus on chemical structures and their relevant notations. A range of relevant readings and resources were also provided for further study and use in translating documents.

The course was well-paced and timed with opportunities for participants to ask questions and clarification of key points, and these were all answered during the day.  There was a positive and friendly atmosphere throughout, and my impression was that all the translators present enhanced their learning and understanding of chemistry and were very satisfied with the event.

Medical translator Brigitte Meile said “A fascinating workshop that made me see the world through the eyes of a chemist and enhanced my understanding of how to analyse and make sense of intricate chemical formulae. I particularly enjoyed Ed’s explanations of how miniscule variations in the molecular structure can have enormous effects on the properties of a substance, for instance in the case of limonene, which, as a right-facing stereoisomer, or an (R-)enantiomer, smells of oranges and as a (S-)enantiomer it has the flavour of lemons”.

Personally, I also found the workshop highly stimulating, with superb content and presentation – even if it is just a first step in the process of translating chemical documents. Finally, after the event, more documentation was sent to participants via email, which included examples of a patent, a medicinal and a chemical safety report, as well as a list of abbreviations and further links.