The ABCs of Translation: Words that translators throw at you and what they mean


You are tasked with finding a translator for a project. You have no idea where to start so you Google companies, ask around and get questions like: "What's the target language?, "We follow the TEP process", "We use translation memory", "We offer consecutive and simultaneous interpretation". Your head then starts spinning even more because you don't know what it all means or if you even need it. Guess what, you're not alone and I'm here to make your life easy! Below are just a few of the common terms used in our industry which will help you navigate conversations and understand what questions to ask when searching for the right translator.

Translation:  By definition, translation means to change words from one language (source) into another language (target). But the true essence of an accurate translation is to convey the meaning and context from one language to another.

Translator:  Is a language expert who works with the written word. They normally work with a specific language pair and translate the original or source document into the target language, which is usually their native language.

Interpretation: Process of rendering oral spoken or signed communication from one language to another, or the output that results from this process.

Interpreter:  Also a language expert who works with the oral aspect of translation. You’ve probably seen them at court hearings, beauty pageants, or even at your local school or medical center.  Even though many people refer to them as “translators”, the correct term to be used is “interpreters”.

Simultaneous Interpretation:  The participants wear headphones, and the interpreter renders the speaker's words into the target language as he or she is speaking. Owing to the tremendous level of concentration required to perform this type of interpretation, simultaneous interpreters always work in teams of two. Because this mode of interpreting saves time, it is preferred for conferences and meetings in which a great deal of information has to be conveyed.

Consecutive Interpretation:  In consecutive interpretation, the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish a sentence or an idea, and then renders the speaker's words into the target language. It is usually best suited in situations involving a small number of people, such as in business meetings, press conferences, interviews, or any one-on-one exchange.

Source Language:  Original language of the text that to be translated.

Target Language:  Language into which the text is translated.

Desktop Publishing:  Desktop Publishing (DTP) involves the design and layout of text and graphics. It is usually related to printed documents, although sometimes it is also necessary for digital content. DTP services can be a critical element in a translation project.

Localization:  Process of adapting or modifying a product, service, or website for a given language, culture or region. Language localization is the second phase of a larger process of product translation and cultural adaptation (for specific countries, regions, or groups) to account for differences in distinct markets, a process known as internationalization and localization. Localization refers to the actual adaptation of the product for a specific market.

TEP:  Translation, Edit, Proofread process. A proper TEP sequence ensures superior quality. The proofreading of a translation does not guarantee quality, since the text does not undergo editing. A proofreader of a target text that does not check the source text and, therefore, does not know whether a sentence is true to the original text. He or she only verifies that it is legible and has no grammatical errors. The quality of the text, however, is not assured. Therefore, it is necessary to perform the proofreading only once the text has been edited. In addition, when working with files that require design work (e.g. PDF files that, once translated, need to go through an intermediate step of Desktop Publishing) it is essential to make a comparison that works to detect any failure, formatting problems, grammatical errors, etc.

Transcription:  Process of converting oral utterances into written form.

Translation Memory:  A translation memory, or TM, is a database that stores so-called segments, which can be sentences or sentence-like units (headings, titles or elements in a list), that have been previously translated. A translation-memory system stores the words, phrases and paragraphs that have already been translated and aid human translators. The translation memory stores the source text and its corresponding translation in language pairs called "translation units". Some software programs that use translation memories are known as translation memory managers (TMM).

Want more? Take a look at some of my sources below to learn more about what translators and interpreters have to offer.