As with many specialist industries, translation professionals and agencies oft use unequaled language and terminology that may be unfamiliar to anyone outside the profession. In order to trim any barriers to understanding, we have amassed some of the most usually used industry terms:
Translation: The process of reproducing the context and meaning of the written word from one language into another. Translation can be performed by both humans and machines with greatly differing results.
Interpreting: The process of reproducing the context and meaning of the spoken word from one language into another. Types of see include Consecutive and Simultaneous (see below).
Language pair: The source language and target language of a translation or interpreting project (see definitions below). Also a term used to describe a linguist’s working language combinations.
Source language: The original language of a document, file or website requiring translation.
Target language: The final language a document, file or website will be translated into.
Source text: The original text requiring translation into a different language.
Target text: The end translation. This is the output of the translation process.
Native language/mother tongue: A linguist’s firstly language, which is typically the main language of their home country. Professional translators should only ever translate into their native language.
Word count: The number of words in the source text. Translations pricing is usually calculated on the number of words to be translated.
Proofreading: The process of reviewing a translation to ensure it is accurate and stylistically appropriate. This can be performed by the initial translator or by an indorsing appropriately skilled translator.
Consecutive interpreting: Interpreting of the spoken word into another language relayed to the listeners during pauses or breaks in speech. This type of interpreting is most common for small events and group situations.
Simultaneous interpreting: Interpreting of the spoken word into another language as the speaker is talking – usually whilst sat in an insulating booth. This type of interpreting is common at large events and conferences.
Machine translation (MT): A translation carried out by computer software (e.g. Google Translate/Babel Fish) rather than by a human translator. Translation agencies do not use machine translation tools as they cannot accurately render the contextual meaning, complexities and subtleties of a language, unlike a human can.
Translation memory (TM): A database that stores previously translated text, often used in conjunction with Computer Aided Translation tool (see definition below). Translation memories have numerous client benefits, such as cost savings and faster turnaround of projects.
Computer aided translation (CAT): A software tool, used by professional translators and agencies to improve translation consistency, increase efficiency and reduce expenditure.
Language service provider (LSP): A company that provides language services through in-house and/or freelance translators and interpreters.
Freelance translator: A self-employed translator who provides his/her services to a number of clients/agencies and often specialises in particular fields, such as medical, financial and legal translation.