Glossary of translation-related terms

Looking for a translator but feeling a bit confused by the lingo? Here are the basic terms explained.

Bilingual
In two languages; or a person who speaks two languages fluently. Translators are bilingual (or even multilingual), but not every bilingual person is a > translator.

CAT tool
Software used by many translators to assist them in producing consistent translations. Useful for creating > termbases for individual clients and accessing previous translations (> TM).

CPD
Continuing professional development. Training that professional translators do throughout their career to hone their language, business and translation skills and subject knowledge.

Editable format
If the words of a text can be counted and changed directly, the format is editable. It is easier to work with editable Word documents than with PDFs or scanned documents.

Fuzzy match
Shows previously translated text segments that are similar to but not exactly the same as the actual segment that is being translated. It helps to produce consistent translations.

Interpreter
An interpreter orally translates speech from one language into another and vice versa. Often confusingly called > translator.

Interpreting
Orally translating speech into a different language or sign language and vice versa, usually during a conversation between two or more people who speak different languages.

Localization
Another term for > translation that emphasizes the need to adapt a text according to cultural aspects and local customs in the > target language.

LSP
Language service provider. Another term for translation agency. These days also used for technology firms offering > machine translations or other language tools.

Machine translation
Software that transfers words, sentences and syntax from one language into another using algorithms. Often used to get the gist of things, but strictly speaking not a > translation.

Mother tongue
The language we grow up and feel most familiar with. I grew up in Germany and lived there for the first 29 years of my life, so German is my mother tongue.

Native speaker
Someone who speaks their > mother tongue. Translators should generally be native speakers of the > target language, although reasonable exceptions are possible.

Proofreading
Reading a text very slowly and carefully in order to spot spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies and layout issues. Not to be confused with > revision.

Purpose
The intention behind a text. A text can be written to attract, inform or amuse an audience, to discuss theories, sell products, give comfort … The list is endless.

Repetition
Entire segments of a text that are an exact match. These can be translated quicker using > TM and are sometimes charged at a reduced rate.

Revision/Review
Comparing a translation against the > source text to check the accuracy of the translation and to correct any spelling or grammar mistakes. Often confusingly called > proofreading.

Source language
Language that the > source text is written in. If you send an English text to a translator for translation into another language, English is the source language.

Source text
Original text that is supposed to be translated into another language. It is the text that you send to the translator.

Specialization
Subject area in which a translator has acquired extensive knowledge thanks to a previous career and/or continuing professional development (> CPD).

Target audience/readership
The people you have in mind when writing a text. They can be potential or existing customers, colleagues, experts or other end users, depending on the > purpose of the text.

Target language
Language that the translation will be written in. If you send an English text to a translator for translation into German, the target language is German.

Target text
Translation of the > source text in another language (the > target language). It is the text that the translator sends back to you.

Termbase
> Bilingual database of terms (glossary) that helps to manage approved terms for individual clients and to use terms consistently in translations.

TM
Translation memory. > Bilingual database containing text segments (usually sentences) that have already been translated earlier for reference in future translations.

Transcreation
Another word for > translation. It emphasizes the fact that a translation is more than a transfer of words from one language into another and that some aspects can’t be translated directly.

Translation
Creating a text in another language than the > source text that reads like a genuine text in the > target language while reflecting the style and evoking the same effect as the original.

Translator
A translator translates written text from a > source language into a > target language (usually their > mother tongue). This can be texts, subtitles or other forms of written material.

Word count
Amount of words in a written document. A translation fee is usually based on the word count of the > source text or on the estimated time it will take to translate it (hourly rate).

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