The buyer’s guide to translation services

Trying to make sense of a foreign language while you’re busy running your business is difficult enough. Throw in the confusing jargon of translation providers and it could lead to an even bigger muddle!

That’s why we’ve put together our bite-sized guide to translation terminology to help you make informed choices when buying translations.

Of course we speak plain English too – (plus many other languages on top), so don’t be afraid to call us for advice, we’d be happy to share our expertise.

In the meantime, for your reference, here are explanations of common terms you may have come across.

Background Information: Information provided by the client to supplement the source text with additional material regarding context, terminology and definitions, helpful in ensuring an accurate translation.

CAT tools: computer assisted translation – a programme translators use to improve productivity and consistency, and the quality of the translation, it does not automatically translate. Machine translation is an automatic translation which is useful to get the gist of the meaning (e.g. Google translate) but must not be used for most commercial and professional translations or for publication, since the quality cannot match that of a professional human translator.

Fuzzy matches: Mean the translated words are similar but not the same as the source text.

Glossary or term base: a list of words and their translation stored for consistency in the translation of terms.

Interpreter: An interpreter works in the spoken language. They listen to an orator and translate their words for an audience listening in another language. Their translations are not always as accurate as written translations but aim to translate the meaning of what is being said.

Linguist: A person who speaks one or more languages fluently and is able to translate from one language to another.

Localisation: means adapting the document to the local market, which not only involves the text, but also other things like photos, colours, currencies, cultural references.

Mother tongue: Used to explain how most translators translate from a source text into their native language i.e. the language they were born into or their ‘mother tongue’.

Source text: the original document that is being translated.

Transcreation: (also known as creative translation): This is not necessarily a literal translation of words (i.e. word for word) but a translation of meaning and sentiment. Creative advertising campaigns that work well in one language don’t always translate well into another. It’s important to ensure the translated text resonates with the new audience and does not leave them feeling alienated from the brand, the message and the product or service.

Transcription: writing down what people say on an audio or visual medium e.g. a film script, a public speech or court proceedings.

Translation: Taking the words from one language and changing them to another.

Translation memory: a translation memory stores all the segments of text that have been translated from the source text and the corresponding translated text in the target language.