Translation terms for beginners

Here is the explanation of some key translation terms so that you can come across as a connoisseur when ordering a translation and avoid being caught off guard by any question asked.

1. Source and target language/language pair

The terms source language and target language are indispensable in the translation profession. When ordering a translation, the project manager will undoubtedly ask you which language your document is in and to which language you would like it translated. The source language is the language in which your text is written, while the target language is the language into which you would like your text translated. The combination of both is called a language pair, sometimes colloquially referred to as a language combination.

2. Translation

A translation means transferring a popular, scientific or literary text from one language to another, which is a task carried out by a suitably qualified translator. The purpose of translation is to transfer the information into the target language while taking into account the form, style and meaning of the original.

3. Translation page

A translation page is a unit used to calculate the price for the prepared translation. It usually consists of 250 words or 1500 characters without spaces in the target language. In case you were wondering why the target language is used as the basis, the answer is very simple. When translating into a foreign language, deviations in the amount of text arise rather quickly. Since translators and translation companies are proficient in anticipating such deviations, they warn customers that the final price for the translation might be higher. If your text is extensive, feel free to enquire about a discount.

4. Translator

A translator is a linguist who specialises in translating in one or several language pairs and who has a suitable university degree. Many people working as translators have not completed an adequate study programme, but have learned translation through practical work and experience, and have a great sense for learning languages. Usually, translators decide to translate from the language they learned in the course of their education pursuits into their native language, i.e. the language they grew up using. Such translators are called native speakers.

5. Localisation

Localisation means adapting a text to suit the culture and linguistics of a certain environment and with a certain purpose.
It is a generally known fact that the greater part of Latin America communicates in Spanish, but their Spanish is not identical to the Spanish spoken in Europe, differing in style and terminology. In order to bring the content of a text originating from Spain as close as possible to the target audience in Latin America, the text needs to be localised.

6. Proofreading

Proofreading is a professional skill comprised of reviewing and, if necessary, correcting and editing a text. Preparing a translation does not necessarily mean the translated text will be adequate in terms of style and grammar. Since two heads are better than one, it is highly recommendable for a text to be proofread before the customer uses it. Translation companies usually include the review and proofreading in the translation service as they have suitably qualified linguistic teams, which work together and solve language-related problems that arise in the course of projects. This is a level of service that individual translators are usually unable to provide, which is why this aspect is well-worth checking before placing an order.

7. Court-sworn translations

A court-sworn translation is an official document which can be used in various offices either in one’s native country or abroad. It is always stamped and bound by a special string with the original document or its certified or ordinary copy. Such documents are fitted with interpreter’s signed statement, confirming and guaranteeing that the original is identical to the translation. Court-sworn translations can only be done by translators who have sworn before the Minister of Justice and are called court-sworn interpreters.

8. Court-sworn interpreters

Court-sworn interpreters are official translators/interpreters, who participate in legal proceedings. Such translators must have a thorough command of the legal terminology, attend the prescribed course and pass the examination, and are sworn in before the Minister of Justice. Both court experts and court-sworn interpreters provide their expertise in something that is generally not available at courts or offices, i.e. the knowledge of foreign languages. Court-sworn interpreters are legally liable for their translations.

9. CAT tools

CAT tools are computer-assisted translation tools, which enable faster and more effective work as they “memorise” every word and every sentence a translator translates, while also highlighting inconsistencies and enabling the creation of special terminology databases. Programmes such as Trados and MemoQ should not be equated with machine translation tools such as Google Translate since CAT tools are not used for machine translation; they merely assist translators in their work.
Machine translation tools keep a database of all past translations. Once an already translated segment appears in a text (e.g. part of an international treaty or memorandum), the tool displays the already translated text. This makes preparing a translation not only more affordable, but also faster. Since a machine translation tool performs no functions that are usually available in CAT tools, and since it lacks skills possessed by a translator, it frequently provides a translation of questionable quality, especially when it does not have a whole string of translated sentences at the ready and forms them by itself.

10. Desktop publishing (DTP)

Customers often want to order a translation of documents such as presentation brochures and catalogues which were created by means of special software tools for design (e.g. InDesign) and can therefore not be organised by using a usual word processor.
Since the design aspect of such a document is rather time-consuming, the customers, of course, want to receive the translated text in the original format and save some time. When this is the case, we recommend you ask your translator or translation company whether they can provide desktop publishing services and prepare your document for printing.

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