trans-k Glossary of Translation and Interpreting Terminology
This glossary from
trans-k provides an explanation to many of the terms frequently used in connection with translation and interpreting. Whether you need to communicate effectively with translators or translation companies, or just want to know what Unicode or translation memory are all about, you’ll find the answers here.
The German translations link to the corresponding term in the
Abbreviations are listed separately at the end of this page.
If you can’t find the information you are looking for, the
Resources for Translators and
Resources for Business pages contains links to many other useful websites, including most of the organizations and products mentioned here.
- In the UK a translator who has received accreditation from a professional institute such as the
ITI. Accreditation – a requirement for association membership – is usually issued on the basis of examination and experience. The equivalent credential issued by the American
Certified Translator. An approximate German equivalent would be
staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer
(who has passed a state examination) or
staatlich anerkannter Übersetzer
(who has passed a state-recognized examination). Unlike the Diploma in Translation issued by the
Institute of Linguists
, the German
has graduated in translation at degree level.
Ad hoc interpreting
- Spoken translation between two languages in informal conversations between two or more people. Used, for example in business meetings, for phone calls, during site visits and social events. The term is sometimes used loosely to include
- Modifying a text to make it suitable for a different purpose, target readership, region or country. Regional adaptation is a part of
localisation. In translation, the adaptation can be carried out, for example by the translator, an editor or a copywriter. Whether it is best to adapt the
source text before translation or the translated
target text depends on the situation.
language of habitual use of a translator or interpreter. (cf.
B language and
- Publisher of the Déjà Vu
translation memory program.
- Audience ->
- Text in the source or target language providing
background information about the subject matter of the text to be translated.
- Information relating to the subject matter of the
source text or the topic of discussion. Facilitates the translator’s or interpreter’s task by providing context, terminology, definitions, etc.
literal translation of a translation. Helps a translation consultant determine whether the original meaning has been preserved in the target language.
zweisprachig (adj), zweisprachige Person (n)
- Someone with communicative skills in two languages. The term is often reserved for someone with native or near-native proficiency in two languages. Bilingualism is one of several required abilities of a translator or interpreter.
- A language that a translator or interpreter can speak, read and write almost as well as their native language (or
A language), and well enough to translate into as well as out of. (See also
- Calibrated page ->
- A translation that has been reviewed by a translator or
translation company and considered an accurate and correct reflection of the
source text. To have legal status, certification must be performed by a sworn translator (in the UK) or before a notary public.
- (In the US) a translator who has received accreditation from the American Translators Association
(ATA). An approximate German equivalent would be
staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer (who has passed a state examination) or
staatlich anerkannter Übersetzer (who has passed a state-recognized examination). Unlike the Diploma in Translation issued by the
Institute of Linguists
, the German
has graduated in translation at degree level.
- A language that a translator or interpreter can read and understand well enough to translate out of, but cannot write or speak well enough to translate or interpret into. (See also
A language and
Computer-aided translation (CAT)
, computer-assisted ~, machine-aided
- Translation with the aid of computer programs, such as
translation memory, terminology management and
localisation tools, designed to reduce the translator’s workload and increase consistency of style and terminology. Not to be confused with
- Interpreter with highly specialised skills who provides
simultaneous interpretation of a speakers words in one direction only from one language into another.
- Oral translation of a speaker’s words into another language when the speaker has finished speaking or pauses for interpreting. More formal than
ad hoc interpreting and used, for example in formal business meetings, for negotiations, training sessions or lectures. (cf.
- Language with a restricted vocabulary and restricted rules of formulation. Used, for example, in technical documentation to make the text easier to understand for users or for non-native speakers and to facilitate
- Writing of advertising or publicity copy. It cannot be stressed too strongly that advertising copy will not translate satisfactorily due to the different cultural contexts and advertising cultures of other countries and regions. Adverts for foreign countries should therefore always be produced in those countries. There are some advertising agencies who provide this service.
- Interpreter with special subject knowledge, providing interpretation during legal proceedings. Requirements regarding accreditation and certification for court interpreting vary from country to country.
Translation memory program, published by Atril.
Desktop publishing (DTP)
- DTP is sometimes offered by translators and translation companies/agencies as a value-added service to provide a one-stop solution for customers’ publishing needs. They will usually have the special equipment required to handle languages that use different typescripts.
- DIN 2345
- German standard specifying requirements for translation contracts, published April 1998. Has been replaced by European Standard
EN 15038:2006 Translation Services – Service requirements.
- Dominant language ->
Language of habitual use
- European standard “Translation Services – Service requirements”, published in 2006.
Overview and purchase.
freiberuflicher Übersetzer, freischaffender ~
- Self-employed translator, who may undertake work for translation agencies, localisation companies and/or directly for end clients. Often specialises in one or more particular fields, such as legal, financial, commercial or technical.
- 1. Translation in which more emphasis is given to the overall meaning of the text than to the exact wording (cf.
literal translation); 2. Translation completed free of charge. Offered by some
translation companies – often online, and usually using
machine translation programs. Can be used for
gisting, but never of a sufficient quality for publication without comprehensive revision by a human translator.
- Producing a rough or outline translation of a text to provide an insight into the subject and overall content of the
source text. Being less expensive and less time-consuming than a “proper” (or “custom”) translation, gisting can be used, for example, to determine whether a text contains useful information before a custom translation is commissioned. The term gisting is sometimes used in connection with
machine translation, which is used by some translation providers for that purpose.
- The process of developing and manufacturing products intended for worldwide distribution. Most commonly applied to software, but also used for websites and other publications and products, it covers two aspects:
- An invaluable tool for the translator. Beside making use of the wealth of specialised mono- and multilingual online-glossaries on the Internet, most translators compile and maintain their own subject-, customer- and project-specific glossaries. Companies publishing documentation in several languages can also benefit from maintaining multi-language glossaries of their own. This not only makes tranlators’ work easier, but – by reducing the amount of terminology research required – speeds up subsequent translation projects. In addition, it ensures consistent and correct terminology usage in all languages. Some translators and most translation companies offer glossary compilation and maintenance, either as a separate service or as part of a translation agreement. (See the
Resources for Translators page for lists of online glossaries and dictionaries.)
- Text intended for internal use, generally not seen by people outside the originating organisation. Includes internal correspondence, memos, work instructions, etc.
- The process of designing or redesigning a product (e.g. software) to allow its
localisation for other countries with a minimum of changes to its text content or program code. Internationalised software applications, for example, store their text in external resource files and use character encoding methods (such as
Unicode) that support character sets for many different languages.
- Provides oral (spoken) translation of a speaker’s words from one language into another. (cf.
- The act of rendering spoken words from one language into another. (cf.
translating; see also
- Often used as a measure of line or page length in defining the size of a translation job. Includes all visible characters as well as spaces and line breaks/paragraph marks. (See also
standard line and
- Language combination ->
- The Euromap Report, published in 1998 on behalf of the EUROMAP Consortium, defines language engineering as “the application of knowledge of written and spoken language to the development of systems able to recognise, understand, interpret, and generate human language”. These language technologies include
computer-aided translation, speech recognition and synthesis, as well as semantic searches and information retrieval.
Language of habitual use; similar:
- The language that a person is most familiar with, usually the language spoken in the country in which the person lives. More appropriate than
) as a measure of a translator or interpreter’s ability to work into the given language. In German, the term
is used in this context.
- The languages between which a translator or interpreter works.
Language service provider (LSP)
- Provider of translation and other language-related services that may include typesetting, publishing, project management, internationalization and language teaching (cf.
- Interpreter who provides – usually
consecutive – interpretation between two languages in both directions. May be affiliated to the host company and act as facilitator in negotiations or undertake some PR activities.
- Linguistic adaptation ->
- Translation that closely adheres to the wording and construction of the
source text. A literal translation of continuous text usually appears “stilted” and unnatural and is therefore to be avoided unless there is a specific reason for translating literally. (cf.
- Translator specialising in the translation of literature, such as fiction, biographies and poetry.
- The process of adapting a product (usually software, but also, for example, websites) to a specific locale, i.e. to the language, cultural norms, standards, laws and requirements of the target country.
- Machine-aided translation ->
Machine translation (MT)
- 1. Translation produced by a computer program; 2. Use of a translation program to translate text without human input in the actual translation process. The quality of machine-translated text, in terms of terminology, meaning and grammar, varies depending on the nature and complexity of the
source text, but is never good enough for publication without extensive editing. Machine translation (usually using highly customised MT programs) is occasionally used by some translators and translation companies to assist them in their work, but rarely to translate entire documents. Some search engines interface with a translation program to provide translations of websites. To get an idea of what MT can and cannot do, visit Babelfish, which provides a free online MT service (see
Resources for Business page). Not to be confused with
- One’s native language. Often used as an indicator of a translator or interpreter’s ability to translate into a particular language. Because a person who has lived in another country for many years (perhaps from childhood) may be more fluent in their “new” language than they are in their original mother-tongue, the terms
language of habitual use,
are often used instead.
- Terminology program. Developed by Trados, now published by SDL International. A component of the Trados
translation memory program, but also available as a separate product.
- Native language ->
- A person with
native-speaker competence in a particular language.
- Oral and written command of a language equivalent to that of a person who not only learned the language as a child and has continued to use it as his/her
language of habitual use, but who also has had some language training.
- ÖNORM 1200, ÖNORM 1201
- Austrian standards specifying requirements for translation services and translation contracts respectively. Published in 2000. Can be ordered online at
- ÖNORM 1202, ÖNORM 1203
- Austrian standards specifying requirements for interpreting services and interpreting contracts respectively. Published in 2002. Can be ordered online at
- Text intended for publication, i.e. for a readership outside the originating organisation. Essentially designed to sell products and services. Includes PR articles, brochures, catalogues, advertising copy, etc.
- Text in the source or target language that is comparable to the text to be translated in terms of subject matter or
text type. Includes previous translations of the same type of text.
- A form of English that is clear, concise, direct, and natural. Advocated by an increasing number of people as a style of language that should be used by authors of technical texts – such as user manuals, legal documents, articles and speeches –, plain English is easier and more enjoyable to read than legalese or texts laden with technical jargon and complex sentences for both experts and laypersons. (Ffi. see the
Style Guides page.)
- Strictly, checking a proof before printing to ensure that no mistakes have been made in typesetting. The term is often used by translators in the sense of
revising. When typesetting a translated text, it is advisable to let the translator who performed the translation proofread the typeset document, especially when the text is written in a language foreign to the typesetter.
- Readership ->
- Reading a text to identify errors, inconsistencies, incorrect grammar and punctuation, poor or inappropriate style, and, in the case of a translation, conformance with the
source text, and making appropriate changes and corrections to the text. In general, the number of revision stages is proportional to the demands on the text quality: a translation intended for publication may, for example, be revised by the translator and by one or two third parties (e.g. the author, a subject expert, a second translator, an editor), whereas an internal memo may not require any revision after translation. (What exactly revising and editing entail and how they differ is the subject of much debate. What is important is that the person commissioning the work communicates clearly what is expected of the editor.)
- Publishers of the SDL Trados
CAT suite, which consists of the former products Trados and SDLX.
Simplified English (SE)
- A set of writing rules and a dictionary of controlled vocabulary aimed at improving the readability of technical documentation. Developed by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), it is also used to write texts for translation using
machine translation tools.
- Oral translation of a speaker’s words into another language while the speaker is speaking. The interpreter usually sits in a booth and uses audio equipment. (cf.
- Software localisation ->
- Language in which the text to be translated is written.
- The text to be translated.
Specialised language competence
- Familiarity with the relevant subject matter and command of its special language conventions.
- A standard measure of the size of a text. The standard line length varies from country to country. In Germany, for example, it is usually 55
keystrokes, in Belgium 60. Translation projects are often priced on a per line basis.
, calibrated page
- A standard measure of the size of a text, used esp. in the publishing industry and in literary translation. The standard page length may vary from country to country and depending on the sector, but is generally in the region of 1500 to 1800
keystrokes. Translation projects are sometimes priced on a per page basis, although – except in the case of literary translation – this practice is becoming less common, being replaced by the
- (In the UK) a translator who has taken an oath and can therefore produce
- The group of people that an interpreter addresses. Used mostly in connection with
simultaneous interpreting. Sometimes used (incorrectly) in the sense of
- Language into which a text is to be translated.
- The group of people for which a text is translated, for example subject experts, novices, prospective customers. It is important to specify the target readership when commissioning a translation so that the translator can choose an appropriate style and vocabulary.
- The translation, i.e. the result of the translation process.
Terminology extraction (TE)
- The creation of a corpus of monolingual or multilingual subject-specific terminology by extracting individual terms and phrases from a body of text.
Terminology extraction tool (TET)
- A computer program that provides functions to assist with or automate the extraction of terminology from a body of text.
- Terminology program published by Star. A component of the Transit
translation memory program, but also available as a separate product.
- The function served by a text, e.g. to sell a product, to provide instruction on the use of a product, to convey information about an event. It is important to specify the text function when commissioning a translation to so that the translator can choose an appropriate style and vocabulary.
- Class of text (e.g. abstract, news report, light fiction, commentary) with specific characteristics of style, sentence formation, terminology, etc.
Text style ->
- Standardised translation memory exchange format, designed to allow easier exchange of
translation memory data between tools and/or translation vendors with little or no loss of critical data during the process. Supported by the latest versions of most leading translation memory programs. (For a full specification, go to
- Former publishers of
translation memory program of the same name. Now part of the SDL Trados
- Transcription ->
Translation memory program published by Star.
- The act of rendering written text from one language into another. (cf.
- Ability to render text into the target language correctly in terms of language, subject matter and idiomatic style, having regard to the
text function of both the
source text and the
- Provides translation and interpreting services, acting as middleman between customers and freelance translators. May offer value-added services such as typesetting, publishing, project management.
- Provides translation services using mainly in-house translators. May specialise in a particular field – such as legal, patents or technical – and may offer value-added services such as typesetting, publishing, project management. The term is often used synonymously with
Translation environment tool (TEnT)
, translation environment (TE)
- A computer program, or a suite of programs, that provides functions to aid human translators in their translation tasks. Includes
localisation and terminology management tools.
Translation memory program published by IBM; 2. (
Syn.: project manager
) person in charge of managing a translation project. In large translation projects, the translation manager is responsible for liaising between customer and translators, coordinating the translation work (which may be carried out by several translators for each language), maintaining the terminology database, ensuring consistency of style and terminology, etc.
Translation memory (TM)
Computer-aided translation program that stores translated sentences (
) with their respective source segments in a database (usually called the “memory”). For each new segment to be translated, the program scans the database for a previous source segment that matches the new segment exactly or approximately (fuzzy match) and, if found, suggest the corresponding target segment as a possible translation. The translator can then accept, modify or reject the suggested translation.
- Renders written text from one or more languages into an other language, usually into her
language of habitual use. May offer additional services, such as
desktop publishing or
Translator’s Workbench (TWB)
Translation memory program published by Trados.
- Transforming text from one script to another, usually based on phonetic equivalences. For example, Russian text might be transliterated into the Latin script so that it can be pronounced by English speakers.
- Character encoding standard which, unlike ASCII, uses not 8 but 16 bit character encoding, making possible the representation of virtually all existing character sets (e.g. Latin, Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese). The use of Unicode simplifies multiple language document and program creation. (See also
- Commentary in, e.g., a film, television programme, video, or commercial spoken by an unseen narrator. Foreign-language voice-over consists of two parts: translating the narrative, whereby, e.g., timing (coordinating the voice with the film sequence) is an important consideration; recording the voice-over, which may be performed by a linguist with special training and/or expertise or by an actor. Voice-over services are provided by some translators and translation agencies/companies.
- Similar to
simultaneous interpreting, whereby the interpreter sits close to the listener and whispers the translation without technical aids.
- A standard measure of the size of a text. Translation projects, for example, are often priced on a per-word (US) or per-1000-word (GB) basis.
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- ACPI Association of Court and Police Interpreters (UK)
- AIIC Association internationale des interprètes de conférence (International Association of Conference Interpreters)
- AITC Association internationale des traducteurs de conférence (International Association of Conference Translators)
- AITI Associate of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting
- AITI Assoziatione Italiana Traduttori e Interpreti (Italian Translators and Interpreters Association)
ATA American Translators Association
- ATC Association of Translation Companies (UK)
- BDÜ Bundesverband der Dolmetscher und Übersetzer (German Interpreters and Translators Association)
- FIT Fédération internationale des traducteurs (International Federation of Translators)
- GIM Global information management
- CIoL Chartered Institute of Linguists (UK)
- ITA Irish Translators’ Association
ITI Institute of Translation and Interpreting
- LISA Localisation Industry Standards Association
Language service provider
- MIL Member of the Institute of Linguists
- MITI Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting
- NAATI National Accreditation Authority for Translators & Interpreters (Australia)
- NWTN North West Translators Network (UK)
- SRX Segmentation Rule eXchange (standardised exchange format for
TE segmentation rules)
TA Translators Association (a division of the Society of Authors)
Translation environment tool
Terminology extraction tool
- TBX TermBase eXchange (standardised exchange format for terminology databases)
Translation memory exchange format
- ASD Simplified Technical English Maintenance Group (STEMG)
- Deutsches Universalwörterbuch (Duden)
- DIN 2345 standard for translation ventures
- ECSC-EC-EAEC: EuroDicAutom (
- IBM Glossary of Unicode terms (
- International Writers’ Group: The Tool Kit newsletter
- Longman Dictionary of the English Language
- North-West Translators’ Network: The Language Barrier and how to beat it
- Per Döhler: Facets of Software Localization
- The Euromap Report
- Thomas Irlbeck: Computer-Englisch (DTV)
- Translation Journal (
- Wikipedia (
For their invaluable advice and support in creating this glossary, I am especially grateful to Joy Burrough-Boenisch, Chris Durban, Petra Kopp, John May, Nathalie Mège, Judyth Mermelstein, Ruth Partington and Anke Vogelhuber.
- Note: The reproduction of excerpts of this glossary (but not of the entire glossary) for educational purposes with a source reference (link to trans-k glossary or homepage) is permitted. If you would like to use this glossary or parts of it for commercial purposes, please get in touch.
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Last update: 10 September 2013