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Glossary of Translation and Interpreting Terms

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 German glossary.

Abbreviations are listed separately at the end of this page.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Accredited translator
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 ATA is Certified Translator. An approximate German equivalent would be German staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer (who has passed a state examination) or German staatlich anerkannter Übersetzer (who has passed a state-recognized examination). Unlike the Diploma in Translation issued by the Institute of Linguists, the German German  Diplomübersetzer 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 consecutive interpreting.

Adaptation   German  Adaption
Modifying a text to make it suitable for a different purpose, target readership, region or country. Regional adaptation is a part of localization. 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.

A language   German  A-Sprache
The mother-tongue or language of habitual use of a translator or interpreter. (cf. B language and C language)

Atril
Publisher of the Déjà Vu translation memory program.

Audience  -> Target audience

Background text   German  Hintergrundtext
Text in the source or target language providing background information about the subject matter of the text to be translated.

Background information   German  Hintergrundinformationen
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.

Back translation   German  Rückübersetzung
A literal translation of a translation. Helps a translation consultant determine whether the original meaning has been preserved in the target language.

Bilingual ( adj or n )  German  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.

B language   German  B-Sprache
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 C language)

Calibrated page  -> Standard page

Certified translation   German  beglaubigte Übersetzung
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 swornsworn translator (in the UK) or before a notary public.

Certified translator
(In the US) a translator who has received accreditation from the American Translators Association (ATA). An approximate German equivalent would be German staatlich geprüfter Übersetzer (who has passed a state examination) or German staatlich anerkannter Übersetzer (who has passed a state-recognized examination). Unlike the Diploma in Translation issued by the Institute of Linguists , the German German  Diplomübersetzer has graduated in translation at degree level.

C language   German  C-Sprache
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 B language.)

Computer-aided translation (CAT) , computer-assisted ~, machine-aided or -assisted ~    German  computerunterstützte Übersetzung
Translation with the aid of computer programs, such as translation memory, terminology management and localization tools, designed to reduce the translator’s workload and increase consistency of style and terminology.

Not to be confused with machine translation!

Conference interpreter   German  Konferenzdolmetscher
Interpreter with highly specialized skills who provides simultaneous interpretation of a speakers words in one direction only from one language into another.

Conference translator   German  Konferenzübersetzer

Consecutive interpreting   German  Konsekutivdolmetschen
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. simultaneous interpreting)

Controlled language   German  kontrollierte Sprache
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 machine translation.

Copywriting   German  Werbetexten
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.

Court interpreter   German  Gerichtsdolmetscher
Interpreter with special subject knowledge, providing interpretation during legal proceedings. Requirements regarding accreditation and certification for court interpreting vary from country to country.

Déjà Vu
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

Editing  -> Revising

EN 15038
European standard “Translation Services – Service requirements”, published in 2006. Overview and purchase.

Freelance translator   German  freiberuflicher Übersetzer, freischaffender ~
Self-employed translator, who may undertake work for translation agencies, localisation companies and/or directly for end clients. Often specializes in one or more particular fields, such as legal, financial, commercial or technical.

Free translation   German (1)  freie Übersetzung, (2)  kostenlose Übersetzung

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.

Gisting
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.

Globalization , globalization   German  Globalisierung
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: internationalization and localisation.

Glossary   German  Glossar
An invaluable tool for the translator. Beside making use of the wealth of specialized 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 translators’ 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.)

Inbound text
Text intended for internal use, generally not seen by people outside the originating organization. Includes internal correspondence, memos, work instructions, etc.

Internationalization , internationalization   German  Internationalisierung
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. Internationalized 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.

Interpreter   German  Dolmetscher
Provides oral (spoken) translation of a speaker’s words from one language into another. (cf. translator)

Interpreting , interpretation   German  Dolmetschen
The act of rendering spoken words from one language into another. (cf. translating; see also simultaneous interpreting, consecutive interpreting)

Keystroke   German  Anschlag
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 standard page.)

Language combination  -> Language pairing

Language Engineering   German  Sprachdatenverarbeitung
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 recognize, 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: dominant language
The language that a person is most familiar with, usually the language spoken in the country in which the person lives. More appropriate than mother-tongue (German Muttersprache) as a measure of a translator or interpreter’s ability to work into the given language. In German, the term German native speaker is used in this context.

Language pairing, language combination   German  Sprachpaar, Sprachkombination
The languages between which a translator or interpreter works.

Language service provider (LSP)  German  Sprachendienst, Sprachendienstleister
Provider of translation and other language-related services that may include typesetting, publishing, project management, internationalization and language teaching (cf. translation company).

Liaison interpreter   German  Verhandlungsdolmetscher
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  -> Adaptation

Literal translation, transcription   German  wörtliche Übersetzung
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. free translation)

Literary translator   German  literarischer Übersetzer Translator specializing in the translation of literature, such as fiction, biographies and poetry.

Localisation , localization   German  Lokalisieren
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  -> Computer-aided translation

Machine translation (MT)   German  automatische Übersetzung

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 customized 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 computer-aided translation!

Mother-tongue   German  Muttersprache
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, dominant language and native language are often used instead.

MultiTerm
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  -> Mother-tongue

Native speaker   German  Nativespeaker
A person with native-speaker competence in a particular language.

Native-speaker competence   German  muttersprachliche Kompetenz
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 www.on-norm.at.

ÖNORM 1202, ÖNORM 1203
Austrian standards specifying requirements for interpreting services and interpreting contracts respectively. Published in 2002. Can be ordered online at www.on-norm.at.

Outbound text
Text intended for publication, i.e. for a readership outside the originating organization. Essentially designed to sell products and services. Includes PR articles, brochures, catalogues, advertising copy, etc.

Parallel text   German  Paralleltext
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.

Plain English   German  bürgernahe Sprache
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.)

Proof-reading , proofreading   German  Korrekturlesen
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  -> Target readership

Revising   German  revidieren, überarbeiten
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.)

SDL
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.

Simultaneous interpreting   German  Simultandolmetschen
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. consecutive interpreting)

Software localisation  -> Localisation

Source language   German  Ausgangssprache
Language in which the text to be translated is written.

Source text   German  Ausgangstext
The text to be translated.

Specialized language competence   German  fachsprachliche Kompetenz
Familiarity with the relevant subject matter and command of its special language conventions.

Standard line   German  Normzeile
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.

Standard page , calibrated page   German  Normseite
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 standard line.

Sworn translator   German  vereidigter Übersetzer
(In the UK) a translator who has taken an oath and can therefore produce certified translations.

Target audience   German  Zielpublikum
The group of people that an interpreter addresses. Used mostly in connection with simultaneous interpreting. Sometimes used (incorrectly) in the sense of target readership

Target language   German  Zielsprache
Language into which a text is to be translated.

Target readership   German  Zielleserschaft
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.

Target text   German  Zieltext
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.

TermStar
Terminology program published by Star. A component of the Transit translation memory program, but also available as a separate product.

Text function   German  Textfunktion
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.

Text type   German  Textsorte
Class of text (e.g. abstract, news report, light fiction, commentary) with specific characteristics of style, sentence formation, terminology, etc.

Text style  -> Text type

TMX
Standardized 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.

Trados
Former publishers of translation memory program of the same name. Now part of the SDL Trados CAT suite.

Transcription  -> Literal translation   German  Transkription

Transit
Translation memory program published by Star.

Translating , translation   German  Übersetzen
The act of rendering written text from one language into another. (cf. interpreting)

Translating competence   German  übersetzerische Kompetenz
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 target text.

Translation agency   German  Übersetzungsbüro
Provides translation and interpreting services, acting as middleman between customers and freelance translators. May offer value-added services such as typesetting, publishing, project management.

Translation company   German  Übersetzungsbüro
Provides translation services using mainly in-house translators. May specialize 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 agency.

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 Translation memory, CAT, localisation and terminology management tools.

Translation Manager
1. 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)   German  Translation Memory
Computer-aided translation program that stores translated sentences ( translation units or segments ) 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.

Translator   German  Übersetzer
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 proofreading. (cf. interpreter)

Translator’s Workbench (TWB)
Translation memory program published by Trados.

Transliteration   German  Transliteration
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.

Unicode
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 internationalization.)

Voice-over , voiceover
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.

Whispering, whispered interpreting   German  Flüsterdolmetschen
Similar to simultaneous interpreting, whereby the interpreter sits close to the listener and whispers the translation without technical aids.

Word count
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.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Abbreviations

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
l10n   Localisation
LISA   Localisation Industry Standards Association
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 forTE segmentation rules)
TA   Translators Association (a division of the Society of Authors)
TBX   TermBase eXchange (standardised exchange format for terminology databases)

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Sources

  • ASD Simplified Technical English Maintenance Group (STEMG)
  • Deutsches Universalwörterbuch (Duden)
  • ECSC-EC-EAEC: EuroDicAutom
  • IBM Glossary of Unicode terms
  • International Writers’ Group: The Tool Kit newsletter
  • Longman Dictionary of the English Language
  • Norm DIN 2345 für Übersetzungsvorhaben
  • North-West Translators’ Network: The Language Barrier and how to beat it
  • Per Dohler: Facets of Software Localization
  • The Euromap Report
  • Thomas Irlbeck: Computer-Englisch (DTV)
  • Translation Journal (www.bokorlang.com/journal)
  • Wikipedia (de.wikipedia.org)

For their invaluable advice and support in creating and maintaining this glossary, I am especially grateful to Joy Burrough-Boenisch, Chris Durban, Petra Kopp, Steven Marzuola, John May, Nathalie Mège, Judyth Mermelstein, Ruth Partington and Anke Vogelhuber.

Legal 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.