Translation and Language Services Terminology Guide – Part 2

Welcome, to part 2 of our Translation and Language Services Terminology Guide, created to assist those who are either interested in a career in translation or are planning to use the services of a translation provider.

If you missed part 1, click the link to check out how language and culture are connected, what language services are generally available and an explanation of how linguists classify their language abilities.

In this follow-up guide you’ll find a helpful A-Z glossary of frequently used industry terminology, an explanation of acronyms and links to follow for more insights into specific services.

If you need more assistance, or want to discuss your translation project with an expert, simply contact us here and a member of the Creative Word team will be happy to help.


Accreditation – also known as certification, and is usually in the form of ISO standards.

Alignment – this term is used when a translated text is plugged into a translation memory tool in order to match up the source text with the translated text. This is often undertaken in order to save selected parts for speed when re-used in subsequent translations

Back Translation – a translation which has been reverted to its original (source) language. Often used as a teaching tool or to check accuracy.

Bi-lingual – the ability to speak two languages. This is a far more complex term when applied to the translation industry however, as it encompasses both language and culture, and the ability to speak and understand two languages at a very high level. See part 1 of our guide for more information.

CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) – the process of using a computer to assist in the translation process. This might be through alignment, translation memory, or glossaries.

Certified Translation – as a general rule a ‘certified translation’ is a document that has been translated by either, an accredited translation company, or has undergone legal translation for specific purposes. However, this terminology alters depending upon the country in which it is used and their laws and procedures. For instance, if you require official documentation to be translated from English to Arabic you may need to use a certified translation provider to abide by the law.

Cognates – words which have the same etymology, or linguistic foundation. For instance, languages which are closely interrelated such as, French and English, or Italian and French, often share words with the same Latin basis. Beware of false cognates which may sound the same but have vastly different meanings.

Concordance – an alphabetically ordered list of words which corresponds to the most frequently used words within a translated document. This was once completed by hand but is now managed within translation software.

Consecutive Interpreting – interpreting which involves the speaker of the source language saying a sentence, then stopping to allow the interpreter to repeat what was said in the target language. This is often used for intimate/sensitive meetings.

Content Management Systems (CMS) – are a central repository for translated content which can be accessed in order to produce faster, more accurate translations

Crowdsourcing – this is a relatively new term for an old tradition where groups of individuals will collectively work on a project. Large texts such as, the Qur’an and the Bible, have historically always been translated by groups of linguists due to their size and complexity. Nowadays, crowdsourcing might refer to paid or volunteer translations

Desktop Publishing – this basically means the same as formatting for publication. The translated work is made presentable for publication which might involve checks around image, design, and text expansion or direction.

Dialect – is a branch of language which may vary from region to region. For instance, in the Arabic language there are many different dialects based upon location, which can be so extreme as to render conversation between to Arab speakers difficult.

Gist Translations – are translations which aren’t 100% linguistically accurate but which still convey the overall message of the source document. They can be useful in situations where accuracy isn’t essential such as, personal letters, newspaper articles, or informal meetings.

Globalisation – is an umbrella term for the processes of internationalisation and localisation which we will discuss soon. In essence, it is the adaption of content/products/services and so on, in order to ensure they appeal to a global market and audience

Glossary – a set of terms from the source, and target, language which are followed by a definition. This blog is a ‘glossary’ of translation terms. They are often used for specialised translations in order to ensure accuracy and consistency

Idiomatic Translations – are translations which convey the overall message of the source text, but which may differ in literal translation due to idioms, ideas, concepts and humour, which are non-transferable between two cultures, or languages

In-house Translator – a linguist who works solely for a company as their translator, and who is responsible for the majority or their translation requirements

Internationalization – also known as I18N, is the process of preparing a text or source document to facilitate its translation and localisation so it can be adapted for many languages, cultures or dialects

Interpreting – the process of rendering a spoken, source language into a spoken, target language through voiced words. However, this is also possible with sign language.

Language Combination – (also known as language pair) the languages in which a translator, interpreter, or translation company works. For instance, at Creative Word we are experts in English-to-Arabic translations (and vice-versa), so we complete much work within this language combination. However, we also work with many other language combinations such as, English-to-French, or English-to-Chinese

Language Service Provider (LSP) – a company or individual who provides language services to clients

Literal Translation – the opposite of an ‘idiomatic translation’ in that the translation is done word-by-word. The overall meaning of the text is not considered

Localization – also known as L10N adaption of the source language/content/image in order to meet the expectations, and requirements, of the target audience. It is a vital component in the globalisation process, and should utilised alongside translation in order to give a higher degree of linguistic and cultural accuracy

Mother Tongue – is the language, or languages, that a person has spoken all their lives

Native Language – another term for ‘mother tongue’

Project Manager – this is the person at your chosen translation company who is responsible for managing your translation project. They will often oversee all aspects of your project from sourcing the right linguists to proofreading

Proofreading – the process of checking a translation for any errors. This isn’t always offered as part of a translation process, so be sure to check with your LSP

Remote Interpretation – a type of interpreting where the interpreter is not in the same room as the speakers. It is often used with video/telephone conferencing, and in emergency situations such as, hospitals, where an interpreter may be located at a distance

Sight Translation – is performed when the translator reads a source text, then verbally delivers the translation afterwards

Simultaneous Interpreting – is a ‘real time’ interpreting service often used at large conferences. The interpreter is usually seated in a soundproof booth listening to the speaker of the source language, then relaying their interpretation through a microphone. This requires a huge amount of linguistic skill as it must be fast, and accurate

Source Language – the original language from which an interpreter, or translator, works.
Sworn Translators – are similar to ‘certified translators’ inasmuch as they provide an ‘official’ translation ready to be used for legal purposes, and are authorised by the foreign office to do so

Target Language – the language into which a translator, or interpreter, translates from the ‘source language’

Terminology – the set of terms used within a translation project. They may relate to specific industries, or be relevant to any translation project.

Terminology Database – a store of terminology for translations which can be used for any translation project.

Terminology Management – the process of managing the above terms so they can be accessed for other translation projects.

Transcription Translation –the process of translating from oral (spoken) words to the target language which is written. Often used for meetings where participants may require a copy of minutes in multiple languages.

Translation – is the process of adapting written text from one language (source) to another (target) so that the meaning of the message remains the same and it can be understood by speakers of the target language.

Translation Agency – a middleman between clients and translators, who facilitates negotiations between clients and linguists, depending upon requirements. They often have a large selection of languages, industries, and freelance translators, at their disposal.

Translation Memory – a database that stores translated text. This ranges from single words, sentences or paragraphs, to industry specific terminology and product descriptions. These segments have already been translated and stored, so that when a translator comes to those same segments in a translation, it will automatically be populated with the correct translation. This saves huge amounts of time on repeat translations and can improve consistency, and accuracy, of translations.

Word Count – the most frequent method in which translators, or linguists, charge their clients. A charge per word is set, which is then multiplied by the total word count to give an overall price.


Translation services are complex, and have many terms which relate to specific areas within the industry but once you’ve grasped the basics it becomes much easier to select and access the right service for your needs.

Hopefully our guide has given you a greater insight into the industry, but if you require further clarification, or need help with your translation project, please get in touch with a member of the Creative Word team.

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