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A Glossary of Localization: Important Translation Terms You Should Know

We’ve been in business for over 15 years, and with that much experience we know that for many clients, ordering professional translation services for the first time can be something of a bewildering experience. To an outsider, one of the most confusing aspects of the industry is understanding all of the terminology.

Although the terms are all familiar to those of us who work within the translation industry, with different companies providing different services and utilizing different technologies, it’s easy to see how it can be difficult not only to understand what is being offered, but to compare services, prices, and so on between different translation service providers.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most challenging and frequently used words and phrases used by translators, agencies, and other providers, along with a simple, non-technical definitions that should help you make sure you get exactly what you need for your next professional translation project.

Certified translation — professional translation services which include a signed and notarized affidavit attesting to the quality and accuracy of the completed translation; often required for translations of government forms and other official documents.

Encoding — the system by which computers store text data in a file, which allows it to be displayed consistently way no matter what system the text is displayed on. Knowing a file’s text encoding format is important particularly when dealing with translating websites, apps, and other files intended for use on or by computers.

Human translation — translation provided by a professional translator; compare to hybrid translation and machine translation.

Hybrid translation — (AKA “post-editing”) a translation method which features an initial machine translation that is then proofread by a professional, human translator as a mid-point between the two services in terms of price, speed, and quality.

i18nsee internationalization.

Internationalization — (AKA “i18n”) preparing a document, website, or other project to be translated and released for a global market. This includes formatting files, modifying text, measurements, and other metrics in preparation for localization to each foreign market.

Interpreting — translating the spoken word so that two speakers can understand one another (or so that a a listener can understand a single speaker, as in a conference or speech), as opposed to traditional text translation. This can be done either in person over the telephone or internet.

l10n see localization.

Language pair — the combination of the initial language of a project and the additional language the project needs to be translated into, used for determining the scope and price of a translation project. A project with one source language and many target languages will have multiple language pairs, e.g. “English to French,” “English to Spanish,” “English to Russian,” etc. See source language and target language.

Locale — in a website or other digital format, a language code used to properly display translated text and set the proper encoding, as well as to format other specific measurements and other text, e.g. number formatting, currencies, etc.

Localization — (AKA “l10n”) making a translated text fully comprehensible to a specific market, which may include translating slang and other phrases, modifying logos and images, and so on.

Machine translation — a translation generated completely by a computer, without human involvement, e.g. Google Translate.

Post-editingsee hybrid translation.

 Professional translationsee human translation.

 Source language — the original language that your text is already in.

Target language — the desired language that you want your text to be translated into. A translation project typically has one source language and one or more target languages.

Transcription — creating a written record of spoken words; this may or may not involve translating, depending on the needs of the project.

Translation — converting text from one language into another. This can be done by a number of different methods; see human translation, hybrid translation, and machine translation.

Translation memory — an internal system utilized by some translation agencies which stores repeated texts and their translations in a custom database so that only the unique text is translated, and no repeated text is translated more than once. This allows clients to save money when the original text is reused multiple times within a single project, or across multiple projects for a single client.

Are there any other ambiguous translation terms you’d like defined? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll expand this glossary to help others!

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