Types of Translation ServicesDaniel Kráľ 15.04.2021 About Translations Reading time: 7 min.
Even in these trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic, globalization, international trade, travel and the internet mean that the whole world remains at your fingertips. However, without a solid knowledge of languages, you can easily become Lost in translation so to speak.
Whether this means finding your way around a new city, watching a foreign film or trying to penetrate a new business market, translation has become more important than ever. Different types of translation are best suited to different purposes. Some types, such as hiring a freelancer online or using Google Translate may suffice, yet at other times a trained and experienced translator may be required.
In this article, we will explore the different types of translation in English, but also the different principles and theories of translation.
Translation Theories and Methods
All translation types, regardless of their origins, have one thing in common—they are rooted in history and theory. Translation as a documented art has existed since the times of ancient Greece and China. Moreover, it is often the particular history and culture that has shaped the translation theories around the world. The Western theories predominantly contended with balancing translation accuracy against flexibility, and often tackled the problems of cultural concepts that cannot be translated. One example is the German term Schadenfreude—or in English, taking pleasure in someone else’s misfortune—which we can understand, but no longer sounds as good or elegant when translated.
On the other hand, Eastern theories were often more driven by the spread of cultural influence through religion, philosophy and education. This resulted in looser translations, with translators focusing first on how they understood the meaning in the source language, then on how to reproduce that meaning in the target language. Asian languages had an issue with their varying levels of grammatical complexity. For example, with no direct tense forms in Chinese, the translator could be much more flexible than a European counterpart, but this also presented its own unique challenges.
For all of the types of translation today, translators must be well-versed in the different translation techniques and strategies to deliver on the expectations of the modern business world. Moreover, these concepts can dub as business buzzwords.
Translation fidelity is the effort to convey the same holistic meaning from the target to the source language, while transparency refers to the word-for-word translation accuracy often exhibited by many online translators. Similarly, translation equivalence is also discussed. Formal equivalence can be achieved through the use of metaphrases, or exact, literal translations. In contrast, dynamic equivalence is based on paraphrasing, or taking the whole meaning of something.
Lastly, certain translation methods can also act as quality assurance tools, or lenses to help better understand the translation process. An example of this is back-translation, which is like a round trip from the translation back into the original, and can be an intriguing accuracy check, as well as a great linguistic teaching tool.
But enough with the theory–let’s proceed to the main types of translation services available, so that whenever you need one, you will know exactly what to look for.
Translation Types and Where to Find Them
Translations can be broadly classified into business and non-business translations. To keep things nice and easy, we will start with an example of the latter: general translation.
General translation covers work from many professional or other purposes that do not include specialized jargon nor require the translator to have expertise in a particular field or industry. It can still contain technical terms, but only those that are part of general knowledge or do not require extensive Googling. Various forms of website content, non-technical information and correspondence fall within this category.
Certified translation can be equally wide in scope, but it offers a step-up from general translation quality-wise. Based on the client’s or official requirements, a certified translation comes with a document issued by the translation agency, something like a seal of approval, which signifies a level of quality and accuracy in the translation as conducted by a professional translator.
Fields where these certified translations may be required include legal disciplines, with several specialized translation service types.
Legal translation covers documents like contracts, expert opinions, court judgments and legal reports. The requirements of a legal translator not only include an advanced knowledge of the two languages being translated, but also a deep understanding of the differences between their legal systems and the language styles they are conveyed through.
Sworn translation, sometimes interchangeable with certified translation, comprises the authentication of official legal documents by translators. These translators often work in courtrooms or notary public offices and deal with immigration paperwork, marriage documentation and the last wills.
Judicial translation is slightly different from the previous two types. It involves translators working in courtrooms and translating legal documents. However, rather than translating contracts, a judicial translator focuses on court proceedings, specializing in translating depositions, letters rotatory or judgments. However, this is not to be confused with juridical translation—the translation of legally-binding documents. This refers to laws and regulations, as well as sources including licensing agreements, insurance policies and commercial contracts or conventions.
Moving on from the confusing world of legal terminology, patent law forms a convenient bridge to other translation areas we haven’t yet touched. One part of patent translation is rooted in law and deals with intellectual property rights. Furthermore, in contrast to general translation, it can also be highly technical and domain-specific. Utmost consistency, adherence to structure and precise terminology are essential. Even the slightest deviation could land a hopeful entrepreneur in hot water, as many fans of Dragon’s Den can surely attest.
Along with technical knowledge comes technical translation, which can refer to multiple areas, but in the narrowest sense often implies engineering and IT materials translations. This translation type not only requires an area of expertise, but also frequently utilizes specific typesetting and desktop publishing tools. While technical translators might often need to cooperate with clients more closely for compliance purposes, another field exists where an even higher level of scrutiny must be utilized.
Scientific translation assumes that the translator is nearly an expert in the required field of scientific study. But they may also have to consult closely with their clients to remain the cutting edge of research and communicate it to equally brilliant scientists in other countries without any meaning lost.
Moreover, science communication comes hand in hand with academic translation. Among universities and research institutions around the world, the volume of academic publishing being completed every month is simply astounding. To share and benefit from all this work, academic translation is needed to not only cover the latest in science, but also the arts, philosophy and business. Its scope covers degrees, diplomas and certificates for all you international high achievers out there.
One area of technical, scientific and academic knowledge that deserves a special mention is the field of medicine. Translators in medical translation need the skills and expertise of scientific and academic translators, but also the knowledge of legal translation services, as medical translation not only covers medical research, but also medical manuals and drug labelling regulations. It’s obvious that the consequences of inaccuracy in this field could easily be more dire than in patent translation.
Business translation specifically entails almost everything from marketing, through administration and on to the financial aspects. Business, as a field of translation, focuses on communication, whether it is B2B, B2C or simply within a given company.
Commercial translation captures most of general communication in the business world, which is easy to say, but in practice this means that translators might need a degree of legal knowledge, an excellent grasp of business and often an understanding of some financial and technical aspects of the business. As discussed before, the certified business translation option might be appropriate as well.
Looking at business more closely, administrative translation covers most management, admin and human resources documents, including reports, proposals and internal communication that don’t venture far beyond the realm of general business jargon.
Financial translation and economic translation can be synonymous, yet slight differences exist between them. Financial translators must work with financial reports and technical banking documents that go beyond your regular bank or credit card statement. Economic translators take this even further by specializing on economic and trade documents.
Lastly, marketing translation focuses on advertising and promotional materials. These translators are often among the most creative, as the copy they write must have precisely the same impact on the target audience as the original intended. They often employ transcreation in this end, i.e., the creation of an original message within the target language.
Getting a little more creative and customer-oriented with our translations, we begin to breach the localization field. For most growing IT businesses, app and software localization goes far beyond simply translating the user interface into the target language. What we find here are system and error messages, notifications, support resources and, throughout all this, the translator must display a highly acute cultural awareness.
Website translation is yet another subset of localization services, where many diverse iterations intended for different target audiences could be required and regularly updated. A translation management system might be particularly helpful here in streamlining the translator’s work and increasing client satisfaction.
Multimedia localization can be seen as an extension of website translation services. This goes beyond plain website text and includes media like videos, images, GIFs and infographics. Translators working on this often must be versed in production and editing skills, yet always considering how closely they’re working with audience engagement and brand messaging. Game developers don’t want to be left behind in the localization field, and they often hire translators to help out.
Game localization is unique among translation services, as it routinely couples translating the game script with re-recordings of the audio. It is also very particular about the adaptation and integration quality, as well as the extent of testing necessary for the final product.
Last but not least, piggybacking off the storytelling found in all your favourite games, we arrive at the final destination of our journey, the stories of literary translation. Translating novels, poems, short stories and plays is sometimes regarded as the most difficult form of translation. The literary translator must not only nail the meaning and style of the language, but also they must play the role of wordsmith themselves. It is very similar to the process of transcreation, but applied to the finest nuances of literary characters, setting and atmosphere throughout the entire work of art. This is akin to using Tolkien as an inspiration for writing the Lord of the Rings anew, and only dedicated, professional literary translators have what it takes to accomplish this task.
Script translation frequently entails work in the same vein as literary translation, including, but not limited to, translation of films, TV series, documentaries, talks and podcasts. In this work, the translator is responsible for recreating a person or a character’s presence, but also they oversee the technical aspects of the medium, such as editing, time-coding and synchronization.
Here we are at long last, you’ve made it to the end! You have read through a fraction of what a translator must work with daily, and you have hopefully developed an understanding of the varied skills and expertise that define translation. Perhaps at your next virtual gathering you will tell your friends about the funny new German word you learned. Or perhaps you are secretly delighted at the few pop culture references hidden in the text. Maybe you will take it upon yourself to translate this text into your own language to test your skills.
But if you are looking for a dedicated and professional translation service, this guide will certainly help you find the one you need, and help you to know what to expect.