Business Translation Center

Translation types explained – translation terms for business translation clients

by OFER TIROSH 17/10/2018

Clients often approach Tomedes asking for translation, but uncertain about the kind of translation that they need. Indeed, many clients are unaware that translation has many forms and can flex and adapt based on their particular needs. As such, we thought we would take some time to lay out the main types of translation and what they entail. 

Direct translation 

Direct translation, also known as literal translation, delivers word-for-word translation of the original text, so far as possible. It can result in some rather clumsy phrasing, so many clients prefer to opt for semantic translation, depending on the kind of file that they want translated. Clients with technical, scientific, legal and medical documents sometimes opt for this style of translation. 

Semantic translation

Semantic translation focuses on delivering the meaning of the original text, with some scope for paraphrasing, so that the resulting copy has a more natural flow than with literal translation. It is biased towards the source language in terms of its delivery. 

Faithful translation 

Faithful translation is very similar to semantic translation. The translator’s role is to deliver the copy’s meaning while remaining as faithful as possible to the original language. 

Idiomatic translation 

Idiomatic translation gives the translator scope to adapt idioms used in the original copy. This is often necessary in order to ensure that the resulting translation makes sense. In English, for example, having a frog in one’s throat means having a raspy/croaky voice, often as the result of having a cold. A literal translation of the phrase could result in a great deal of confusion, so idiomatic translation is required. 

Free translation 

With free translation, the translator is left to deliver the meaning of the original text, with plenty of scope for paraphrasing and even rewriting elements of the copy entirely. The focus is on conveying the relevant messages, rather than the same words. Thus it can often be biased towards the target language in terms of the phrases used. 

Adaptation translation 

Adaptation translation focuses on adapting the language used to the needs of a particular audience. Marketing documents are a great example of this. Consumers in different countries have different values, and translations need to take this into account in order to have maximum appeal to audiences in each country in which the information is presented. 

Communicative translation

The focus of communicative translation is to deliver the precise contextual meaning of the original text into the target language. The aim is to ensure that both the content and language are easily comprehensible to the target audience. 

Further thoughts

For business translation clients, a thorough understanding of each of these terms is not always necessary. However, an awareness of the fact that there are different types of translation is important, so that the translated copy can deliver what the client wants in the format that is most appropriate to its usage. 

If you have a business translation need, please speak to the Tomedes team for further details. While you’re here, why not also check out the Tomedes Text Summarizer Tool, which summarizes the content of a webpage or document in order to highlight the key points. It’s one of those tools that the more you use, the more you realise you need it!