Commonly used language

Professional translation services terminology - Words and phrases used by skilled translators

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Accredited translator

This refers to a language translation provider who has been certified by a professional translation organization.

Background text

It refers to the content present in the source/target language that contains essential background information about the area or subject of a particular translation job.

Back translation

Back translation is the process of translating an already translated document back to its source language to check whether the translation was accurate.

Certified translation

This refers to a translation which needs to be accompanied with a certification by the translator that the translation has been carried out by him or her. Certified translations are generally required for documents of official nature.

Computer Assisted Translation or CAT

Computer assisted translation refers to a translation process in which a human translator uses special computer software to aid translation. CAT is mostly used to translate similar content or specific terms associated with a particular field.

Free translation

Free translations refer to automatic translations carried out by software. The process involves word for word or literal translation and usually produces documents filled with errors.

Freelance translator

Freelance translators are professional translation services providers who are not permanently employed by any translation agency. They work independently on a project to project basis.

Gist translation or Gisting

A gist translation is usually a summation or rough outline of a document in the targeted language. It is usually required by translation clients who just want to have a rough idea about the content of a document.


Professional translators who work on complicated or difficult translation projects that require translation of a particular kind of terminology usually require a glossary that has all the terms and their meaning the target language. This glossary is at times requested from clients as well in the case of highly specialized documents.

Human translators

The term ‘human translators’ is used for people who work as translators and is applied to differentiate translations carried out by human beings and those that are carried out by a machine or software.

In-country translators

In-country translation services providers are translators who live and work from their own country and translate documents to their native language.

Language pair

The source and target languages with which any translator works.

Language Translation

The process of converting written content from one language into another.

Literal translation

Literal translation involves word for word translation that is each word in the source language is replaced by its equivalent in the target language. This kind of translation cannot convey the subtleties of the original document like idioms, puns, proverbs and the like. It might also render the translation grammatically incorrect.

Machine translation/Automatic translation

Same as 'Free translation'

Mother tongue

The native language of a professional translation services provider is the language which he or she learnt naturally. It is usually the first language that a translator learns and uses as a preference over others.

Native language

Same as 'Mother tongue'.


Many translation companies as well as freelance translation services providers offer proofreading services which involves examining the document for accuracy of the translation and presence of any errors. Translation companies might offer proofreading services separately as a part of their quality assurance (QA) service. The proofreading is usually carried out by a translator other than the one who has done the translation. The second translator reads through the translated document and then compares it with the original document to make sure that there are no spelling, grammar or syntax errors.

Source language

The original language of a document that needs to be translated.

Source word count

This is the number words in the document that needs to be translated. It is used by agencies that charge on the basis of the number of words to be translated. However there are times when it is not possible to get the source word count. In such cases the charge is calculated on the basis of the word count of target document.

Target language

The language in which a document is required to be translated.

Translation Memory

This is a computer program which helps by storing translated phrases, terms and sentences. It speeds up the translation process by looking for similar text that has been already translated and providing the translator with helpful suggestions.

Target word count

This is the opposite of source word count as mentioned above. It is the number of words contained in a translated document. It is used as the basis for calculating cost of translation when it is not possible to get the source word count.

Translation quote

The translation quote contains various details associated with a language translation job including the translation cost, delivery time and other associated services, and their charges as applicable.

Technical translation

Translations that require specially qualified translation professionals because the translation document deals with a technical subject like finance, law, engineering, medicine, science, manuals of various types.

Test translation

Certain clients might ask for a test translation before entrusting a freelance translator or agency with a translation project. The test translations can also be called a sample translation and may or may not be paid for depending upon the agreement between the translation services provider and translation client.

Text volume calculation

This refers to the calculation of word count/number of lines/number of characters in the source or target document. It needs to be calculated because it might be the only one or one among other variables that determine the cost of translation, delivery time and in the case of big projects the number of translators that need to work on the project to deliver it within a given deadline.

Translation agency

A translation agency is a company that provides translation services. They might have in-house translators or act as an interface between translators and translation buyers. Translation agencies manage the translation projects for their clients and ensure that the translated documents are delivered on time and according to specifications.


The person who works on translating documents from one language, to another; he or she might specialize in a number of languages. A translator’s work is restricted to the written/printed word and is distinct from the work of an interpreter who works on translating spoken words.

Turnaround time

Turnaround time refers to the time taken for a document to get translated. It is calculated from the point of time when the original document is submitted with the translation services provider to the point of time when it is delivered to the client.

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