Back to Basics – Translation Definitions

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Information about you or your business needs to be translated accurately and flawlessly, since it will determine the image you project. Mistranslation can pose a serious risk to your company’s reputation and have an adverse effect on your business.

Recent advances in globalisation mean that the need for prompt access to accurate information is no longer only reserved for big, multinational organisations. An ever growing number of companies compete for business on an international scale. An incorrect expression, wrong number or a seemingly harmless misplaced comma can expose your business to unacceptable risk. That is why, when selecting your translation company, you should check that your chosen provider has substantial knowledge and experience in servicing the finance, accounting and banking industry.

And of course, the more detailed your understanding of the translation process, the better the final product. With this in mind, we have put together a selection of definitions and commonly used terms, which will arm you with knowledge that can help you when selecting your translation company.

What is translation?

Translation is the transfer of one written language into another written language without changing the meaning, register or nuances of the source language and without additions or omissions.

What is sight translation?

It’s an interpreting technique used to orally render material written in one language into another language. A specialised skill, sight translation is most often used when the gist of a letter or document needs to be determined with urgency.

What is source text?

Source text is the text that is to be translated.

What is source language?

The source language is the language from which the source text is to be translated.

What is target text?

Target text is the text of the translated document.

What is target language?

The target language is the language into which the source text is to be translated.

What is a certified translation?

A certified translation is a translation that has been reviewed by a certified NAATI translator and deemed to be a true and correct reflection of the source text.

What is accreditation?

In Australia accreditation is a credential awarded by NAATI to people who have demonstrated a certain level of ability to interpret or translate, and an understanding of socio-cultural and ethical issues. There are three levels of accreditation: “Professional” and “Paraprofessional”, which are both awarded by either exam or course completion, and “Recognition”, which is awarded as an interim measurement of rare or emerging languages for which no exams have been set.

What is back translation?

Back Translation is the process of translation back from the target language into the source language by a second translator. Back translation doesn’t always ensure accuracy as the second translator won’t pick up errors such as incorrect numbers and may in fact introduce errors into the text. Every language allows flexibility of word choice, and this choice can only be deemed accurate through an understanding of the original text.

What is a comprehension check?

This is a test done to ensure speakers understand the meaning of a translation.

What is checking?

This is the stage of written translation where the draft is compared to the source language text and all information is confirmed as having been accurately reproduced.

What is extraneous information?

This is material included in a translation but not found explicitly in the source text. This information is deemed necessary to include by the translator in order to communicate the message of the source text. This can also be referred to as a translators note.

What is gisting?

Gisting is the process by which a rough or outline translation of a text is given to provide an insight into the subject and overall content of the source text.

What is idiomatic translation?

This is where the meaning of the original text is translated into forms which most accurately and naturally preserve the meaning of the original text.

What is interlinear translation?

Interlinear translation is a form of translation where each line of a source text has a line placed directly beneath it which gives a word by word literal translation into a target language.

What is literal translation?

Literal translation is a type of translation where the forms of the original text are retained as much as possible.

What is loan translation?

This is the process of borrowing the meaning parts of a source word and directly translating them to the target language, instead of using a native term from the target language.

What is localisation?

Localisation means to adapt a product to a specific locale, i.e. to the language, cultural norms, standards, laws and requirements of the target market.

What is machine translation (MT)?

Machine translation is; a) a translation produced by a computer program; b) use of a translation program to translate text without human input in the actual translation process.

What is native speaker competence?

This means that a person has oral and written command of a language equivalent to that of a person who learned the language as a child and has continued to use it as his/her language of habitual use, but who also has had some language training.

What is AUSIT?

AUSIT is the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators – A fully independent association which aims to promote the highest standards in the translating and interpreting business.

What is NAATI?

NAATI is the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters – an examination and accreditation body for interpreters and translators in Australia.

What is revising?

Revising is the process of reading a text to identify errors, inconsistencies, incorrect grammar and punctuation, poor or inappropriate style, and conformance with the source text.

What is word-for-word translation?

This is a form of literal translation which seeks to match the individual words of the original as closely as possible to individual words of the target language.

What is word count?

Word count measures of the size of a text based on the source or target language.

What are the advantages of having my documents translated professionally?

If your documents are to be lodged with a government authority, you will be required to have it translated by a professional translator who is NAATI accredited. However, even if your documents don’t need to be certified, using a professional translator to translate your website, brochures, user manuals or legal contracts will have the advantage of being accurate, professionally researched and presented and being targeted to your readers’ needs.

How long does it take to translate a document?

That depends on the language, volume of text, subject matter and the type of service required.

How much does it cost?

Again, this depends on the language, size of the document, complexity of the text and the type of service required.

What is localisation?

It’s an adaptation of a product, software or text to a target market, language and culture.

What translation companies should I be wary of?

Spelling and grammatical errors on their website should be your first warning sign. Lack of response to your emails, regularly getting an answering machine when trying to contact their office and lack of explanation when asking about quality control could be another. Whilst you may not be able to tell how good the quality of the translation is, you should expect at least a basic level of customer service when dealing with a translation company.

Feel free to email me if you have any other questions!

Yours sincerely

Eva Hussain

Polaron Language Services (

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