Types of Translation (Per Field and Per Technique) with Examples
Translation serves as the bridge that enables people from diverse linguistic backgrounds to communicate, exchange ideas, and access information seamlessly. However, translation is not a one-size-fits-all practice – it’s a multifaceted field with various dimensions and classifications, and there are many types of translation.
To truly grasp the world of translation, we need to start by understanding what translation means and how it can be classified. This article takes you on a journey through the art and science of translation, from its basics to the many different ways it can be categorised.
What is translation?
When people hear the term “translation,” they normally associate it interchangeably with either the written or the verbal process of transferring meaning from a source language to a target one.
However, it’s important to distinguish that they’re two different processes. Translation refers only to the written transfer of meaning, while the verbal or oral transfer of meaning is called interpreting. However, translation goes beyond conveying a message. Translators need to reflect and keep the tone, context, meaning, intent, connotations, and any other element of the original text that may be important to understand the author’s idea and view.
Translation plays a critical role in enabling global communication, facilitating international trade, and promoting cultural exchange. Moreover, with the rise of multinational businesses, the demand for professional translation services continues to grow.
Ways to classify translation
Translation can be classified in various ways based on different criteria and factors. Here are several common ways to classify types of translation:
Types of translation according to the translator’s training
Translation is not a one-size-fits-all profession. Translators often specialise in specific domains or subjects, such as legal, medical, technical, literary, or scientific translation. The level of expertise required for each specialisation can vary significantly.
Translators may undergo specialised training or education to master the nuances and terminology of their chosen field. For instance, legal translators must be well-versed in legal terminology and concepts, while medical translators need a deep understanding of medical jargon. This classification helps clients find translators with the relevant expertise for their specific needs.
Types of translation according to the compensation received
Translation can be classified based on how translators charge for their work. For example, some translators work on a voluntary basis, some receive a fixed salary as part of full-time employment, and some others work as freelancers or independent contractors. Within the latter group, not everyone’s rates fall within the same range.
Types of translation according to the translation field or area
Connected with training, the type of translation may also depend on the variety of fields and areas in question. Translators often choose their areas of specialisation based on their interests, language proficiency, and professional background.
Types of translation according to the techniques used
During the translation process, different techniques can be used: transliteration, transcription, cultural adaptation, and machine translation are just a few. These techniques can be chosen depending on our client’s preferences and instructions.
Types of translation according to training
When it comes to the world of translation, it’s essential to recognise that not all translators are cut from the same cloth. Translation is a nuanced profession, and the way translators approach their craft can vary significantly. One of the key ways to classify translation is based on the level of training or certification of the translator.
This type of translation refers to translations performed by individuals who aren’t professional translators. These translations are often done by enthusiasts or people with some knowledge of the source and target languages, but they may lack the formal training and expertise of a professional.
Amateur translations can vary widely in quality, accuracy, and fluency, and they may not always capture the nuances of the original text.
Here are a few characteristics of amateur translations:
- Limited experience: Amateur translators may not have extensive experience in translation work, which can result in errors or awkward phrasing.
- Limited language skills: They may not have a deep understanding of the grammar, idiomatic expressions, or cultural nuances of both the source and target languages.
- Inconsistent quality: Some projects may be quite good, while others may have mistakes.
- Free or low-cost: They often offer their services for free or at a low cost, which can be appealing to individuals or small organisations with budget constraints.
- Limited specialisation: They may not have expertise in specific fields, such as legal, medical, or technical translation, which can make them ill-suited for certain types of projects.
- Lack of editing and proofreading: This type of translations may not go through a rigorous editing and proofreading process, leading to errors that could have been caught by a professional.
It’s important to highlight that this can be useful to personal projects or informal communication, but it’s essential to exercise caution when relying on them for critical purposes.
For important documents, official communications, or professional materials, it’s generally advisable to seek the services of a qualified professional translator to ensure accuracy and quality.
Generalist translations refer to the type of translation that doesn’t require specialised or highly technical knowledge in a particular field or industry. These translations typically involve everyday language and cover a wide range of topics that aren’t highly specialised.
Generalist translators are skilled in translating general texts and can work on a variety of documents such as:
- Emails, letters, memos, reports, and general corporate communication
- Non-technical articles or blog posts on general topics like lifestyle, culture, or travel
- General education materials or textbooks for non-specialised subjects
- Casual conversations, informal speeches, or general discussions without specific jargon or technical terms
However, they need strong language skills, cultural understanding, and the ability to convey the message accurately and fluently. While they don’t need to be experts in specific fields, they should have a broad understanding of various topics to ensure accurate translations.
They often work with languages they’re fluent in and may use translation tools and resources to assist them in their work.
This type of translation refers to the translation of content that requires a deep understanding of a particular field or subject matter. There are many fields of translation for a translator to specialise in.
Jump ahead to read more about types of translation based on the field of expertise.
Types of translation according to compensation received
The translation industry can offer different types of services and all of them can have different remunerations depending on the task, the language pair, experience, the entities requiring the service, etc.
Voluntary / pro-bono / ad-honorem translation
Voluntary, pro bono, and ad-honorem translation all refer to the same concept: providing translation services without charging a fee for different types of translations. One well-known example can be Translators Without Borders, which is a global community with volunteers, grant funders, donors and sponsors offering language services to humanitarian and development organisations worldwide.
- Voluntary translation: This means translating documents or content without receiving any compensation or payment in return. It’s a translation service offered willingly and often for charitable, community, or personal reasons.
- Pro-bono translation: “Pro bono” is a Latin term that means “for the public good.” This type of translation refers to offering your translation skills and services for free to individuals, organisations, or causes that can´t afford to pay for professional translation services. It’s often seen as a way for professionals to give back to their community or support a charitable cause.
- Ad-honorem translation: It’s another Latin term, meaning “for honour” or “out of honour.” It’s similar to pro-bono translation in that it involves providing translation services without monetary compensation. It’s typically done as a gesture of respect, recognition, or honour for a particular person or organisation.
In all three cases, the translator voluntarily takes on the task of translating text without expecting payment in return. This can be a valuable way to contribute to the community, support non-profit organisations, or assist individuals in need of translation services.
Professional translation services
With multinational businesses thriving and international communication becoming increasingly essential, the accuracy and reliability of translation are paramount. While amateur translations may suffice for personal projects or casual communication, they often lack the precision and quality required for critical documents, official correspondence, or professional materials.
A professional translator is an individual with specialised training and expertise in translating written content from one language to another. They often work in diverse settings, including as full-time employees, receiving a fixed salary, or as independent contractors, offering their services on a freelance basis.
Premium translation services
These services are language translation services that offer high-quality and professional translation solutions.
They’re typically provided by experienced and skilled translators who’re experts in specific subject matters or industries.
It’s important to note that these translation services may come at a higher cost compared to more basic translation services. However, the investment in a premium service can be well worth it for businesses and individuals who require accurate, high-quality translations, especially for important documents, legal contracts, marketing materials, and other critical content.
Types of translation according to translation field or area
Translation’s a diverse field, and the type of translation required can vary depending on the specific field or area of expertise.
These are just a few examples of the different fields:
- Social Science
And there’s even more, like military or culinary translation. Each field has its own unique challenges and requirements, and translators often specialise in one or more of these areas based on their interests.
Types of translation according to the technique used
For those who purchase translation services, it’s important to know that there are different techniques when translating.
Direct translation’s another word used commonly for literal or word-for-word translation. This type of translation’s often used in legal, technical, medical, business, and other types of normal documents.
In translation theory, “literal translation” is often termed “metaphrase.” One example can be “Food and Drug Administration”, whose translation should be “Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos”, with no significant changes in meaning.
Creative translation involves not only conveying the literal meaning of a text from one language to another, but also capturing the nuances, style, and cultural context in a creative and engaging manner.
It often requires a deep understanding of both the source and target languages and a flair for creativity in order to maintain the spirit and impact of the original text.
Here’s an example of a creative translation:
The McDonald’s slogan “I’m lovin’ it” is often directly translated in their advertising across the world, such as “Me encanta” in Spanish.
But in China, people don’t say “love” in a casual way, opting to express the word for truly meaningful moments. The Chinese version of the slogan translates to “I just like it.”
These small changes make a big difference when it comes to attracting and retaining customers.
Localisation goes beyond simple translation and takes into account various aspects of the local culture and context and intends to adapt a product, service, or content to suit the preferences and cultural nuances of a specific target market or locale. It aims to ensure that the product or content feels natural to people in the target market.
Key elements of localisation include:
- Language: Translating text, audio, or video content into the local language(s). This involves not only translating words but also adapting idioms, colloquialisms, and cultural references.
- Cultural context: Adapting content of different types of translations to align with the cultural values, and expectations of the target audience. This includes considerations for imagery, symbols, colours, and even design aesthetics.
- Legal and regulatory requirements: Ensuring that the product or content complies with local laws and regulations. This might involve changes in terms of service, privacy policies, or disclaimers.
- User interface: Modifying the user interface of software, websites, or apps to match local preferences. This can involve changing the layout, button placement, and navigation to suit local user habits.
- Date and time formats: Displaying dates, times, and numerical formats in the way that is customary for the target market. For example, using “dd/mm/yyyy” instead of “mm/dd/yyyy” for dates.
- Currency and payment methods: Adapting pricing, currencies, and payment methods to suit the local market. This includes localising currency symbols and payment gateways.
- Measurement units: Converting measurements (e.g., from metric to imperial) if necessary and relevant for the product or service.
- Content: Customising content to resonate with local audiences, including changes in tone, style, and messaging.
- Testing and quality assurance: Thoroughly testing the localised product or content to ensure it works correctly and is culturally appropriate.
- Customer support: Providing customer support and documentation in the local language(s) to assist users effectively.
- It’s crucial for businesses and organisations looking to expand into international markets or serve diverse linguistic and cultural communities.
- It helps improve user experience.
- It increases market penetration.
- It demonstrates respect for local cultures and customs.
- It’s often a key component of global marketing strategies.
Transcreation is a process commonly used in marketing and advertising to adapt content from one language or culture to another while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context.
Unlike traditional translation, which focuses primarily on linguistic accuracy, transcreation places a strong emphasis on cultural nuances and the emotional impact of the message.
Here’re some key points about transcreation:
- Cultural sensitivity: Transcreators take into account the cultural norms, values, and sensitivities of the target audience. They ensure that the content resonates with the new audience, even if it means making significant changes to the original message.
- Creativity: It involves a creative approach. Transcreators may need to rewrite, rephrase, or even come up with entirely new ideas to convey the same message effectively in the target language or culture.
- Marketing and branding: It’s often used in marketing and branding materials, such as advertisements, slogans, product names, and taglines. It’s crucial for maintaining brand consistency and ensuring that the brand message is culturally relevant.
- Linguistic and cultural experts: Transcreators are typically bilingual or multilingual professionals who aren’t only fluent in both the source and target languages, but also have a deep understanding of the cultures involved. This expertise allows them to navigate linguistic and cultural nuances.
- Context: Transcreators consider the context in which the content will be used. Whether it’s for a print advertisement, a website, a social media campaign, or a television commercial, the transcreation process is tailored to suit the medium.
- Emotional impact: The goal of transcreation is to evoke the same emotional response in the target audience as the original content did in the source audience. This often involves finding culturally relevant ways to connect with consumers on an emotional level.
- Adaptation, not literal translation: Transcreation goes beyond literal translation. It might involve changing visuals, colour schemes, and even the overall concept to ensure that the message’s not only understood but also resonates deeply with the target audience.
- Cost and time: Transcreation can be more time-consuming and expensive than traditional translation because of the creative and cultural adaptation involved. However, the investment’s often considered worthwhile for marketing campaigns that rely on emotional connection and brand integrity.
Pretending that machine translation hasn’t made significant advancements in recent years would be naive. It’s here to stay, and while it’s not suitable for a lot of scenarios, it’s a good choice for some use cases. Let’s see the types of machine translation:
Raw machine translation
When referring to raw machine translation, it’s about the process of automatically translating text from one language to another using computer algorithms, without any post-processing or human intervention.
It typically involves the use of machine learning models, such as neural machine translation (NMT) models, to analyse and generate translations.
“Keep the sun shining on your dating life by renewing” is machine-translated as “Mantén el sol brillando en tu vida amorosa renovándote.” However, a better-sounding human translation would be “Mantén encendido el fuego de tus citas renovando tu suscripción.”
Lightly post-edited machine translation
“Lightly post-edited” refers to a text that has undergone some minimal editing or proofreading after it was initially written or generated. This editing is usually done to improve the clarity, grammar, spelling, or overall quality of the text without making substantial changes to the original content.
The term’s often used in the context of machine-generated or automated text, indicating that a human editor has reviewed and made minor adjustments to the text to enhance its readability or correctness.
One example could be: “Explore the sleek look from every angle”
The raw translation is “Explora el aspecto elegante desde todos los ángulos”; however, this phrase being lightly post-edited: “Explora el estilo elegante desde todos los ángulos.”
Fully post-edited machine translation
Full post-editing’s more in-depth, incorporating all the basics covered by light-post- editing with any necessary structural and stylistic amendments. The final text reads naturally in the target language and preserves the tone of the source text. This is a more time-consuming process, but it produces high-quality results.
Terminology is consistently and accurately translated, and the content’s successfully localised to suit the target audience. Full post-edited texts of different types of translations will read as though they were originally written in the target language.
Example: If this phrase “When you’re backing up, the cross-traffic monitor can alert you to the presence of detected vehicles with an audible alert and arrows in the rearview camera display” is fully post-edited, this should be:
From: Cuando estás dando marcha atrás, el monitor de tráfico cruzado puede alertarte de la presencia de vehículos detectados con una alerta audible y flechas en la pantalla de la cámara retrovisora.
To: Cuando das marcha atrás, el monitor de tránsito cruzado puede alertarte sobre la presencia de vehículos detectados con una alerta sonora y flechas en la pantalla de la cámara de reversa.
Why is translation important? Because translation’s a complex and multifaceted process that plays a crucial role in bridging linguistic and cultural gaps between different communities and nations. It serves as a vital connection between cultures and languages, allowing people from different backgrounds to communicate, exchange ideas, and access information from around the world.
Moreover, accuracy in different types of translations is essential to convey the intended message faithfully. Even minor errors can lead to miscommunication or
misunderstanding, which can have significant consequences. As to the context, this plays a pivotal role in translation, since it’s one of the most important parts to be considered. The meaning of a word or phrase can vary depending on the surrounding context, cultural norms, and the intended audience.
Everything matters; each detail. Translators aren’t merely converting words from one language to another; they’re also interpreting the meaning and nuances of the original text. This requires a deep understanding of both languages. In connection with technology, machine translation and translation software have advanced significantly in recent years. While these tools can aid translators, they aren’t a substitute for human expertise, especially in contexts requiring cultural sensitivity and creativity, for example, in transcreation.
It’s also important to highlight that translators often must stay updated on linguistic developments and cultural changes to maintain the quality of their work.
Following the above, translation’s a vital field that serves as a bridge between cultures and languages, and demands precision, cultural sensitivity, and adaptability. While technology has expanded its capabilities, human translators remain indispensable for nuanced and context-rich translation tasks.
Author: Romina Soledad Zaleski
Romina is a scientific-technical, and sworn translator from English into Spanish, graduated from Universidad de Morón, Argentina, in 2011. She has been a member of the Association of Sworn Translators and Interpreters of the Province of Buenos Aires – Morón since 2015, and San Isidro since 2022. Moreover, she sits at the Board of Directors of the Morón Association of Sworn Translators.
Romina works as a freelance translator and founded Smart Translations in 2011, serving direct clients, agencies, and other national and international institutions. She specialises in legal translation as well as life sciences, industrial property, and healthcare. She also teaches English Language and English Literature at Morón University and serves as an expert witness for the Supreme Court of Justice in Argentina.