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Ad Hoc Interpreting

Interpreting between two languages, in conversations, between two or more people. Used, for example in business meetings, for phone calls, during site visits and social events. The term is sometimes used loosely to include consecutive interpreting.



An official state-issued stamp or attachment to any public or private document that makes the document legal for use in any country that has signed the Hague Convention on Documents. In the UK apostilles are issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.



Any material in the form of text incorporating illustrations, drawings, design elements, coloured panels, etc, produced by a designer for reproduction in a leaflet, booklet, magazine or other printed medium. When a translation is to be presented in the same format as the original artwork, this will involve a typesetting process in addition to translation and proofreading. Artwork files must be provided to allow typesetting to be carried out.


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Background Information

Information relating to the source text that helps the translator perform the translation with more accuracy and in context using the correct style and tone. It will provide extra facts about the subject matter, the context, the audience and terminoloy. Examples include previously translated documents, glossaries with terminology, definitions, etc.


Back Translation

Translation back from the target language into the source language by a second translator. For example, if a document has been translated from English into French, the back translation would go from the translated French back into English to allow a speaker of English to check that no meaning has been lost in the translation process. However, a back translation will not necessarily be precisely same as the original text, nor should it be, as the translation process is much more subtle than a mere mechanical swapping words from one language to another. It includes transferring style, tone, grammar and idioms as well as meaning and this will often require much more than a rigid word-for-word changing of the text.



If used accurately, “bilingual” is a term is reserved for those speakers with native speaker proficiency in two languages and not merely those who speak two languages.


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Calculation of Text Volume

All translation agencies need to calculate the text volume or word count. This is the basis for pricing, determining turnaround times and the number of translators needed to complete the translation. Not all companies or countries use the same method of calculation. In the UK most translation agencies will calculate the text volume using the source word count. However, in countries such as Germany and France, some translation agencies work on the number of characters or lines.



See “Computer Assisted Translation”


Certified Translation

A certified translation is where a translation agency or freelance translator carry out a piece of translation work then certify to the fact that they carried out the work and that it is a true and accurate translation, in the form of an accompanying certificate or signature. Certified translations are usually necessary for official documents.



Cyan Magenta Yellow Black: the colour space used for commercial printing and most colour computer printers.


Computer Assisted Translation (CAT)

Computer Assisted Translation describes a translation produced with the use of translation memory software that helps professional human translators to carry out translations with greater efficiency and consistency of terminology. CAT is not suitable for all types of text, particularly not where the text requires an element of creative flair in the translation.

The software works by creating a database of previously translated sentences which are then suggested as translations when they re-appear in new source text. The choice of translation remains entirely the responsibility of the human translator. The resulting translation is the same as a conventionally-produced human translation but with the benefits of greater efficiency and consistency. The drawbacks are an increase in set-up costs so CAT software can be utilised, the limited number of translators who use particular software packages and the fact that CAT is not really suitable for certain types of text.

CAT should not to be confused in any way with Machine Translation.


Conference Interpreter

An Interpreter with highly specialised skills, qualified to work at conferences, who provides simultaneous interpretation of a speaker’s words in one direction only from one language into another, usually from an interpreting booth, speaking through a microphone and sound system.


Consecutive Interpreting

An interpreting technique whereby the interpreter speaks during pauses or gaps when the speaker has finished speaking or pauses for interpreting. More formal than ad hoc interpreting it is used, for example, in formal business meetings, for negotiations, training sessions or lectures.


Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is used to manage the content of an organisation such as web site text, internal documentation or product catalogues. Typically, a CMS consists of two elements: the content management application (CMA) and the content delivery application (CDA).



The writing of material to a specific brief or instruction, used on brochures, web sites, publicity copy and the like. It cannot be stressed too strongly that advertising copy does not always translate well due to the different cultural contexts and advertising cultures of the target culture and language.

It is always best to have copy for foreign countries written by experts from the country as new text based on message points that the copywriter is to convey. Where a source text is translated instead, it is imperative that copywriters working on such projects should be familiar with the language, culture and colloquialisms of the target country or region.


Court Interpreter

Interpreter with specialist subject knowledge, providing interpretation during legal proceedings. Requirements regarding accreditation and certification for court interpreting vary from country to country. In Scotland, the Courts prefer court interpreters to hold a DPSI (Scots Law option).


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Desktop Publishing (DTP)

Desktop Publishing or DTP is offered by some translation agencies. This is where a DTP expert can use foreign fonts to produce typeset foreign language artwork containing translations or to create image files containing foreign text.



Deadline refers to the agreed point in time when a translation becomes due to hand over to the client. There is an inverse direct correlation between the urgency of a deadline and the quality of the translation produced.

Most translators prefer to translate around 1500 words per day. This allows them good time for research and checking. Working on an urgent basis around 2500 words can be produced, but this is not sustainable over an extended number of days without an inevitable drop in translation quality.

There are numerous factors which can have a bearing on turnaround time, so it is unwise to set over-generalise turnaround times.

Clients should be aware of what is realistic. Organisations should always think ahead if the translation of a text is necessary and for best results allow at least as much time for the translation part of a project as was allowed for the production of the source text.


Dominant language

See “Language of habitual use”



Diploma in Public Sector Interpreting. A interpreting qualification issued by the Chartered Institute of Linguists, London. See “Court Interpreter”.


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Encapsulated PostScript, a PostScript file format used to transfer a graphic image between applications and platforms.



An Extranet is an Intranet which is available on the public Internet. This is commonly provided over https, where the user must log in with a username and password.


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Shorthand for the most commonly translated European languages: French, Italian, German and Spanish.



See “Freelance Translator”


Freelance Translator

Self-employed translator, who may undertake work for translation agencies, localisation companies and/or directly for end clients. Most translation agencies use freelance translators either exclusively or in addition to In-House translators. A freelance translator acts as an independent entity and is not considered an employee.

A freelance translator sometimes specializes in one or more particular fields, such as legal, medical, financial or technical translations. Others undertake a broad range of non-specialised work.


Free Translation

A free translation is carried out by software that applies a literal translation of any text typed into it. See “Machine Translation”



File Transfer Protocol, a method used to transfer files over a TCP/IP network. This is usually not encrypted. Most web browsers support basic FTP functions. Commonly used to transfer data files that are too large to be sent as email attachments.


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On occasions clients may only require to know the “gist” of a piece of text for their information purposes. This is where the translator will provide a rough outline of the meaning and contents of a text so that the most salient points can be understood. A gist translation can be less expensive and less time-consuming to produce, but in the end only provides a bare summary of the original text.



A glossary is a specialised, customised dictionary used by translators working on difficult text with specific terminology. It includes a term and its definition in the target language. For very specialised texts clients are sometimes asked to provide a glossary to ensure the translation adheres to company style guidelines and preferred terminology. For example, a company may specify that the preferred term for motorcycle is “motorcycle”, not “motorbike”, “bike” or any other term. The preferred term is entered into the glossary to ensure consistency throughout a project.


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Hard Copy

Hard copy simply refers to a document that exists in physical form: on paper, as printed matter, a photocopy, or fax or email print-out etc. When the source material for a translation exists only as a hard copy this is more difficult for a translation agency and translators to work with since the word count has to be manually obtained and the translator cannot overtype the source text as she creates her translation.

There may be additional costs for recreating specific formats if the only source text available is a hard copy.



HyperText Markup Language, the standard document format of the web.


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In-House Translator

A translator who works as an employee within an organisation requiring a lot of translation work to be carried out.



Graphic design and typesettering software from Adobe. The preferred format for creating multilingual DTP because of the range of languages supported by the software.



A person who conveys speech from one language to another.



The act of conveying speech from one language to another.


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A JPEG is a type of image file. It is the ISO standard for compressing photographic type images. JPEGS are commonly used for low to medium definition online images because they can be downloaded quickly by web browsers.


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Language of habitual use

The language that a person is most familiar with, usually the language spoken in the country in which the person lives. It is not always the same language as a person’s mother tongue. It is considered by some to be as valid as the mother tongue as a measure of a translator’s or interpreter’s ability to translate into that language.


Legal Translation

Legal translations can be complex due to their importance as documents and the actual terminology used. For this reason legal translations are often charged at a higher rate as it involves using translators with specialised knowledge of different countries’ laws and legal systems in addition to particular language skills.


Liaison Interpreter

Interpreter who provides consecutive interpreting in an informal setting between two languages in both directions, often for a individual or small group of people.


Literal Translation

Translation that closely adheres word-for-word to the wording and construction of the source text. A literal translation usually appears stilted, wooden and unnatural and is therefore to be avoided unless there is a specific reason for translating literally, such as back translation.


Literary Translation

The translation of literature, such as fiction, biographies and poetry. Not to be confused with Literal translation.


Live Text

Text in an electronic document or website that exists as coded characters in a font. Such text can be manipulated and copied as text, as opposed to an image of text that cannot be accessed or changed. Live text is required for it to be recognised by “readers” used by the visually impaired.



A set of attributes specific to a language and geographical region, e.g. date format, currency format etc. An example of a locale is American English usage.



The process of adapting a product (in the context of translation usually software or a web site) to a specific locale. Localisation involves not just the translation of the language but also correct adaptation of cultural norms, standards, laws, images, colours, layout, and requirements of the target market.


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Machine Translation (MT)

Translation produced by a computer program without human input into the actual translation process. The quality of machine-translated text, in terms of terminology, meaning and grammar, varies depending on the nature and complexity of the source text, but is never good enough for publication without extensive editing by a real translator. Machine Translation should not be confused with Computer Assisted Translation.


Mother Tongue

A person’s native language: the language they first learned in childhood and know most naturally. Normally a translator will be most skilled translating into their mother tongue as this is usually the language they know best. However, this is not an absolute rule. Because a person who has lived in another country for many years may be more fluent in their second language than they are in their mother tongue (for example if their education was conducted in their second language), the language of habitual use is often placed alongside mother tongue as the language into which a translator can work effectively.


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Notarised Translation

A special type of certified translation required for some legal translations where a translator or a representative of the translation agency swears under oath that a translation is true and accurate before a Notary Public. Where a notarised translation is required this should be intimated to the agency in advance so that arrangements can be made.


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PDF (Portable Document Format) is a file format that has captured all the elements of a printed document (including fonts, layout and colours) as an electronic image that you can view, navigate, print, or forward to someone else. PDF files are created using Adobe Acrobat, Acrobat Capture, or similar products.

PDF is the recommended format for providing translations using scripts that will not display correctly on a computer without the necessary fonts and language support installed.



Adobe Photoshop is a popular graphics manipulation software package for MacOS and Windows. It is the de facto standard for graphics manipulation.


Project Manager

In a translation context, a person in charge of managing a translation project. The project manager is responsible for liaising between client and translator, coordinating the translation work, supervising proofreaders, typesetters and checkers, maintaining any terminology database used, ensuring consistency of style and terminology, etc. Sometimes called “Translation Manager” in some agencies.



In the translation industry, the term is used to mean the checking, revising and editing of a translation by a second, independent linguist. Proofreading is designed to check the accuracy of the translation against the original text as well as the grammar, syntax, punctuation, style and tone of the translation. Proofreading in this sense is highly recommended and standard practice in the translation industry for translated text being published either in print or on the web. See also “Post Production Checking”.


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See “Translation Rates”



The level of language formality suitable for a particular social situation as determined by style, tone and choice of vocabulary employed. In translations it is important to maintain as close as possible the register of the source text, while also being appropriate for the target readership.



Reviewing is the checking of typeset translated text to make sure the text in its typeset form matches the plain text of the translation and to ensure that no errors have been introduced during the typesetting stage. This is an especially important part of the process as most typesetters do not have the ability to read or understand the languages they are working on. Reviewing involves checking that the font is displaying correctly, that the text is complete (no omissions or double copying), and that the hyphenation, line breaks and page breaks are appropriate to the language involved. It is different to proofreading as the latter concentrates on the translation itself, whereas reviewing concentrates on the display and layout of the text. Because it is much more efficient to make amendments to text before typesetting takes place, the review of the typesetting is not a viable alternative to carrying out a proofreading stage.


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Simultaneous Interpreting

Interpreting of a speaker’s words into another language while the speaker is speaking (i.e. without pausing). The interpreter usually sits in a booth and uses audio equipment, except when carrying out Whispered Interpreting. See also “Conference Interpreting” and “Whispered Interpreting”.


Source Language

The Language in which text to be translated is originally written.


Source Text

The text to be translated.


Source Word Count

The number of words in the source text. This is the basis for calculating the translation charges in most UK translation agencies. As word count is accurately established from the outset, this method enables exact charges to be calculated before the project is proceeds.


Sworn Translator

This term is used in Continental legal systems and there is no such figure in British law. It is a translator who takes an oath and can produce a certified translation for official and legal purposes.


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Target Language

Language into which a text is to be translated.


Target Readership

The group of people for which a text is translated. Examples of target readership may be a group of customers or service users, or it could be a particular age group or people with a particular level of education. It is important to specify the target readership when commissioning a translation so that the translator can choose an appropriate register, style and vocabulary.


Target Text

The result of the translation process: the translated text.


Target Word Count

As opposed to “source word count” (see above) the term “target word count” is the number of words in a translated document. This is occasionally used as a method of calculating translation costs where obtaining a source word count is going to be unusually difficult.


Technical Translation

A technical translation refers to the need for specialist translators due to the use of uncommon and difficult vocabulary in a text. Topics such as medicine, finance, law, engineering, computing, and many other specialist fields would all be considered as technical.



A type of graphics file: Tagged Image File Format. This is widely used and is a bitmapped graphics file format for black and white as well as colour images. TIFF files are often used high definition graphics (including text rendered as images) in artwork being used to produce printed hard copy.



Translation memory exchange format, designed to allow easier exchange of translation memory data between tools and/or translation vendors with little or no loss of critical data during the process. Supported by the latest versions of most leading translation memory programs.



Translation memory software produced by the company of the same name.



The act of copying down speech into a written text, usually from audio or video recordings. This can either be done to record the spoken text itself or to form a source text so that the speech can then be translated. So for example, strictly speaking a “transcription” of a French audio recording would produce a text written in French. This could then be translated into English as a separate exercise.



Translation memory software produced by Star.



The act of conveying written text from one language to another.


Translation Agency

A business which provides clients with a range of translation and interpreting services, including project management. May offer value-added services such as file protection, multilingual DTP, printing, review management, web design, etc.


Translation Company

Similar to “Translation Agency” but may tend to provide more services using in-house translators. May also tend to specialise more in a particular field such as legal, medical or technical translations.


Translation Manager

Same as “Project Manager”


Translation Memory Software (TMS)

See also “Computer Assisted Translation”. An application that stores translated sentences (translation units or segments) that have previously been created for a particular client, along with their respective source segments in a database (the “memory”). For each new segment to be translated for the same client, the program scans the database for a previous source segment that matches the new segment, either exactly or approximately (known as a “fuzzy match”) and, if found, suggests the corresponding target segment as a possible translation. The actual translator can review and then accept, modify or reject the suggested translation. All translation input or accepted by the translator are added to the database for future projects.


Translation Rates

In the UK the translation rate is usually expressed as so many pounds per 1000 words; in the USA the rate is expressed as so many cents per word. However, this does not mean UK agencies charge in 1000 word blocks (e.g. if you have 1001 words, you should not be charged for 2000 words): it is merely a price presentation convention. It is worth clarifying this when getting a number of quotations from different suppliers to make sure you are comparing like with like.



A person who conveys written text from one or more languages into another language, usually into their mother tongue (or sometimes their language of habitual use). Translators are highly skilled linguists who are able to convey the meaning, tone and style from one language to another, choosing the correct words and idioms to achieve this.



Converting the consonant and vowel sounds from one language into another (usually when the two languages employ different writing systems or scripts). Transliteration attempts to allow a reader to be able to say a word in the other language, such as people’s names and place names. Because not all speech sounds exist in all languages, sometimes a transliteration can only be an approximation of the true pronunciation of a foreign word.



The process of placing and arranging text on a page, especially into designed material (often known as artwork) that uses illustrations, drawings, photographs, coloured panels and text boxes, etc, with the aim of making the document more attractive to the eye and easier to read than plain text. Usually, though not always, typesetting is carried out when a translation is going to be presented in printed formats such as posters, flyers, leaflets or booklets.


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Spoken commentary in a film or multimedia presentation. Foreign-language voice-over consists of two parts: (1) translating the narrative, whereby timing (coordinating the voice with the film sequence) is an important consideration; (2) recording the voice-over, which may be performed by a linguist with special training and/or expertise or by an actor. Voice-over services are provided by some translators and translation agencies/companies.


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Whispered Interpreting

Similar to simultaneous conference interpreting in that the Interpreter speaks at the same time as the Speaker but instead of using audio equipment, the Interpreter whispers what is being said to the listener. This allows interpreting to be carried out where one person requires it, but without disrupting or holding up proceedings where all speakers understand each other. Often used in courts and tribunals. Sometimes called by French term “chuchotage”.


Word Count

The number of words in a text. Used to measure the size and cost of a translation project.


Corporate Member of the Institute of Translation and InterpretingMember of the Association of Translation CompaniesISO9001:2008 certified by British Standards InstituteBS EN 15038:2006 certified by Bureau Veritas


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