What Is Translation: The Quick Guide to Different Forms of Translation

Linguistics are Complicated. Smartling Helps.


If you’re at all like me, you have probably tried to order a drink or a meal in a language you aren’t completely fluent in and have experienced the hot-faced reality of your server wincing at your pronunciation and narrowing their eyes trying to decipher your requests.

I mean, “A” for effort...but, there’s room for improvement.

That’s because the process of taking a word--or turn of phrase--and translating it effectively (readability, grammar, context, culture all considered) is no easy feat.

We all understand the concept, but the reality of translation goes much deeper than sheer word replacement. Capiche? 🍝

What Is Translation?

Translation is the process of reworking text from one language into another to maintain the original message and communication.

But, like everything else, there are different methods of translation, and they vary in form and function.

Let’s break down the most prominent language service types to better understand their full potential and purpose:

1. General Translation - An All-Purpose Method

A simple but vital process of changing the actual words on your website, app, or product into another language.

Both professional human and machine translation fall under this umbrella and it is the first tier of language services we offer at Smartling.

2. Transcreation Transforms Content

While translation focuses on replacing the words in one language with corresponding words in a new language, transcreation services are focused on conveying the same message and concept in a new language. Transcreation best serves creative, marketing-focused copy and typically the process begins with a creative brief.

Not sure if transcreation is what you need?

Here’s a helpful hint: If your text is designed to trigger an action from the customer, transcreation is likely a good choice.

The depth that transcreation can bring to the table can sometimes even result in reshaping your marketing messaging to better resonate with an audience - if the translator working on your account folds in the right amount of targeting and localization!

Now that is getting your money’s worth!

3. Localization Hits the Spot

Drilling down and manipulating your copy to reach a deliberate segment of your target demographic can have many benefits to your bottom line.

I have written about it before, but it bears repeating: If you’re looking to share ideas or products and services with a new audience, you want to make sure it doesn’t include any confusing or offensive language, references, etc.

Taking into consideration a culture’s norms, beliefs, and values is crucial to making a good impression.

Localization takes your content and allows it to capture and resonate with a new audience in a new location.

And of course, content in new languages means a wider potential audience to capture who will engage with your messaging.

4. Globalization and Thinking Big

Most companies strive for a strong international presence and positive global recognition.

When you’re aiming to reach and connect people on a global scale your operations, financial planning, social media and digital strategy needs to be buttoned up to optimize your potential of success.

If your startup gets bought out and the buyer wants you to focus on translating all the details of your company’s mission, you had better double check the intricacies of the very foundation of your company.

Globalizing your efforts into a streamlined and cohesive package requires the “kitchen sink” of translation services in order to ensure minimal internal and external errors, and fight off even the most miniscule of misunderstandings that could hinder your reputation.

5. Simplify Software Translation With Internationalization

Without getting too deep into the weeds, internationalization is the process of building your application or product to support multiple languages and writing conventions,

Internationalization requires developers to account for localization from the very first planning stages of their platform or service.

As we close out 2019, the research has been done. In report after report, the key to a strong international presence lies in 1. Mobile and 2. Apps. No news there!

Level up: the service, solution or product your company offers must be top notch in order to further extend the power they hold.

Different Language Services (Don’t Worry, We’re Fluent)

Here’s your cheat sheet to some of the many language services Smartling offers.

Legal Translation, or the translation of legal documents. Agreements can be copy-heavy and most of the time have the power to hold a lot of weight as it is critical to protecting the rights of a company, employees and reputation.

When done professionally, legal translation weaves in a deep understanding of how and where the translated content is to be used. This is because it will impact how you go about having fair accurate content as well as the ability to refine your approach to the translation process.

Legal translation includes:

  • Company employee contracts
  • Client agreements
  • Terms of Service
  • Vendor contracts

Literary Translation, or the translation of published literary works, focuses on translating a work of one culture and shaping it into a digestible art form in another language.

Our translator, Nao, discusses the excitement of being able to open the world up to see the beauty of Japanese culture through her work as a translator.

Literary translation includes:

  • Novels
  • Publications
  • Higher Education texts

Commercial and Financial Translation, is a reworking of fundamental banking, economic and details within the commercial or financial sectors of a business. Accurate information for stakeholders falls under this category.

Commercial and Financial translation includes:

  • Partner/vendor/contractor documents
  • Banking statements
  • Payment records

Medical/Healthcare Translation, the translating of professional medical materials, must be handled with precision. When peoples’ lives are at stake, your translation has to be 100%.

Medical translation includes:

  • Clinical trials
  • Medication information and warnings
  • Patient history

Technical Translation, or the translation of scientific and technological data, is often the basis for future planning and, therefore, needs to be clearly conveyed.

Technical translation includes:

  • Technical writing
  • Coding
  • Owner's manuals
  • User guides

Smartling is here to help with all your Translation, including Transcreation, Localization, Globalization, with access to translators that specialize in Legal Translation, Literary Translation, Commercial/Financial Translation, Medical/Healthcare Translation and Technical Translation.

If you would like more information on these services or just want to say hi, reach out! We would love to take you through the options we believe would help you secure quality translation that serves your bottom line.