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Types of Translation and Interpretation

Subcategories of translation and interpretation


Types of Translation and Interpretation

General translation/interpretation is just what you think - the translation or interpretation of non-specific language that does not require any specialized vocabulary or knowledge. However, the best translators and interpreters read extensively in order to be up-to-date with current events and trends so that they are able to do their work to the best of their ability, having knowledge of what they might be asked to convert. In addition, good translators and interpreters make an effort to read about whatever topic they are currently working on. If a translator is asked to translate an article on organic farming, for example, he or she would be well served to read about organic farming in both languages in order to understand the topic and the accepted terms used in each language.

Specialized translation or interpretation refers to domains which require at the very least that the person be extremely well read in the domain. Even better is training in the field (such as a college degree in the subject, or a specialized course in that type of translation or interpretation). Some common types of specialized translation and interpretation are
  • financial translation and interpretation
  • legal translation and interpretation
  • literary translation
  • medical translation and interpretation
  • scientific translation and interpretation
  • technical translation and interpretation

Types of Translation:

Machine translation
Also known as automatic translation, this is any translation that is done without human intervention, using software, hand-held translators, online translators such as Babelfish, etc. Machine translation is extremely limited in quality and usefulness - learn more.

Machine-assisted translation
Translation that is done with a machine translator and a human working together. For example, to translate "honey," the machine translator might give the options le miel and chéri so that the person could decide which one makes sense in the context. This is considerably better than machine translation, and some argue that it is more effective than human-only translation.

Screen translation
Translation of movies and television programs, including subtitling (where the translation is typed along the bottom of the screen) and dubbing (where the voices of native speakers of the target language are heard in place of the original actors).

Sight translation
Document in the source language is explained orally in the target language. This task is performed by interpreters when an article in the source language is not provided with a translation (such as a memo handed out at a meeting).

Adaptation of software or other products to a different culture. Localization includes translation of documents, dialog boxes, etc., as well as linguistic and cultural changes to make the product appropriate to the target country.

Types of Interpretation:

Consecutive interpretation (consec)
The interpreter takes notes while listening to a speech, then does his or her interpretation during pauses. This is commonly used when there are just two languages at work; for example, if the American and French presidents were having a discussion. The consecutive interpreter would interpret in both directions, French to English and English to French. Unlike translation and simultaneous interpretation, consecutive interpretation is commonly done into the interpreter's A and B languages.

Simultaneous interpretation (simul)
The interpreter listens to a speech and simultaneously interprets it, using headphones and a microphone. This is commonly used when there are numerous languages needed, such as in the United Nations. Each target language has an assigned channel, so Spanish speakers might turn to channel one for the Spanish interpretation, French speakers to channel two, etc. Simultaneous interpretation should only be done into one's A language.

Learn more

If you didn't start with page 1 of this article, you might want to go there to read my introduction to translation and interpretation and what these careers require.

And on page 2, learn some common translation and interpretation terms and understand the difference between translation and interpretation.

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