Translation can be referred to as the communication of meaning from one language to another. This is usually from a source language into a target language. Translation refers to written information, whereas interpretation refers to spoken information. The purpose of translation is to convey the original tone and intent of a message, taking into account cultural and regional differences between source and target languages.

Translation has been used since time in memorial and this is why we will be looking at the different types of translations that can be used by different individuals or businesses in order to a attain a particular goal.

Translation types are divided into 4 main categories. These categories are.

  1. Translation types based on the methods used. These are the kinds of translation that are named after the method used to attain them.
  1. Translation types based on the technique used. These are translations that are named after the technique used to ensure that they come out perfectly formulated and accurate.
  1. Translation types based on the end product. These are translations named after based on the formats they are converted in after completion.
  1. Translation types based on the professional fields. These are translations named after the professional field that they fall under.

I will outline all these different translation types, for your knowledge.


  • Machine Translation.

Machine translation is commonly referred to as MT. It is the kind of translation that is done solely by machines and there is no form of human interference. Machine translation is a translation method that is carried out by formulated translation software’s which have been created solely for translation works. The best example of a machine translators is Google translate which is known worldwide and commonly used by a lot of people in the world.

A machine translator is able to work because of the commercial engines, tailored to specific domains, languages and clients. It is usually formulated specifically to the client’s wishes.

It is important to note that machine translators will not give you 100% correct and accurate translations, this makes them unreliable for translation projects that are of great value and importance. If you have used google translate before on two languages that you fluently speak, you can tell how nonsensical some of the translations are. That is how unreliable machine translators are.

The best way to use machine translators, is when you are trying to get the general idea of a translator before you translate it accurately. It is also great for translations on the go.

  • Machine Translation plus Human Editing.

This translation method is commonly referred to as PEMT. This is a translation method where a machine translator is used for general translation and them passed on to a human translator for thorough editing. It can also be rendered to as post-editing Machine Translation. The concept is basically where a human translator edits already machine translated texts. It is a method that is quick and slightly cheaper

As we have noted, machine translators are not accurate and a human translator is used in order to rectify and make the translated texts conclusive and accurate. Generally, the human translator is expected to make slight changes where the translations are understandable and make sense. In some instances, they can go ahead and do great changes which also touch on the quality of the translated texts.

It is a method that comes in handy for anyone who has a low budget but still want their texts to make sense to the target audience. They might not be the most perfectly translated texts but they should be able to make sense for anyone reading them. This means that you should never rely on this method to get rid of all possible mistakes made during machine translation.

  • Human Translation

Commonly referred to as HT, it is a method of translation that depends solely on professional human beings to carry out the translation works.

This is one of the most sort after form of translation by clients. This is because human translators are in a position to create translations that are perfect in every way or form. By this I mean that they are able to come up with accurate, well worded and formulated translations.

It is important to note that as much as they are translations carried out by Native human translators, who are expected not to have any errors, they are still human and human is to error. The errors would not be of the same magnitude as the ones created by machine translators.

In a situation where you are looking to translate important and confidential files, choosing to work with human translators will work better for you.

  • Human Translation + Revision

This is the PEMT version of human translation. This is the kind of translation method where a human translator comes up with nicely worded and formulated translations and then the text is further revised by an editor translator who is able to closely and keenly look into any possible errors that might have been left unnoticed.

 In a nutshell this means that a human translator’s work is reviewed by another human translator. The review is essentially a safety check that is designed to pick up any translation errors and refine wording if need be.

This is the only way to produce, highly accurate and greatly worded translated texts. It is also important to note that this is the only translation method that is really expensive compared to the rest. You can only opt for this method if you have a high budget set aside specifically for the translation project.

  • Computer-Assisted Translation

Commonly referred to as CAT, the computer assisted translation method is one where human translator use computer tools which help in making the translation process less tedious and more efficient.

In this method which is in this day and age used by any human translator under the sun, the translation process has been made more efficient for translators. The most commonly used tool by translators is the translation memory software which usually creates a data base that helps in storing previous as translations that can be accessed for future work. The database is usually referred to as glossary. This is usually used to ensure that the terminology remains consistence and accurate which will help in speeding IP the process for a translator.

  • Word-for-word Translation

You will notice that this is also a translation technique that is greatly used by translators out there. Word-for-word translation, is a translation method that translates words and phrases into another language using words that mean the same exact thing as the ones in the source language.

So, the translator deliberately ignores context and target language grammar and syntax. The main purpose of this method is helping the target audience understand how the words have been used in the original language and how the language structure works with the words used. Often the translation will be placed below the original text to aid comparison.

  • Literal Translation

You will notice that a lot of these translation methods are also translatable as translation techniques. Literal translation is a method where a translator tries to make sense of words used in the source language into the target language. Words are usually translated independently using their most common meanings and out of context, but word order changed to the closest acceptable target language grammatical structure to the original.

Its main purpose to help formulate meanings that make sense in the target language.

  • Faithful Translation

As the word states, it is a translation method that remains faithful to the original context of a text. The faithful translation method is one that strives to make sure that the translations done for the target language are following the original text’s concept, context and meaning.

All the texts are usually precise when compared to the original text. It is usually done by Native translators who are able to stick to the language structures of both languages.

  • Semantic Translation

This is a translation method that carries the same concept as the faithful translation method. It also strives to keep the same concept, context and meanings as used in the source language when being translated to the target language. It is a method that seeks to convey same meaning of original text into the target language.

The only difference between the two is the fact that the semantic method puts more emphasis on sounds, text repetition, word play and assonance. Any form of aesthetics used on a text; the semantic method will strive to put emphasis on it. Apart from context, meaning and concept the semantic translation method strives to recreation the precise flavor and tone of the original text into the target language.

  • Communicative Translation

Communication is a what you do to pass information in a way that is understandable and direct to the point. The communication translation method is one that strives to create translations that are natural and easy to understand.

It is the kind of method that is known to be reader friendly. You will not come across hard terminologies and phrases when dealing with a translation text that has been translated using this method.

  • Free Translation

This translation method allows translators to convey the meanings and effects of a text in the target language. There are no constraints like language structures or grammatical forms that affect translations when this method is being used. There is a lot of paraphrasing and the only effect this causes is slightly longer or shorter versions of the original text.

  • Adaptation

Adaptation is a translation method that allows translators to adapt how specific words and phrases would be used in another language and make sense without losing its context and meaning and still considering the cultural aspect of the target language.

In this method, themes, story lines and characters will generally be retained, but cultural references, acts and situations adapted to relevant target culture ones.

  • Idiomatic Translation

As the name suggests, it is a method that greatly deals with idioms and expressions. This is a method that helps translators come up with meaning of different idioms and expression in another language without using the exact idioms or expression.  Any other method used when dealing with idioms or expression will be completely off and that is why using the idiomatic translation method is more viable.

The goal is to produce a translation with a language that is as natural as possible.


  • Borrowing

As the name suggests, this is a technique where borrowing of phrases and words is done in its purest form. What this means is that a text is used in the target language the same where it is used in the source or original language. There is no particular way to say this, the words are usually not translated in any way.

A great example would be, if a word like gymnastic is used in the English language as the source language, it will remain the same way in any other language which is your target language. In most cases this happens for words or phrases which have no translation in the target language. This is a very common technique in translation and one that will come in handy in a lot of scenarios. A lot of words are usually not translatable in another language and that is where borrowing comes in play. Translators would commonly borrow the words or phrases when it makes more sense using them as they are or when they are planning on adding a scholarly flavor to their translation work. It’s important to note that borrowed words must be italicized when used in any target language.

  • Transliteration

Specific words sound a particular way when used in different languages and this is where the transliteration technique comes in. It is a technique where the way words sound is reproduced to fit a language where the writing system is different to the source language.

There are different writing systems in different languages. Some have the same system and others don’t. Some of these systems are Arabic, Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, and the Indian languages. In the English language it is commonly known that the Roman (Latin) alphabet is what is used. When you have to translate a text from other writing systems into the English language, that is what is referred to as transliteration.

Be sure to note that English borrowings from languages using non-Roman writing systems also require transliteration – perestroika, sampan, karaoke, tofu are examples from the above

  • Calque or Loan Translation

Loan translation is basically a technique where meaning is transferred from the source language into a target language. It is a form of translation technique where foreign words and phrases are literally translated into a target language with same meaning while creating a totally new term.  

People like comparing the calque technique with the borrowing one. They like to say that it the same as borrowing with the slight difference where a new word is created that means the same exact thing but has more inclination to the target language. A great example would how in the English language, a skyscraper is calqued as graticule in French and fascicules in Spanish, literally ‘scratches sky’ in both languages.

  • Word-for-word translation

This is one technique that is commonly known vastly by both translators and non-translators. It is what non-translators think translation is in a nutshell. It is a form of literal translation where words and phrases are translated in their natural form with an aim of creating meaning in the target language.  This is also referred to as literal translation or meta-phrasing. It is a natural translation technique.

Note: this technique is different to the translation method of the same name, which does not produce correct and natural text and has a different purpose.

It is very important to note that the fact that this is a natural technique of translation and that not much is needed, it only happens for languages with same grammatical structure and even so not exclusively.

If word-to-word translation doesn’t work, translators always use other techniques that would work perfectly in any scenario.

  • Transposition

Different languages have different language structures and that’s just how it, there is not interesting of fancy to say about it. It is just a normal thing in linguistics. Transposition is a translation technique that is used to translate texts in languages with a different grammatical structure to the original language.

The most important thing in translation for translators, is to come up with words which have a natural flow and make sense while still being grammatically correct. Transposition makes this possible because it allows translators to create natural words and phrases that are grammatically correct when translated from one language with a totally different grammatical structure to the target language.

  • Modulation

Generally, translation is known as a process that translates meaning from one language into another and from time to time this works perfectly but at times it is not the case. In such a scenario, modulation is the technique to use for your texts. Modulation is a translation technique where translation is a done with a change of focus or point of view in the target language.

It is a technique that allows translators to translate certain words and phrases into how people in a specific language would say something that means the same exact thing in the target language. For example, if in the English language one says top floor of a building, the French will say “dernier érage which means last floor. Normally one wouldn’t say last floor in English but the two statements would make the same sense when perceived by people who are Native speakers.

  • Equivalence or Reformulation

As the word Equivalences states, it means coming up with words or phrases that are equivalent the ones in the source language for the target language. This is a technique that is used to translate the concept or meaning intended in the source language into a target language using a totally different word. The key word to note when using this technique is concept and meaning. These two are very important because they determine whether the technique has been used in the best way.

Reformulation is a technique that works best when it comes to idioms, proverbs and expressions. If you decide to do a word-to-word translation for an idiom, you will end up with a totally different meaning and concept in the target language. That is why when translating expressions, idioms or proverbs, translators prefer to translate the meanings. It is also commonly done for marketing and advertising phrases and key words.

  • Adaptation

Adaptation is usually really vast and goes deeper than face value translation. When doing adaptations, there are specific aspects that you must consider and that is the linguistic, cultural and technical aspects of a language. This is why the adaptation technique is a translation technique that substitutes a culturally-specific reference with something that’s more relevant or meaningful in the target language.

It’s also referred to as cultural substitution or cultural equivalence. It is basically a way in which translators would take phrases and words that mean a specific thing in the source language and have them translated into a target language in a way that meets its cultural aspects.

It’s a useful technique when a reference wouldn’t be understood at all, or the associated nuances or connotations would be lost in the target language. This technique comes in handy when using Native translators because then they would create translations that they know the Native speakers of the target language, will receive well and not take offense. It is very easy to offend a language culture without intending when it comes to translation.

  • Compensation

Languages are very vast and vary from one to the other. You will come across nuances and meanings that can’t really be translated or those that won’t make sense when translated into other languages. This is where the compensation technique comes in. As the word stares, it is a technique that compensates for meaning and nuances when they are not clearly presented in another language. The technique allows the meaning and nuance that can’t be directly translated to make sense when expressed in a new text.

So, you can convey different levels of respect, politeness, humility, etc. simply by choosing different forms of words or grammatical elements.

In languages where these nuances are not applicable, translators can use the compensation technique to come up with new texts with the same meaning to compensate for them.

These techniques will thoroughly help you in your translation career and if you are starting out you should be in a position to research on them and learn more about them.


  • Document Translations

Just like the name suggests, this is translation of all kinds of documents. Regardless of what kind of information is on the documents, as long as it is a document then it will be referred to as a document translation. For document translations nothing complex is done on the documents unless a client has a personal request for their documents to be converted to a certain format. 100% of the times the translation is the only alteration done on the documents and no further processing is done beyond the standard format and layout. Be sure to also note that it is the most common type of translation based on the end product.

  • Text Translations

We all know what a text is. A text translation is the kind that involves texts being translated. Simply put all types of translations can be referred to as text translations. This is because all translations are usually in a text form. Think of any type of translation that is not a text and if you find it, locate me and I will give you $100 for the effort. Be sure to note that audio translation is not a form of translation but more on the interpretation side.  The reason why it is referred to as a text translation is because of the fact that the files are usually converted into a text format after translation.

  • Certified Translations

Just like the name suggests, this is a type of translation that involves some form of certification after the whole translation process is completed. Depending on who is offering the translation services, they must be in a position to offer some form of certification to literally seal the deal.  More times than not, certified translations are offered by big professional translation service providers who are certified and are in a position to certify their works. The certification can take many forms. It can be a statement by the translation company, signed and dated, and optionally with their company seal. Or a similar certification by the translator. If you are after a certified kind of translation, it is better if you don’t go the freelance way when looking for translators.

  • Official Translations

You guessed it right, these are the types of translations that are done officially. If you want you can also refer to them as certified translations. Now it is important to note that certified translations must be certified by a professional service provider while official translations don’t really have to be certified for them to qualify as official translations.  These are translations that are done professionally and officially. Whenever you have your official documents translated by a freelance translator or a service provider company, they will be referred as official translations. Any kind of translation done on an official basis it is an official translation.

  • Software Localization

Localization is the process of adapting any form of information from one language to another. In this case software translation is the process of adapting a software from one language to another. This is a type of translation that involves adapting a software into another language while taking into consideration the technical, cultural and linguistical aspects of the target language. The goal of software localization is not just to make the program or product available in other languages. It’s also about ensuring the user experience in those languages is as natural and effective as possible. You need to translate the interface, messaging, documentation and everything else that affects user experience. This is a special kind of translation and you should get it done by service providers who specialize in it.

  • Game Localization

The same thing that happens in software localization, is the same thing that happens in game localization. As we said before localization is a form of translation that involves adapting information from ne language into another. It is important to note that this kind of translation should be done while putting into consideration the technical, cultural and linguistical aspects of your target language. The reason why game localization happens is to enable people from different parts of the world, who don’t speak the original language of the game, to understand and Engauge with the games easily. Adapting games for other languages and markets. It involves translating all text and recording any required foreign language audio. Game localization is a very specialized type of translation best left to those with specific expertise and experience in this area.

  • Multimedia Localization

When it comes to multimedia localization, it is important to know and understand wat multimedia is. Multimedia is any form of material that combines audio, video and any form of interactive elements of media. This can be podcasts, movie films, on-line presentations, e- learning courses and so on and so forth. Simply put, multimedia localization involves translation of audio visuals. This is a kind of translation that involves translating audio visuals of one language into audio visuals of another language. This simply means that anything and everything that can be seen or heard must be translated. That means the audio and any text appearing on screen or in images and animations.

  • Script Translations

You will find script translation, mainly in film production houses. This is for the sole reason that you will find scripts in film houses more than in any other place. Script translation involves translating scripts for a recording, so that they can be recorded in other languages. Script translation usually comes in handy for film dubbing which is a process that involves translating film audios from one language into another. When doing script translation translate them in a way that lip-synching would not be a problem. This means that the script lines shouldn’t be too long or too short.  This will make it easier for the voice actors to record them well. It is important to note that some scripts may be very culture-specific – featuring humor, customs or activities that won’t work well in another language. Here the script, and sometimes also the associated visuals, may need to be adjusted before beginning the translation process. It goes without saying that a script translation must be done well. If it’s not, there’ll be problems producing a good foreign language audio, which will compromise the effectiveness of the video.

  • Voice-over and Dubbing Projects

As I mentioned above, dubbing is a film process that involves the translation of film audios from one language into another language.  We also mentioned script translation can also be done for a dubbing process. So, dubbing and voice-over is the process of recording already translated scripts in other languages than the original.  You should note that the two processes differ technically. This is because a voice-over adds a new track to the production while dubbing replaces an existing one. On the similarity side, these two processes involve a script translation stage and a script recording stage and an audio production stage.  This means that they combine the efforts of translators who translate the scripts and voice actors who record the scripts. The most difficult form of dubbing is lip-syncing – where the new audio needs to synchronize with the original speaker’s lip movements, gestures and actions. Lip-syncing requires an exceptionally skilled voice talent and considerable time spent rehearsing and fine tuning the translation.

  • Subtitle Translations

Subtitle translations involve creating of subtitles. So, what are subtitles? Subtitles are texts that are placed at the bottom of a screen on a film after they are translated from the original audio. That sounds confusing, simply put subtitles are created as a result of the subtitling process which involves translating the audio of a film into texts that are usually placed at the bottom of the screen. The goal with subtitling is to produce captions that viewers can comfortably read in the time available and still follow what’s happening on the video. Creating subtitles is not an easy task. It requires simple language, short words, and a very succinct style. Translators will spend considerable time mulling over and re-working their translation to get it just right.

  • Website Localization

By now you already know what localization is and what it entails. Website localization is the process of adapting websites from one language into another language while considering the technical, cultural and linguistical aspects of the target language.  Not all pages on a website may need to be localized, normally clients choose specifics parts that who be highly relatable to their target audience and that is what usually gets localized.

  • Transcreation

When it comes to translation, it is very easy to lose the meaning when texts are translated from one language to the other. The best kind of translation is the one that keeps the context and meanings of the original file, in the target language. This is what is encouraged globally. Well transcreation Is the translation method that 100% sticks to this. It is a method that allows the adapting a message to elicit the same emotional response in another language and culture. Transcreation creates a new message that will get the desired emotional response in that culture, while preserving the style and tone of the original.

  1. Audio Translations

Audio translation are the kinds of translations that involve translation of any form of recorded files from one language into another. It is usually affected by audio quality, speech clarity and speaking speed. Getting an audio file which is perfect in all ways and form is impossible so it is safe to say that getting a perfectly and accurately done audio translation is close to impossible.


  • General Translation

General translations are exactly what their name suggests, they are general translations. These are the types of translations that don’t belong to a particular professional field where specialist knowledge is needed. What this means is that any form of text is translated and these texts don’t usually have jargons that are not widely known. Anyone who understands and speaks your language pairs fluently is in a position to do general translations because they don’t really need some form of specialized translator to do it. Translators who constantly work on general translations are usually referred to as general purpose translators.

  • Technical Translation

Apart from general translations, all the other translations that will be mentioned on this article can be referred to as technical translations. This is because for this translation to be done, it needs a specialist’s knowledge. They are translations that can be found in technical professional fields. Fields like Engineering, IT or industry related fields. Simply put, for technical translations to be a success, a specialist translator is needed and depending on what field they are in, they are able to deliver translations that specific to a particular specialty. It is important to note that legal, financial and medical translations are not part of technical translations.

  • Scientific Translation

Scientific translations are greatly related and impacted by the scientific field. Any scientific document that has to be translated will be referred to as a scientific translation. Simply put this is the translation of scientific research or documents that are related to science and what not. Most of the texts translated in the scientific field, are usually texts that invariably contain domain-specific terminology, and often involve cutting edge research. Anyone who takes up scientific translations, must be an individual who has wide knowledge on science and fully grasps the terminologies and jargons used in the field. It is not a translation type that can be carried out by just anyone.

  • Medical Translation

Just like the name suggests, these are the types of translations that are carried out in medical fields. Anything medical related being translated will be referred to as a medical translation. These kinds of translations revolve around healthcare, medical products, pharmaceutical, Medical reports, product instructions, labeling, clinical trial documentation

and biotechnology. You would wonder so what kinds of documents are there to translate in medical and I will tell you there are very many and different documents that are translated in medical translations. From patient information to regulatory, marketing and technical documents, as long as they contain information related to medicine they will be classified under medical translation.

  • Financial Translation

These are the translations found in the finance sector. Any documents in banking, stock exchange, forex, financing and financial reporting all fall under financial translation. If you do not have knowledge on finance and everything that surrounds it, you will not be able to carry out any form of financial translations. It is only done by translators who have specialized in finance and even understand the terminologies used and what not. Any competent translator could translate a bank statement, for example, so that wouldn’t typically be considered a financial translation. This means that for these translations to be a success, translators with domain expertise are needed.

  • Economic Translations

As we all know, or for anyone wo doesn’t know economics also falls under finance but not exclusively. What you should know is that finances are involved in economy and that Is why economic translation can also be referred to as financial translation. This is because economics is a combination of business/ commercial and financial entities. It involves the translation of documents relating specifically to the economy and the field of economics. A specialized translator is needed to handle such translations because there are specific terminologies that are used that a normal translator wouldn’t be able to understand.

  • Legal Translation

When you hear the word legal, your head automatically registers law. Legal translations are the type of translations that are related to law and the legal process. Anyone who would love to work in legal translation, must have prior knowledge on law everything else that it entails. It would be extremely hard for someone who has no knowledge in law to take on any form of legal translations. A translator taking on legal translations without legal knowledge will not be able to fully grasp the legal concepts and won’t know how to write in legal style or understand the differences between legal systems, and how best to translate concepts that don’t correspond.

  • Juridical Translation

These kinds of translations can also be referred to as legal translations. This is because the translations involve translations of legal verifications, certification or notarization that is common in many jurisdictions. There is no much to say about these kinds of translation apart from they also need a specialized professional to carry them out.

  • Judicial Translation

This another form of translation that falls under the legal translation body. Just like juridical translations, judicial translations usually happen around courts and we all know that anything that involves the courts, has to be legal. Be sure not to confuse the two because it is very easy to do so. The kinds of translations found in judicial translations are court proceeding documentation like judgments, minutes, testimonies, etc.

  • Patent Translation

Patenting refers to a process that involves officially taking ownership of something. This means that these are the kinds of translation that involve translation of intellectual property and patent-related documents. These translations also need a specialized professional translator to work on them. This is because Patents have a specific structure, established terminology and a requirement for complete consistency throughout. Also, the language used in patent documents is quite vast and normal translators would not be aware of it. Patent translations need translators who have been trained in the specific requirements for translating patent documents.

  • Literary Translation

This is the translation of any form of literary forms of writing. In this case that is writings like novels, short stories, plays, essays, poems. Translators have come out to state how this is one of the hardest forms of translations known to them. Where in other types of translations, the most important thing is conveying meanings, in literary translation a lot more is needed. In literary translations the translator’s challenge is to also reproduce the character, subtlety and impact of the original and the essence of what makes that work unique. In order to work as a literary translator, you must be an individual wo is extremely good with words and exceptional writing skills.

  • Commercial Translation

Anything commercial means that it belongs in the world of business. Since business is really vast and goes beyond a simple explanation it won’t be wrong to say that other specialized forms of translation are also included here.  These other specialized types of translations that fall under commercial translation are legal, financial and technical. All these fields are business related or business so to say. Depending on which field is in question, different knowledge and jargons will be used. This only means that different translators will be required for different document types and specialists should handle materials involving technical and specialist fields, whereas generalist translators can translate non-specialist materials.

  • Business Translations

This can also be referred to as commercial translations. As we mentioned earlier on, these are the kinds of translations that revolve around businesses. Depending on what business is in question, it is important to get specialized in that particular field and specifically those who understand the business jargon. It is impossible for just any kind of translator to work on business translations, they must be business specific.

  • Administrative Translations

This the kind of translations that involve translation of business management and administration documents. It is somehow related to business and commercial translations. This is the case because the administrative documents would have business jargons here and there and it requires a translator that is well versed in that. It is important to note that these kinds of translation are not exclusively dependent of business and commercial translations, they are just a subset.

  • Marketing Translations

Anything marketing related is referred to as marketing translation. You will find translation of advertisements, promotional materials and marketing materials too. Marketing copy is designed to have a specific impact on the audience which is to help to appeal and persuade an audience. It is important to note that this kind of translation will be done in a way that in cooperates the technical, linguistical and cultural aspects of a target language. A lot of adaptions are needed because a direct word for word translation never really works. Marketing translations require translators who are skilled writers with a flair for producing persuasive, impactful copy.

This brings us to the end of this really extensive article that gives you conclusive information on what translation is and all the different types of translations we have based on different aspects.

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