As with many other aspects of the translation process, there exist usual misconceptions that represent a translation service. Many potential clients of a translation agency or a freelancer (freelancers) would think that each and every one of them would be able to do ‘universal’ translations. You send them any type of document, and presto, they come up with a ‘perfect’ translation.

Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” translation. No single translator can handle all types of specific translations. Translators that do live, oral, translations, have to handle a completely different translation process than those that translate written documents.

That is why there are different types of translation services. Understanding distinctions between them can help potential clients make the right choice when they need to engage a translator/agency that will fit their needs the best.

In general terms, a translation service can be document translation, interpretation website translation, and localization (including multimedia localization).

  • Interpretation  generally has six categories that include simultaneous and consecutive interpretations;
  • Document translation has eight categories that include technical, scientific, legal and literary translations among others;
  • Website translation and localization are relatively new categories of translation services that have, in a way incorporated multimedia localization.

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This post was updated in May 2021

The first difference in a translation service – interpretation versus document translation

The first distinction between translation services is the one between interpretation as compared to written document translation. As Language Scientific aptly explains, “interpreting is an oral or verbal form of translation, enabling real-time cross-linguistic communication. This is a process where a person repeats out loud what the speaker has said in a different language.” Interpreting itself offers a number of services, and those can be divided into six general categories.

Written document translation, as explained by the same source is “rendering text from a source language into a target language while preserving meaning.” As it is implied, translation is always in a written form. There, again, there is a number of categories in which translation services differ. Currently, the top tier difference is between ‘hard copy’ translation of documents and a translation that on specific uses for online purposes. Each of those has its own subset of categories


Interpretation services

Interpretation services  generally have  six categories:

  • Simultaneous interpretation
  • Consecutive interpreting
  • Escort/travel interpreting
  • Whisper interpreting
  • Scheduled telephone interpreting
  • On-demand phone interpreting

Simultaneous interpreters “must translate the sentence into the target language while simultaneously listening to and comprehending the next sentence.” While they work, simultaneous interpreters have to “process and memorize the words that the source-language speaker is saying now, while simultaneously outputting in the target language the translation of words the speaker said 5-10 seconds ago.” The goal they have to achieve is to convey the exact language of the speaker.

Simultaneous interpreting is most common during various conferences, sessions or legal situations like trials. Interpreters most commonly sit in booths and have the use of microphones and headsets.

Consecutive interpreting is used in official or unofficial conversations, discussions, negotiations between two or more parties. In those situations, the speaker stops at certain intervals, usually when they complete a thought. The interpreter, who sits close by then presents what was said into the target language. The consecutive translator has to be good at taking quick notes or know shorthand.

Escort/travel interpreters, along with consecutive interpreting often have the role of travel assistants. They offer assistance in everything – from booking hotels to being a guide or bridging possible cultural differences.

Whisper interpreting is a form of simultaneous interpreting. In those cases, the interpreter sits next to the person needing translation and whispers in their ear. This type of interpreting is common in various types of personal conversations, particularly between political personalities or highly-placed officials.

There is a difference between the two types of over-the-phone interpretations. One type is when such a conversation is scheduled, and the other is when such a conversation has to take place immediately. In most cases, the translation is in a consecutive form, but parties can agree, that it could be a simultaneous interpretation.

Document translation – technical translation service

Document translation has a number of categories of translation service, and in most cases, agencies and freelancers specialize for a specific translation service. The methods of categorizations differ, but the most solid one is offered by Cultures Connection, which differentiates between eight categories of document translation service:

  • Technical translation
  • Scientific translation
  • Financial Translation
  • Legal Translation
  • Judicial Translation
  • Juridical Translation
  • Certified Translation
  • Literary Translation

Technical translation has two aspects. In a broader sense, it involves translation of materials like user manuals, medical documentation, specialized reports and similar. In a more limited sense, it involves translation of specific technical documentation, industrial texts and similar. To offer such a translation service, the translator/agency has to have specific technical knowledge a developed specialized term database and similar.

Scientific and financial translations are essentially subgroups of technical translation. Still, they require specific separate knowledge from the translator so that he could handle these translations properly. The scientific translation covers materials like scientific papers, academic theses, study reports seminar, and congress presentations and similar.

On the other hand, financial translation covers documents like company annual reports, financial statements, financial contracts, and similar.


Document translation – legal translation services and literary translation

While legal, judicial and juridical translation might seem like one and the same thing, there are some very specific differences between the three. Legal translation is the most general category of the three and includes any form of a legal document like court summons and warrants, legal administrative texts like registration certificates and corporate statutes and quite a number of other texts.

Judicial translations refer to those that translators make in a court setting, like minutes of proceedings, judgments, witness depositions and similar. On the other hand, juridical translation deals with legally-binding documentation. This covers a wide range of documentation, from laws and decrees to commercial contracts, international (multinational, bilateral) protocols and conventions and other. It is essential for a translator of a juridical translator to have some form of legal background to be able to handle this form of translation service properly.

Closely tied to these is a certified translation. Certified translations require from each translator specifically to pass certain training and acquire such a qualification. This enables him to confirm that the translation fully corresponds to the original document with his signature and possibly a seal, the so-called apostille if the document has international use. The documents that usually require certification include civil status documentation, marital agreements, divorce settlements, and similar.

The literary translation may formally not require specific qualifications, but a translator of literary works must deal with a number of things. As Cultures Connection notes, these are things like, “the semantic content of the original text, polysemic wordplay specific to literary texts, the author’s own particular literary style and rhythm, meter and the innate balance of the phrase.”

Website translation and localization and multimedia localization

Website translation and website localization have turned into a specialized translation service with the rapid development of the Internet. According to Lionbridge, “website translation “is the process of changing an original (source) language version of web content such as text, multimedia, eBooks, or apps into a different (target) language. This occurs by simply substituting words from one language to another—in context.”

On the other hand, website localization is “is a more specialized process of adapting your web content and applications for regional—or local—consumption. Website localization goes beyond translation to modify the source language and other site elements to appeal to the customer’s cultural preferences in his/her own target language.”

Here, again, the translation service needs to include a solid understanding of cultural differences. This particularly refers to the culture of the society that uses the target language. This can help convey the message in the best manner possible.

One more translation service is now closely tied with the website translation and localization, and that is multimedia localization. It has been around for a while in the form of film, video and song lyric subtitling and dubbing. These days though, it is almost always done along with the website translation and localization.

Finding Solutions

Knowing exactly what you require beforehand will certainly alleviate the process of acquiring the precise translation service. This will certainly save time and money, not only for a potential client but for the translator and/or agency.

What’s the easy way out? To find a service that can do it all. Enter Bunny Studio, the one-stop-shop for all of your translation needs.

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