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19 Important Translation Terms You Need to Understand

January 11, 2022
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Do you get confused by all the different terms and acronyms around translation?
You're confronted by many new translation terms when you first start out with translation. A lot of articles and resources are also filled with acronyms that you're expected to understand… and not all companies clearly define such terms as we do at Rubric.
As language professionals, we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we let you go without understanding such terms.
Here are 19 of the most important translation terms you probably need to understand to get the most from your translation budget…

Fundamental translation terminology

Here are 4 fundamental terms around translation that you will likely encounter.

1. Translation

It makes sense to define "translation" first.
Translation is the process of converting content in one human language into another human language without losing the intended meaning of that content. At its most basic level, translation involves turning a "linguistic unit" into a comparable linguistic unit in another language.

2. Localization

You'll often see the words translation and localization used interchangeably. However, there is a clear and distinct difference between the two.
Translation is the fundamental activity of converting words between languages. Localization involves all the other aspects of content that need to be changed to suit a particular market. Numbers, graphics, images, and other media elements often need to be changed to be accepted in the international market.
Clients are sometimes surprised when we ask them questions like "How was the video created?" when working with video content or "What is the page layout?" for documents created with desktop publishing software. Translation is all about the words so they don't expect these questions. However, when we know information like the layout of visual elements on a page of content (the page layout) this will affect how we localize the content and result in substantial savings.

3. Language Pair

A language pair is how you describe which two languages you want to translate between: the source language and the target language.
You shouldn't just say "I need to translate into Spanish." It's more helpful and precise if you say something like "I need to translate from American English to Mexican Spanish." This lets the translation provider know exactly which languages you're working with.

4. Cost per word

When you are purchasing translation work, often the price is quoted as the "cost per word." This means the cost of translating one word from the source language into the target language.
Cost per word is actually an unhelpful way to calculate the true cost of translation. For a more accurate method, read our article on the cost of translation

Globalization terms for your global business

As a global company, particular terms relate to how you manage your global content. Here are 4 such terms.

5. Globalization

Globalization is the process by which your company grows its operations into international markets.
The term is sometimes confused with the terms translation and localization. However, while these other two terms refer to the process of translation, globalization is all about your company's global strategy.

6. Global Content Strategy

Several types of strategy are important to a global company, such as your globalization strategy that describes how you will enter new markets.
Your global content strategy plans how you will localize and manage all the content you create. Managing such content can be a mammoth task. A good strategy can smooth the process significantly.

7. Language Services Provider (LSP)

When you read about the topic of translation, you will often see the acronym LSP being used.
LSP just means the company that provides your translations – the language services provider. At Rubric, we do use the term LSP sometimes. On our blog, we often use the term "translation provider" as it's immediately understandable by someone new to the process of translation.

8. Simultaneous Shipment (SimShip)

A slightly more technical term than the previous ones, simultaneous shipment describes a strategy you can use to release your content to your markets. The abbreviation SimShip is often used.
When you use SimShip, you release all of your translated content to all of your markets simultaneously. To do this effectively, you need strong underlying systems to support such a move.
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Translation tools and some terms around them

There is a whole collection of specific software tools that you should be aware of around translation. It's very common to use acronyms when talking about these.
Here are 4 common translation tools.

9. Computer-Aided Translation (CAT)

Computer-aided translation (CAT) is a category of software tools that help translators to perform their job quickly and efficiently.
You can think of a CAT tool as being a little bit like a supercharged word processor (though this is a huge simplification). In most cases, you don't need a CAT tool unless you perform translations in-house.

10. Content Management System (CMS)

If you work with content already, you are probably familiar with a content management system or CMS.
A CMS is a type of software that stores all of your translated content and helps you manage it more effectively. A good translation provider will be able to interface directly with your CMS so you don't need to send content to them manually.

11. Machine Translation (MT)

Machine translation or MT is a category of software that uses artificial intelligence to automatically translate content from one language to another.
A lot of people are very excited about MT right now as it promises the chance to translate content almost effortlessly. However, there are some important things to know to use the tools effectively.

12. Translation Management System (TMS)

A translation management system or TMS is a type of project management tool that translation providers use to manage all of their vendors and the translations for particular clients.
Some companies like to install their own TMS in-house. However, this is usually unnecessary.

Intellectual property tools for managing translation

Every new translation that you create is new intellectual property (IP). Some providers believe translations are always the IP of the translator. However, at Rubric, we prioritize the situation that your translations are the property of you, the client. Like all legal issues, this is not always clear cut in all jurisdictions, but our policy is that your IP is yours where possible.
Here are 3 tools that handle the IP around translations.

13. Glossary

A glossary is a list of terms that are important for your company. Usually, they are either important because they should never be translated (such as brand or product names) or they should always be translated in a particular way.
You might also hear the word "termbase" being used to describe glossaries. In most practical situations, the terms glossary and termbase mean the same thing.

14. Product Information Management (PIM)

Product information management (PIM) systems are often used in eCommerce businesses to store all the information about products.
As with CMS software, described above, a good translation provider will be able to interface directly with your PIM system. They should be able to pull down new content, translate it, and push it back to the PIM system with hardly any extra input from you.

15. Translation Memory (TM)

A translation memory or TM is a digital store of all of the translations that your company has already generated. They are used by CAT and TMS tools to speed up the job of translators and improve the consistency of your translations.
Translation memories are also part of the reason that your translations can get cheaper as time goes on. Every translation job adds to the TM and reduces the cost of future translations.
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Process terms for managing translations effectively

Finally, some terms correspond to the process of translation and localization.
Here are 4 process terms that are important to know.

16. Quality Assurance (QA)

Quality assurance is the process of checking translation work to ensure that it maintains the desired quality level. This is just as important in translation as it is in other parts of your business.
Various systems and processes are used to improve the quality of translation work. One way to quantify this quality is with well-chosen translation metrics

17. Reviewer

A reviewer (often called an in-country reviewer) is a person whose job is to check translated content for errors and improvements.
Usually, reviewers will be members of your company from your local market. Reviewing is unlikely to be their only job and they might not have much time for it. It's important to manage their review work effectively with your translation provider.

18. Transcreation

Not all content requires the same type of translation. Transcreation is an example of a different type of translation process that is often used for marketing communications.
Basic translation simply involves converting one language into another accurately. With transcreation, the translator is given more creative license. The main purpose is to ensure that the tone, style, and intent of the content are maintained in the target language.

19. Workflow

Your workflow is the sequence of steps that your content goes through before it is published. This includes both the initial content creation steps and the translation steps.
At Rubric, we are passionate about improving workflows. We want to help you to make your content workflow as efficient and stress-free as possible. That means you can spend more of your time, budget, and energy building your business… not struggling with translations.
Can you think of some terms we haven't included? Send us a message to let us know and we might add them to this list.
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