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Terms used by Translators

Need a text translated but don't have a clue what your translator is talking about? 

Here is a list of terms we commonly use in the profession that might help you communicate with us!



A language

A translator’s first language (or mother tongue).

B language

A language that a translator can speak and write almost as well as their first language (well enough to translate into as well as out of). Many translators prefer to only translate into their A language.

C language

A language the translator can understand and read well enough to translate into their A or B language but cannot speak or write well enough to translate into.

Desktop Publishing (DTP)

The use of software for document layout and construction. A translator will often charge more for time spent on DTP.


Revising the target text to improve the flow and quality.

Freelance translator

A self-employed translator, who may work for translation agencies and/or direct customers. A freelance translator usually has a specialisation and language pair(s).


A monolingual or bilingual list of terms specific to a customer, project or subject. A vital tool for professional translators.


Homonyms are words that have the same spelling and/or pronunciation, but different meanings.


Someone who translates speech orally or into sign language, as opposed to a translator, who translates texts.


Specific words used by a profession or customer that are difficult for other people to understand (e.g. legal jargon).


A single press of a key on a keyboard. May be used as a measure of line or page length when defining the size of a translation job. A keystroke includes all visible characters in addition to spaces and line breaks/paragraph marks.

Language pair

A source language for translation and its corresponding target language.

Machine translation

Automated software that translates a source text into a target text with no human involvement. Rarely of high quality without human revision.

Native speaker

Someone who has spoken a particular language from early childhood, rather than learning It as a foreign language.

Online revision

Changes made to a translation while the translator is still translating (also known as “in-draft” revision).

Post editing

Rectifying and improving the style of a machine-translated text.

Quality Assurance (QA)

A process to guarantee the quality of a translation (usually includes revision and editing).


Corrections made by a person other than the translator, comparing the source text with the target text.

Source text

The text you start with, from which the translator translates.

Target text

The text you end with, produced by the translator.

User-generated translation

Also known as community translation, usually refers to unofficial translation of different types of written or multimedia texts by fans.


Commentary in a film or broadcast, not accompanied by the image of the narrator. Voice-over services are sometimes offered by translators. There are two parts to voice-over services in translation. These include translation of the script (taking timings into account) and recording of the narrative (by a translator with specialist training or an actor).

Word count

The total number of words in a translation. Translators will often provide a quote based on this word count.

eXtensible Markup Language (XML)

Text format used to share data on the web. Not all translators are comfortable translating XML files, and may charge you more for the service.


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