Glossary of Terms for Translators & Interpreters

Below is a glossary of sorts for translators and interpreters. These terms are taken from the fields of linguistics, semiotics, philology, sociology and translation studies and are all essential concepts for translators and interpreters.

Chuchotage: An interpreting technique in which the interpreter stands next to the client and simultaneously whispers (“chuchotage” means “whispering” in French) the interpretation.

Computer-assisted translation (CAT): When a person does the actual translating, but he or she is assisted by computer software.

Dialect: A form of speech specific to a particular region or area; A variation on a language with non-standard grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation.

Discourse: A way of speaking or writing in which those speaking or writing adopt a particular attitude about society or culture.

Free Translation: A translation that loosely follows the source text. The opposite of word- for- word or literal translation.

Idiolect: Vocabulary, grammar, or other characteristics specific to an individual speaker or group of speakers.

Inflection: A change in the form or spelling of a word to express gender, tense, number, mood, etc.; a rhythm of speech or emphasis on a particular word or phrase.

Interpreting: Dealing with spoken language, the transformation of one spoken language (source) into another (target).

Language Family: A set of languages that derive from a common root and thus are very similar in terms of grammar or lexicon. Ex. Romance languages derive from Latin.

Lexis/Lexicon: Words, vocabulary; all words in a language.

Localization: The process of translating product descriptions to fit the target market.

Semantics: A field of study within linguistics focusing on the meanings of words and phrases.

Source: The language of the original text, voice or material that is being interpreted or translated.

Target: The language of the text, voice or material that is being interpreted or translated into.

Tenor: The level of formality, etc. between two parties talking.

Translation: Dealing with written language, the transformation of one written language (source) into another (target).

Unit Of Translation: The smallest or shortest linguistic component that carries meaning (ranges from individual words to paragraphs).

Word Order: The order of words in a sentence (this varies from language to language).

Word-For-Word Translation: Also called “literal translation,” this is the conversion of each word in the source language to the equivalent in the target language. If the difference in word order between the two languages is not taken into account, this can cause confusion in translation.

World Knowledge: This has to do with factors beyond simply the linguistics aspects of translation (including cultural knowledge or “real-world knowledge”).

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