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Translation Lingo 101: Understand the Industry Better

Updated: Feb 13

What is the difference between globalization and internationalization? What does the translator mean by the TT and the ST? In this article I dissect all the lingo your translator might be using with you, but you don't understand!


What the heck does this mean?

For many translation clients, getting your content translated by a professional translator is new to them. "Isn't it as simple as taking the original text and putting it into another language?" Oh, if only. It can be daunting when a translator or agency starts talking about terms you haven't heard of before, or don't really know what they mean. Here I've made a list of some common translation "lingo" that you might hear getting thrown around.


Globalization, Localization, and Internationalization

These terms all kinda sound the same, what's up? Surprisingly, these terms have little in common. Globalization is the process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale. Think about a restaurant that is based in the U.S., who then wanted to start branching out to other countries, and now has restaurants in six different countries. Localization is the process of adapting a product's information or written content to a specific country or region. Culturally specific information is omitted and new information that is pertinent to the new region will be added in. For example, a brand with the name "lucky" in the name may use green in its logo in the U.S. because green is associated with luck. In China, the color of luck is red so the brand might change its logo to include red colors for its Chinese market. Internationalization is the creation of content with the idea that it will be translated afterwards, therefore keeping cultural references, jargon and jokes out of the text. A large company that has headquarters in 30 different countries will tell its content creators to internationalize their language in order to facilitate the translation process afterwards.


ST, SL, TT, and TL

Why do translators use so many abbreviations? Well if everyone understands them, you spend a lot less time typing out such long words. ST and SL simply mean source text and source language, or the language that the original text that is going to be translated is in. TT and TL are therefore the opposites. TT is the target text and TL is target language of the translated document.


Parallel Text

When translators are working with a type of text that they have not worked with before or for a company in a specific region that they are not familiar with they will use parallel texts. The idea is that birth certificates, marriage licenses, resumes, etc. all have a many different formats around the world. Translators search for examples of similar documents in the TL so that they can create a native-looking translation for the client.

Translation Brief

When working with translation agencies or seasoned translation clients, translators will receive a translation brief for each job sent their way. This document will basically include the who, what, why and when of a translation project. Who is the client, what do they do, why do they want the translation done, and when do they need it by. It will also include who the target audience is and any other specific information the translator may need. These briefs help translators create tailor-made translations for the clients needs. Given that not all clients know what information they need to give to the translator, briefs are not often given to translators. At this point, the translator will just ask pertinent questions to the client in order to smooth out any details.

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