Translation refers to the process of changing written text from one language to another. Given the globalisation of today’s world, more documents than ever are being translated every day.
Small and large businesses alike need to reach global audiences, and they often have clients and employees who speak different languages. Having quality translations makes sure that their messages are widespread, accurate and inclusive.
The translation field is diverse and complicated because it includes many types of translation. Before discussing the specialised categories, it is important to explain the difference between generalised and specialised translation.
Generalised versus Specialised Translation
Generalised translation involves the types of written translation that don’t require jargon, special knowledge or an insider’s understanding of a topic or culture.
Any text that any average translator could complete easily would fall under the category of generalised translation, whether it be a blog, a letter or an article. On the contrary, specialised translation requires not only language skills but also unique training and insight into a particular topic.
For example, a blog for beginners on current technology trends is basic enough to not require specialisation, but a blog outlining the cutting-edge developments in machine learning might benefit from a specialist.
Although the different types of translation can be separated into subgroups depending on subject matter, techniques and theoretical concepts, the basic categories below separate the most common types of translation.
What Are the 7 Main Types of Translation?
Some translators focus on narrow subjects, like cement engineering research, ancient Chinese poetry or foreign patent filings, so the categories are endless. However, the main types can be separated into these 7 categories.
1. Technical Translation
This category includes documents such as instruction manuals, technical drawings, specification sheets and component descriptions. It can also include more basic documents if they have technical content, such as business memos, meeting minutes and proceedings, and so on.
Documents that require technical translations are not written for general audiences. Instead they are designed for limited groups of people with specialised knowledge.
This means that the complex and specific terminology must be maintained accurately, so specialists working on technical types of translation must have expertise in specific fields.
2. Legal and Judicial Translation
Another vast category is legal translation. What most people refer to as legal translation actually involves several subtypes. The terms judicial translation and juridical translation are often used to distinguish between types of translations in the legal world.
For instance, translators working on insurance policies, expert opinions for court cases and legally binding labour contracts all require different legal backgrounds.
They need to make sure that they understand the context of each document and the importance of word choice, so having relevant legal skills and knowledge is important.
These categories can involve everything from court proceedings to patents to contracts, so it is crucial to work with legal translators who are highly specialised in the project’s specific country and legal field.
3. Scientific and Medical Translation
Although scientific and medical translation can be separated into their own categories, they’re often combined because they share many concepts. Both types of translation can include academic articles, research protocols, dissertations, data forms and conference presentations.
Many subcategories exist in these types of translations, too. A specialist in geology is not going to translate an oncology protocol, and a translator with a theoretical physics background will probably lack the knowledge to translate an experimental veterinary study.
4. Financial Translation
The area of financial translation has been particularly affected by globalisation. The current requirements for global English and the high number of transactions happening worldwide require companies to communicate their financial information in different languages.
Financial translators often work on a company’s internal and external documents, such as financial forms and accounts, banking transactions, financial and annual reports, and business proposals. These types of translations are required every day in the financial world.
5. Business and Commercial Translation
As in the financial world, this type of translation also includes a company’s internal and external documents. Marketing, human resources, training programmes, presentations, catalogues, corporate manuals, newsletters, product descriptions and customer support are all areas that fall into this realm.
One uniting factor of this diverse category is the focus on clear communication that aligns with the company’s goals and the audience’s needs. Translators working on these documents need to be familiar with the industry jargon and company culture, in addition to the specific commercial purpose.
6. Literary Translation
This category includes novels, poetry, stories, essays and other works of fiction or creative nonfiction. In addition to being experts in two or more languages, literary translators must be highly trained in creative language constructions and specific literary genres.
Literary translation is often very specialised because of the deep knowledge required to understand subtle connotations and metaphors, cultural and historical context and complicated literary devices.
7. Sworn and Certified Translation
Documents translated for official purposes often require some form of legal validation. Countries usually have their own systems and requirements for these types of translations, so local sworn translators are used when this documentation is required.
Certified or sworn translators are those who are officially approved by the applicable authority to translate documents and confirm that the translated content matches the original. The types of translations that often require validation include wills, divorce settlements, sworn statements of civil status, and birth, marriage and death certificates.
Combining Types of Translation
The 7 main categories described above often overlap, making it difficult to categorise certain types of written translation. For example, patent translations can be considered both legal and technical. In the pharmaceutical world, advertisements require a combination of commercial and medical translation, while research protocols combine medical and technical translation skills.
Another interesting field is video game translation. Subtitles, installation guides and user manuals are types of written translation required in this field. The documents can be highly technical, highly creative or both, and these projects often require regional experts to ensure accurate localisation and translation. It’s crucial to work with a company that has specialised teams for gaming content.
Looking for a Translator?
If you are interested in finding quality translators with specialised skills, work with companies like Berba on the cutting edge of the industry. Top companies often combine native-speaking human translators with new technology, such as artificial intelligence, to ensure the most accurate and best quality results.