Glossary of terms used in the translation profession

Helping you understand the lingo


Translation refers to written rendering of a message from one language into another, taking into account not just vocabulary and grammar, but, most importantly, cultural differences. Translators usually work into their mother tongue.


Proofreading involves checking the correct use of spelling, punctuation and grammar, suitability of the text for the intended audience, consistency, terminology etc. This is a term widely spread in the translation industry, usually referring to either revision or editing.

Revision refers to proofreading a translated text against the original.

Editing is proofreading an original text (not a translation).


Localisation is the process of adapting a product (website, software, advertisement) to a specific market, taking into account a number of linguistic, cultural and even legal factors. For example, consider date format in British v. American English (day/month/year v. month/day/year) – even abbreviating ‘versus’ is different: v. (British) and vs. (American). Colours are an important element on your website. What a colour means in one culture may be very different from what it means in another.


Transcreation is a term mainly used for marketing messages that have to be carried across languages. Think of it as ‘creative translation’, as the translated message has to evoke the same emotions in the target audience, to carry the same implications. You can read more on the challenges of translating for the advertising industry on our blog.


This is a term easily confused with translation, but while the latter involves a written form, interpreting means the oral delivery of your message, either simultaneously or consecutively.

Source language

Source language is the language the text was originally written in.

Target language

The target language is the language into which a translation is done.

CAT tools

CAT stands for Computer-Aided Translation and refers to software used to facilitate the translation process, increasing consistency, by managing terminology, glossaries, checking spelling and grammar. These are tools used by translators; they are not the same as machine translation.

Machine translation

Also called automated or instant translation, this is performed by a computer, with no human input. Probably the best-known one is Google Translate. They may be appropriate to get the gist of a text, but for anything more than that, you will need a professional.

Translation memory

Often abbreviated as TM, translation memory is a type of terminology database used to assist translators with projects for the same client or which involve a lot of repetitions, in order to preserve consistency and follow client guidelines. The program which makes use, stores and creates a translation memory is a CAT tool.

Word count

The number of words in the source/original document is often used to determine the cost of a translation process.