Translation is a service which changes words or text from one language to another language. A deep understanding of both languages used is vital for this to be accurate.

Thanks to the global connectedness of the internet, this process is popular on websites, search engines, and even social media.

But, translation systems and services vary from country to country. So finding out exactly what translation is, and how it works, can be more complicated than you would first think.

dictionary definition

How to Define Translation 

The first step to answering the question “what is translation?” is to define the service itself.

Translation is the process of rendering written content from one language into another language.

Correctly translated text or words will convey the same meaning, emotion, and intent as the original message. It will also take into account any potential differences in culture and phrasing between the two languages.

People sometimes use the terms translation and interpretation synonymously. But, a translator will work with written text, and an interpreter will work orally.

Who Translates Written Language?

Many companies now offer automated services that will do the work for you.

But, the quality of translations can vary. Different companies will perform this service to different standards, and prices will vary depending on this.

For instance, documents being translated and sent to governmental bodies can require certified translation.

Written work that is translated to be published will potentially need a higher standard of translation than work that is used for information only. So let’s take a closer look at translation in writing.

written translation - korean

What is Translation in Writing?

Translation in writing is important, as this text is often written with the intention of publication.

When translating in writing, the original language is called the source language. But, the language text is being translated to, is called the target language.

When translating writing, especially that which is to be published, the result needs to convey the same intent and meaning as the original text. So, this requires a translator with a solid knowledge of both languages.

To achieve this high standard, ISO 17100 provides an internationally recognised standard to measure translation services against.

This standard suggests translation services and suppliers are qualified when they have an MA (or similar qualification) in translation. Alternatively, when they have a BA in translation paired with 3 years of experience translating full time.

What is Translation Exposure?

Translation is centred around global connections. The exchange of information, products, and services between different places will need at least an element of translation at some point.

So, what about translation exposure? What is that and is it related? In short, no, it is not related to written translation, though it shares the name.

This term is also known as translation risk, or accounting exposure. But each of these names share the same definition.

Translation exposure relates to a company’s income, liabilities, assets, and equities. It is the risk that these elements will change in value as a consequence of exchange rates.

Multinational companies with subsidiaries in other countries are those most at risk of translation exposure.

How Does This Affect Companies?

The main way in which translation exposure affects a company is in financial reporting.

When carrying out financial reporting, any assets and liabilities abroad will need to be translated into the parent company’s home currency.

So, changes in foreign exchange rates will actually cause a change in value for the company itself, in its foreign-based assets and liabilities.

Types of Translation

We’ve looked at one major type of translation in a bit of detail: translation in writing. But what other types are there?

Translation services often vary in price depending on the type of translation they are doing.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the options out there.

Information Only Translations

We’ve taken a brief look at translation in writing, where the text is likely to be published following translation.

However, some written work will be translated for information only. So, people intend to use the information provided, but aren’t going to be professionally publishing the work for a target audience.

This type of translation is a little less high-pressured than other types. But, it is still important that the information is correct with the same content and voice.

gavel-legal translations

Legal Translations

What is translation in a legal sense?

There are plenty of legal documents that need to be translated. These include contracts, company policies, and terms and conditions.

However, legal translations often require certain qualifications. It might need a certified translator in order to achieve the right standard.

Because of this, legal translation services may cost a lot more than other types of translation.

drilling-technical translation

Technical Translations

Another type of translation that often costs a little more is technical translations.

This usually involves translating documents such as manuals, safety information, specifications, and technical sheets.

These topics usually involve in depth research skilled, or a high level of technical knowledge on top of the knowledge of the two languages involved.

This huge amount of knowledge brings with it a higher cost.


So, let’s recap what we’ve looked at.

Translation is the process of rendering text from one language to another. This can be for legal documents, technical documents, or even just for interactions on social media.

Whatever the purpose, it requires an in-depth knowledge of the source language and the target language. Accurate translations often also need translators with a good knowledge about the subject of the text.

Global interaction and increased levels of connection over the world have prompted a rise in these services and their importance.

But, various translation services will vary in cost and potentially in quality depending on the certifications of the translator. Prices are often based on the material being translated, and the purpose for which it will be used.