Glossary of terms related to translation industry Free glossaries at translation jobs

Glossary of terms related to translation industry

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This glossary provides an explanation to many of the terms frequently used in connection with translation and other linguistic services. Whether you need to communicate effectively with translators or translation companies, or just want to know what Unicode or translation memory are all about, you’ll find the answers here.


A language

The mother-tongue or language of habitual use of a translator or interpreter. (See B language and C language)


A family of programs from Adobe used for creating and viewing PDF files.

Ad hoc interpreting

Spoken translation between two languages in informal conversations between two or more people. Used, for example in business meetings, for phone calls, during site visits and social events. The term is sometimes used loosely to include consecutive interpreting.

Advertising translator

Although there are translators and companies that specialize in translating advertisements, the practice is not recommended. Advertising should not be translated, but rather adapted to the target language.


Unlike a transcription (or literal translation), an adaptation is aimed at bringing the target text in line with the spirit of the language, thus producing a text which is not obviously a translation.


A process that consists of aligning, i.e. creating equivalents, segment by segment, between a source text and the corresponding target text. The resulting table of equivalents will then be used as a translation memory. Alignment thus makes it possible to use previous translations carried out without translation support software. Even with the help of special software programmes, alignment operations nevertheless still require a considerable amount of manual intervention.


A frequent shortcoming of source texts. An ambiguous phrase to be translated presents at least two possibilities for the translator, who thus has at best a 50% chance of making a mistake if the context does not clarify the issue. The question can therefore only be resolved by contacting the author of the source text.

API Application Programming Interface

Used for creating programs that interface to other programs.


American Standard Code Interchange Information. It is a 7-bit character set encoding that contains characters for unaccented letters a-z and A-Z, most English punctuation marks, numbers, and a few control characters.


Stands for Active Server Pages. ASP is a server-side scripting environment (not a scripting language) developed by Microsoft that allows embedding of scripting commands in HTML documents to create dynamic web pages. ASP is particularly useful for reading from and writing to databases in the background, and displaying the results on web pages. ASP comes with VBScript and JScript scripting engines, but third-party engines for Perl, REXX, and Python are also available.


Publisher of the Déja Vu translation memory program.


See Target audience

Audiovisual company

A company that provides audiovisual equipment for meetings, conventions, and special events. Some of these companies may also rentinterpretation equipment as a sideline. Since their main business is not interpretation, they neither have the expertise required to design the best simultaneous interpretation configuration, nor the best equipment for every job.

Automated Publishing

In the context of SGML, automated publishing usually refers to the automated generation of content and does not deal with presentation. In the context of FrameMaker MIF files, it usually refers to content and presentation.

Automatic recognition

This is a technique that permits the automatic recognition of terms in the text to be translated by an electronic dictionary associated with CAT software, and a proposed equivalent in the target language (as long as the dictionary contains these terms). Within the framework of technical translations, this function makes it possible to guarantee terminological consistency throughout the entire text.

Automatic translation

An information technology that uses the computer's calculating power to analyse the structure of each statement or phrase of the text to be translated (source text), to break down this structure into elements that are simple to translate, and to build up a phrase using the same structure in the target language. This also involves the use of extremely voluminous multi-language dictionaries and thousands of translated pages (both source and target).


B language

A language that a translator or interpreter can speak, read and write almost as well as their native language (or A language), and well enough to translate into as well as out of. See also C language

Background information

Information relating to the subject matter of the source text or the topic of discussion. Facilitates the translator's or interpreter's task by providing context, terminology, definitions, etc.

Background text

Text in the source or target language providing background information about the subject matter of the text to be translated.

Back translation

A literal translation of a translation. Helps a translation consultant determine whether the original meaning has been preserved in the target language.


Defines the number of bits that can be transferred between local and remote hosts on the Internet. For modem users, bandwidth is usually limited to 56 Kbit/sec, but depending on various factors such as network congestion, it may fluctuate well between 1Kbit/s and 50 Kbit/s. For higher speed connections such as cable modem or DSL, bandwidth may easily go beyond 1 Mbit (1024 Kbit/sec).


The translation of a bid is a complex process and must be managed as a multipart translation. Bids are typically made up of a technical bid (which requires a technical translator), a financial bid (financial translator), as well as a contract and pertinent legislation (legal translator).


Someone with communicative skills in two languages. The term is often reserved for someone with native or near-native proficiency in two languages. Bilingualism is one of several required abilities of a translator or interpreter.

Bitmap Graphics

A bitmap is a grid of pixels having individual color values. The term bitmap graphics is used to define digital images such as scanned photos, or artwork created in image-editing applications. Since bitmap images are resolution dependent unlike vector images, you lose detail when you scale bitmaps. The loss of detail is especially noticeable when you scale up an image. The result has either jagged edges or is blurred. On the other hand, bitmap graphics offer precise, pixel-level control on images. You can change the color of individual pixels or in other words, freely paint on an bitmap image. See also: Vector graphics


A printed image that runs off the page.


Stands for Bitmap. A simple graphics file format developed by Microsoft for its Windows operating system. BMP files can store graphics from 1-bit (2-color) up to 24-bit (16.7 millions of colors). But since the BMP format does not support any method of compression, images may consume quite a space on your hard drive.


A translation or interpretation broker is a person that is not a qualified translator or interpreter and acts as middleman between freelancers, interpretation equipment companies, and clients. Usually, they "source out" freelance translators and interpreters from the many online directories and pay bottom dollar for their services, while charging the client as much as, or more than, a reputable translation company would.


An un-documented feature. Bugs usually have a negative effect on the performance or use of a program. As a technical writer expect to spend 5-10% of your time finding ways of working around bugs in your authoring tools. If you are building web pages then this figure can climb to 20% or more.


Calibrated page

See standard page

Calculation of text volume

Determining the volume of a text is not only essential in the field of translation (submitting quotations, invoicing), but also plays an important part in various stages of processing natural languages (analyses, statistics, comparisons). However, the unit of calculation applied differs from one region to another: in the Anglo-Saxon world, on the one hand, it is still common practice to calculate text volume by counting words — a method dating back to the days of the typewriter. Alternatively, in German-speaking countries, and to some extent in France , text volume is expressed in the number of characters (or standard lines). Depending on the morphology of a language, the average word length varies considerably. In German, for example, compound words occur frequently, whereas French is more analytically structured. 1,000 words of one given language do not correspond to the same text volume as 1,000 words of another. In a multilingual environment, therefore, the only viable and truly accurate method of calculation is to determine the number of characters (or standard lines). (see Quant)

C language

A language that a translator or interpreter can read and understand well enough to translate out of, but cannot write or speak well enough to translate or interpret into.

See also A language and B language.


A label with an arrow or line pointing to something.

CBT Computer Based Training

Replacing a human teacher with an interactive software package.


Stands for Common Gateway Interface. Frequently used to describe programs run on a web server written in languages such as Perl and C++. These external programs must comply to the CGI standard, which is quite simple. Popular CGI applications include guest books, counters, and search engines.

CGI Common Gateway Interface

A communications standard that allows a web server to send data to an external program and then return the results to a web browser.

Character Style

A description of how a piece of text is presented. For example a piece of text marked with an emphasis tag could be displayed as bold or italics, or using a different font, or different size of font.


Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese — sometimes treated as a group.


The server side of a client-server system. On the web, your browser is thought as the client and a web server hosting a web site is thought as the server (hence the name). When you request a document from a web server by entering an URL or clicking on a link, the server sends information to your client (in this case your browser) in the form of text, graphics or audio.


See Process colour

CMYK Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, blacK

A subtractive colour model used for printing on paper. All colour images in a document need to be converted to CMYK before being delivered to a print shop.


A programming language used for interfacing a web server to a database. The ColdFusion tags are embedded in the HTML page. The web server must be ColdFusion aware.


A group of words that usually describe a concept, an object or an action. A collocation, for example "sliding wheel" or "law on banks" is considered — on a level of terminology — to be a self-contained term, and will appear as such in a glossary. Automatic searching for collocations in the source text makes it possible to create a glossary prior to translation. However, the relevant tools are as yet not sufficiently efficient to be marketed (and the clients are far from numerous!). FXM is working on this concept in collaboration with researchers.


A note added at the end of a book.


Communication is the transfer of an intended message, and this is the purpose of language itself. Obviously, this process can be divided into two broad stages: transmission (speaking, writing) and reception (listening, reading).

But there are another two stages: before transmission, formulating the message accurately (coherence) and after reception, understanding the message accurately (assimilation). These sound like simple processes, yet in fact they are not: for example, how often do we really have the patience to listen closely to what someone else is telling us?

Computer assisted translation (CAT)

This term indicates the use of a series of data processing tools aimed at assisting the translator on a level of coherency (consistency) of the text and in terms of working speed. The most extensive of these tools manage both the specific terminology linked to the field in question plus the translation memories.


Operation that consists of linking several files together in order to process them as a single document. The concatenation of text files is used to execute automatic processes such as extracting the list of terms, searching for collocations, establishing the repetition rate, plus search and replacement operations, etc.


Relating a term to its context. In computer assisted translation (CAT), this more specifically applies to a function making it possible to obtain the list of contexts for the term, in order to define its sense more precisely and its equivalent in the target language.

Conditional Text

A FrameMaker term for a labeled section of text that can be hidden from view.

Conference interpreter

Interpreter with highly specialised skills who provides simultaneous interpretation of a speakers words in one direction only from one language into another.


For translators and interpreters, professional confidentiality is absolute. It goes into effect the moment the translator or interpreter is given access to the client's information and remains in effect until his or her death. It applies in all cases, with no exceptions. Some countries have laws granting client-translator and client-interpreter confidentiality the same status as is enjoyed by physicians and lawyers.

Consecutive interpreting

Oral translation of a speaker's words into another language when the speaker has finished speaking or pauses for interpreting. More formal than ad hoc interpreting and used, for example in formal business meetings, for negotiations, training sessions or lectures. (cf. simultaneous interpreting)


Quality of a text in which the same object or the same concept is always expressed by the same term (terminological consistency), or where the same action or idea is always expressed by exactly the same phrase or group of phrases (phraseological consistency). In technical texts, a single item or operation is frequently mentioned on several occasions. Here, a phraseological dictionary can be added to the dictionary of terms, since both make it possible to apply various automatic processes that reduce production and translation costs. Moreover, and generally speaking, a respect for consistency simplifies the comprehension of the text and makes it possible to avoid many cases of ambiguity.


Language conveys meaning through both, form and content, and they must both be transferred into parallel and equivalent language in order to produce a translation.

Controlled language

Language with a restricted vocabulary and restricted rules of formulation. Used, for example, in technical documentation to make the text easier to understand for users or for non-native speakers and to facilitate machine translation.


A small data file saved in your hard drive by a web page you are visiting. Cookies are used for storing different kinds of information such as user name and passwords so you would not have to login again and again, whatever messages you read on a message board so they would not be marked as new next time you visit the board, and finally pages you visited or banners you clicked to track your interests. This final use of cookies might be considered as invasion of privacy by some. If you think so, you may block all or just site-specific cookies by using your browser.


Writing of advertising or publicity copy. It cannot be stressed too strongly that advertising copy will not translate satisfactorily due to the different cultural contexts and advertising cultures of other countries and regions. Adverts for foreign countries should therefore always be produced in those countries. There are some advertising agencies who provide this service.

Court interpreter

Interpreter with special subject knowledge, providing interpretation during legal proceedings. Requirements regarding accreditation and certification for court interpreting vary from country to country.


A mother tongue formed from the contact of a European language (esp. English, French, or Portuguese) with another (esp. African) language.


Stands for Cascading Style Sheets. CSS gives web designers great control over the typography of HTML documents. Before CSS, there is no way to specify font sizes in points or pixels, specify line spacing, define different link colors, etc. But what makes CSS even more attractive is that you can define an external CSS file holding all the style definitions, and all files on your web site can use this file. When you need to make a change in say, level 1 headlines, you only modify that external CSS file, and your whole site adopts the change immediately.


Database Publishing

Creating documents on the fly by using SQL queries to extract text from a database. If you are serious about setting up a web site with more than 10 pages, then database publishing is the only way to go.


Double Byte Character Set. It is a character set required to represent Asian languages, since most Asian languages consist of more complex characters, which the Western alphabet is incapable of representing.

DCD Document Content Description

An XML file containing a set of properties used to constrain: (1) The types of elements and names of attributes that may appear in an XML document; (2) The contents of the elements; (3) The values of the attributes.


Usually too short for the translator, and too long for the client. But this latter should not forget that the translator does not have one client alone, and that he or she must first complete work in progress... You can help a translator to respect deadlines by informing him or her in advance of work you will be sending, and by supplying the source text on the scheduled date.

Déja Vu

Translation memory program, published by Atril.

Descriptive markup

Markup which describes the meaning of something. For example, a paragraph in a HTML document can be marked as a "definition description" using a "tag". For display purposes the descriptive markup is translated into procedural markup using a style sheet.

Desktop publishing (DTP)

DTP is sometimes offered by translators and translation companies/agencies as a value-added service to provide a one-stop solution for customers' publishing needs. They will usually have the special equipment required to handle languages that use different typescripts.


Short for Dynamic HTML. DHTML allows absolute positioning of page elements such as text and images, and it also separates style from content so for example you can change the fonts used throughout your site by modifying just one file. When used in conjunction with JavaScript, DHTML can be used to achieve dynamic tasks that are normally impossible with plain vanilla HTML such as moving page elements across the browser window and creating pop-up menus.


A form of speech peculiar to a particular region.

A subordinate variety of a language with non-standard vocabulary, pronunciation, or grammar.


Modes of speaking and writing which involve participants in adopting a particular attitude towards areas of socio-cultural activity (e.g. racist discourse, officialese, etc.).

Discourse analysis

In this context, the study of meaning using a large unit of translation, e.g. paragraph or page level, and taking into account the widest possible context.

Discourse markers

Words such as 'good', 'but', uh-huh', 'well' that divide up (and also link) sections of speech.


As opposed to a glossary, a dictionary contains two or more languages in a specialised and abridged form. The most basic form of dictionary is simply a table of equivalent words. The complexity of languages and their usage, however, rapidly creates the need for more complex data bases. These include, for example, functions for the processing of abbreviations and synonyms.


An SGML application designed for producing technical documents. The SGML version of FrameMaker has built in support of Docbook.

Dominant language

See language of habital use


Stands for Dots Per Inch. The more the number of dots that can be squeezed in a square inch, the better the quality of image and text output. Computer screens have very low DPI generally ranging between 72 and 120 DPI, and that sometimes makes the text harder to read and images less detailed due to insufficient detail. On the other hand printers and scanners support high DPI values sometimes as high as a few thousand, so the output of printers are almost always better than screens, and scanners can transfer richly detailed pictures to computer screens, but chances are high that pictures scanned in high DPI settings may not fit to your screen without scaling due to the low DPI of computer screens.

Dreamweaver (Macromedia)

A WYSIWIG HTML editor with support for various scripting languages


Document Style Semantics and Specification Language. An ISO standard used for formatting SGML documents for display on screen or paper. DSSSL was designed to replace the older FOSI standard.

DTD Document Type Definition

Each SGML mark-up language or "application" is defined by its DTD which contains rules about how the document is structured. For example, in HTML I cannot put a heading inside a list item, but I can have a heading after the list. This may seem to add unnecessary complication to the authoring process, but it is designed to help the creation of structured documents which can be easily stored in a database, or processed by a program.


A grayscale image enhanced by a single color. Duotone is originally a print term. Although grayscale images can have up to 256 levels of gray, many printers are unable to reproduce the full tonal range in an image with a single ink. The addition of another color (ink) usually produces better results.



International Article Numbering Association. This association directs the management of unique manufacturer identification codes internationally, excluding the United States and Canada. Each EAN numbering organization, usually one for each country, assigns identification numbers.

EDD Electronic Document Definition

A proprietary FrameMaker+SGML document which contains information about a DTD and a style sheet. FrameMaker uses the rules in an EDD to structure and display documents.


Optimum achievement of a communicative goal.


Achievement of a communicative goal in the most economic manner possible. Language users normally counterbalance effectiveness and efficiency in order to achieve maximum effect from minimum use of resources.

Electronic dictionary

A working dictionary on the computer (hard disk or CD-ROM). The functional operation of these dictionaries varies, depending on their editors. When associated with CAT software, these dictionaries make it possible to recognise source terms recorded within the dictionary and to propose an equivalent translation automatically.

em dash

A dash with the same width as the letter m.

em space

A space with the same width as the letter m.

en dash

A dash with the same width as the letter n.

en space

A space with the same width as the letter n.


Stands for Encapsulated Postscript, a file format used to transfer PostScript language artwork between applications. EPS files can contain either outline or bitmap data. Most commonly EPS files contain outlines. A standard for storing Postscript based graphics images. An EPS file can be embedded a Postscript file. An EPS image can contain a low resolution bitmap preview that allows the image to be displayed on systems that do not support the display of Postscript images. FrameMaker supports EPS images. The Postscript data in an EPS image only prints on Postscript capable printers. Non-Postscript printers usually print the bitmap preview.


The concept that translation or interpretation must strive to transfer meaning from one language to its equivalent in another, taking into consideration the class, culture, profession, etc. of both the sourceand the target text or speech.

Equivalent language

The language of the equivalent time period and class or profession in the other language. For example, if the source text is an article published in a US medical journal, and the target language is Spanish, the equivalent language would be the language used in medical journal articles published in Spanish-speaking countries at around the same timeframe as the original.

Escort interpreter

An interpreter who travels with an individual or small delegation during technical, state visits, trade shows, etc., usually performing whispering interpreting or wireless interpreting.



French, Italian, German and Spanish — sometimes treated as a group.


A software or hardware solution to protect a single computer or a computer network from attacks by malicious users. Some firewalls can stop both outside attacks and malicious programs trying to send unauthorized transmissions to outside parties.

Fireworks (Macromedia)

A combined vector and bitmap editing program designed for producing web graphics.

Flash (Macromedia)

A proprietry vector, animation and interactive graphics file format.


Formatting Output Specification Instance. A standard used for formatting SGML documents for display on screen or paper. The Arbortext Adept SGML editor program uses FOSIs.

FrameMaker (Adobe)

An industrial strength document publishing program. The SGML version of FrameMaker is known as FrameMaker+SGML and is able to export and import SGML documents. It is not a native SGML authoring tool.

Free translation

Translation in which more emphasis is given to the overall meaning of the text than to the exact wording (cf. literal translation).

Freelance translator

Self-employed translator, who may undertake work for translation agencies, localisation companies and/or directly for end clients. Often specialises in one or more particular fields, such as legal, financial, commercial or technical.


A Microsoft web page authoring tool originally developed by Vermeer Technologies. FrontPage uses proprietary HTML extensions. The web server must be FrontPage aware.

Fuzzy matching

A computer search technique that makes it possible to find not only the exact equivalent of the term needed, but also all the elements with a certain degree of similarity to it. This technique is particularly applied within electronic dictionaries or when using CAT, where it allows the translator to obtain, for example, the translation of an adjective on the basis of a corresponding noun included in the dictionary or the translation of a similar (but not identical) phrase already recorded in the translation memory.



Stands for Graphics Interchange Format. Originally developed by CompuServe in 1987 to transmit graphics files across computer networks. The GIF format is limited to 8-bit or in other words 256 color images, and the image data is compressed with the LZW algorithm (after Lempel-Ziv-Welch). Unlike JPEG, the GIF format is lossless therefore it does not produce artifacts on images. In 1989, CompuServe added additional features to the format such as transparency, interlace, and the ability to store multiple images in a single file (this final feature would later give life to animated GIFs). Because of patent issues and other inherent limitations GIF is expected to be slowly replaced by the free and superior PNG format.


Producing a rough or outline translation of a text to provide an insight into the subject and overall content of the source text. Being less expensive and less time-consuming than a "proper" (or "custom") translation, gisting can be used, for example, to determine whether a text contains useful information before a custom translation is commissioned. The term gisting is sometimes used in connection with machine translation, which is used by some translation providers for that purpose.


Involves preparing software or a web site with the goal of ensuring that the structural modifications localisation needs to make would not hinder its functionality. This would take into account, among other things, both the format of data ( 4PM = 16.00) and the space needed in some parts of a screen to cater for texts which are considerably longer than the original text.


In principle, and as opposed to a dictionary, a glossary is a specialised, single-language dictionary. It includes the term and its definition and possible additional attributes such as its source, field or even its gender and number depending on the needs for use.


The graphical representation/shape of a character. A character can have more than one glyph e.g. G and G are the same character using different glyphs.


Hard copy

Hard copy refers to the source format of a document that needs translation. Hard copies are usually on paper such as faxes, letters and brochures. Hard copies are more difficult to work with for both translation agencies and translators. The agency can not calculate the source word count and the translator can not write over the source text.

HAT Help Authoring Tool

A program to assist the creation of help files. Robohelp, Doc-to-Help, ForeHelp, HDK, and HelpBreeze are examples of HATs. See WinHelp.


Defines how a font will be rendered in low and medium resolution devices. Since the resolution of computer monitors are very low, which generally range between 72 and 120 DPI, fonts cannot be always displayed correctly. Hinting adds additional information to the outline information stored in a font file, which is used to render a font as close as possible to the intended shape.


All languages have particular ways of showing politeness (e.g. French tu/vous, Spanish tu/usted, Japanese yomu/yomi-masu).


Stands for HyperText Markup Language. A simple markup language used to create web pages. Uses tags rather than commands, that is there are no variables, functions, loops, etc. one would expect to find in a programming language. Tags are used to mark up blocks of text, which will be interpreted by web browsers. For instance, to display a text block bold, just add to the beginning and to the end.


The Microsoft replacement for Winhelp.

Human Translator

Human translators are native speakers who physically translate the text themselves which results in a 100% accurate translation vs the 70% accurate translation that you get from machine translation.


The assimilation of foreign terms into a language

The intermingling of the legal systems ofcommon law and civil law countries as a consequence of globalization.



see Internationalisation


Features of language variation characteristic of an individual speaker: basically, everyone has a unique way of talking.

Idiomatic translation

A translation that conveys the meaning of the original, or source text, by using equivalent language and the forms and structures of the target language, in order to produce a translation that reads like an original.

Image Map

A map that defines different areas of an image as hyperlinks. Rather than slicing an image into smaller parts, one can define rectangular, circular or polygonal areas on an image when clicked will send the user to the associated hyperlinks.


The plan and arrangement of pages on a printed press sheet, so that when folded and/or trimmed, they will be in the correct order.

Inbound text

Text intended for internal use, generally not seen by people outside the originating organisation. Includes internal correspondence, memos, work instructions, etc.

Index File

An index file is used by a search engine to locate specific web pages in a web site. The structure of an index file is similar in concept to the index of a book where keywords are referenced to their occurrence on pages. The performance of a search engine is heavily influenced by the quality of the algorithm used to produce the index. Writing a good quality indexing algorithm may seem trivial but in practice it isn't.


A change in the form of (a word) to express tense, gender, number, mood, etc.

International bid

The translation of an international bid is a very complex process that must be managed as a multipart translation. For a US company, it must begin with the translation into English of the RFP. Many companies have been disqualified from the bid process by cutting corners and having a bilingual employee translate the RFP, only to find out later that the person did not understand the RFP as well as he may have thought.


The process of ensuring at a technical/design level that a product can be easily localized. Internationalization is thus part of globalization.


While a translator works with the written word alone and has a single target language, i.e. his or her mother tongue, an interpreter works only orally, and usually "live", translating in both directions. In fact, the professions of a translator and an interpreter are very different.


Provides oral (spoken) translation of a speaker's words from one language into another. (cf. translator)


Acronym for the International Organization for Standardization, a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies).



A robust, object-oriented, platform-independent programming language developed by Sun. Java programs run on a device-independent virtual machine, therefore there is no need to port a Java program to different platforms. The virtual machine concept also eliminates security problems because it isolates Java programs from the real machine (or the computer they are running on). Java is modeled after C++, but it does not support pointers because they are not only crash-prone and hard-to-use but also pose security problems.


A simple, client-side scripting language developed by Netscape, which is closely bound to HTML code. Scripts written in JavaScript can add more interactivity to user experience. Classic examples include rollover effects, validation of the information entered in form fields, creating pop-up windows, and hierarchical menus (the last two also require DHTML).


Stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. Frequently used to refer to the JPEG graphics file format, which uses a lossy image compression algorithm to reduce file sizes dramatically. Artifacts may occur on compressed images due to the fractal based algorithm.

JSP Java Server Page

Java code embedded in web pages. Similar in concept to active server pages (ASP).


The alignment of text on a page. Most text is written left aligned (right ragged). Fully justified text looks neater is harder to read.



The amount of spacing between adjacent characters of a font. Not all characters have equal width, so space that should be left between different character pairs must be defined (e.g. Av). Although many font editors such as FontLab and Macromedia Fontographer allow auto-kerning, for best results manual kerning is usually necessary.


Often used as a measure of line or page length in defining the size of a translation job. Includes all visible characters as well as spaces and line breaks/paragraph marks. (See also standard line and standard page.)



see Localisation


The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in an agreed way.

The distinctive form of speech of a particular community, most or all of which is unintelligible to outsiders.

Language combination

See Language pairing

Language family

A set of languages that can be shown to derive from a common root. (e.g. Indo-European, Austronesian)

Language type

According to their word structure (morphology), languages can be divided into four basic types:

  • Isolating: each element is an independent word without inflections (Chinese and Vietnamese)
  • Agglutinating: elements combine without changing their form to express compound ideas (Japanese, German)
  • Inflectional: the boundaries between morphemes are fuzzy, and morphemes can express more than one grammatical meaning at a time (Latin, Russian)
  • Polysynthetic: several morphemes are put together to form complex words which can function as a whole sentence (Chukchi)

Language of habitual use

The language that a person is most familiar with, usually the language spoken in the country in which the person lives. Considered by some to be more appropriate than mother-tongue ( Muttersprache) as a measure of a translator or interpreter's ability to translate into the given language. In German usage, this distinction between mother-tongue and dominant language is not generally made.

Language engineering

The Euromap Report, published in 1998 on behalf of the EUROMAP Consortium, defines language engineering as the application of knowledge of written and spoken language to the development of systems able to recognise, understand, interpret, and generate human language. These language technologies include computer-aided translation, speech recognition and synthesis, as well as semantic searches and information retrieval.

Language pairing

The languages between which a translator or interpreter works.


The amount of space between lines of text within the same paragraph. Typically 10 pt text is set with an additional 2 pts of leading to prevent the descenders of one line from touching the ascenders in the line below. This is referred to as "10 on 12" (10 pts type in 12 pts of vertical space), or 10/12.

Language service provider (LSP)

Provider of translation and other language-related services that may include typesetting, publishing, project management, internationalization and language teaching

See Translation company

Legal translation

This type of translation represents a particular problem and a highly specialised field since the concepts within the various legal systems are not identical, and may not have equivalents in their counterparts.


This is the process that takes elements from previous product translations and automatically incorporates these into new revisions.


Words, vocabulary.

The total stock of words in a language.

Liaison interpreter

Interpreter who provides — usually consecutive — interpretation between two languages in both directions. May be affiliated to the host company and act as facilitator in negotiations or undertake some PR activities.

Linguistic adaptation

See adaptation

Linguistic data processing

Study and processing of natural languages via information technology, also called "computational linguistics". This discipline is closely linked to the creation of translation software, spelling or grammar correction tools, plus indexing procedures that permit searching on the Internet.


Don't... don't believe the hype. No, it's not a floor polish, a desert toping or a cure for cancer, it's just another Unix like operation system. From a technical writers point of view, Linux still suffers from a lack of professional quality authoring tools which hinders its use as a primary authoring platform.

Literal translation

Translation that closely adheres to the wording and construction of the source text. A literal translation usually appears "stilted" and unnatural and is therefore to be avoided unless there is a specific reason for translating literally. (cf. free translation)

Literary translator

Translator specialising in the translation of literature, such as fiction, biographies and poetry.


A set of attributes specific to a language and geographical region, format, currency format etc. An example of a locale is: English (U.S.).


The global adaptation of a product (software, web site) to bring it in line with a market that uses another language. The localisation of software, for example, implies not only the translation of all the technical (manual, online help, etc.) and advertising documentation, but also the adaptation of the various screens, keyboard shortcuts, images and text areas, and not forgetting the indexing which must be completely recreated in the target language.


In the context of image compression, this refers to being able to compress an image and then decompress it to give a byte for byte replica of the original. GIF and PNG images use loss-less compression.


In the context of image compression, this refers to the loss of data when compressing an image. Uncompressing the image will not give a replica of the original. JPG images use lossy compression.


Machine-aided translation

See computer aided translation

Machine Translation

Machine translation (MT) is the automatic translation of human language by computers. For instance, an English --> German MT system translates English (the source language) into German (the target language). With the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web, and ever-expanding international communication and commerce, there is an increasing need for quick and inexpensive translation. New Web pages are created daily in tremendous numbers, and many Web page authors would like their material to be readable immediately all around the globe. Likewise, there is need for fast e-mail communication between speakers of different languages. It is difficult to keep up with the volume via human translation alone.

Machine translation has been under development in universities and industry for several years, essentially since the advent of programmable computers. MT is a difficult problem, mainly because human language is so ambiguous and so full of special constructions and exceptions to rules. In some cases it is impossible to arrive at a correct translation without using everyday knowledge of the world and reasoning ability that only humans have.


A sequence of pre-determined commands used to automate repetitive tasks. For instance, if you frequently use a function hidden deep inside the pull-down menu hierarchy of a program that supports keystroke macros, the only thing you should do is recording the necessary keystrokes, and assigning a shortcut key to play your macro. Some software applications such as Microsoft Office uses programming languages (in this case Visual Basic) to write advanced macros that go beyond simple keystroke recording.

Mark-up Minimisation

A convention for omitting certain tags or parts of tags. For example in HTML it is common practice to omit the closing tag from a pair of tags.

Note: XML does not allow markup minimisation.


The extent to which text producers and receivers feed their own beliefs into their processing of a given text.


Information about the data in a document. For example, the name of the author.


A software layer that facilitates the communication between other applications. ODBC is an example of middleware.

MIF Maker Interchange Format

A text based proprietary non SGML mark-up language used by FrameMaker to create documents. A MIF file represents the objects in a FrameMaker document as a series of nested tags.


A meaningful morphological unit of a language that cannot be further divided (e.g. in, come, -ing, forming incoming).


The system of forms in a language.


One's native language. Often used as an indicator of a translator or interpreter's ability to translate into a particular language. Because a person who has lived in another country for many years (perhaps from childhood) may be more fluent in their second language than they are in their first (i.e. their mother-tongue), the term "language of habitual use" or "dominant language" is often preferred.


Terminology program published by Trados. A component of the translator's Workbench translation memory program, but also available as a separate product.


Native language

See Mother tongue

Native speaker

A person with native-speaker competence in a particular language.

Native speaker competence

Oral and written command of a language equivalent to that of a person who not only learned the language as a child and has continued to use it as his/her language of habitual use, but who also has had some language training.

Natural language processing

NLP systems interpret written rather than spoken language. In fact, NLP modules can be found in speech processing systems that start by converting spoken input into text. Using lexicons and grammar rules. NLP parses sentences, determines underlying meanings, and retrieves or constructs responses. This technology's main use is to enable databases to answer queries entered in the form of a question. And newer application is handling high-volume e-mail. NLP performance can be improved by incorporating a commonsense knowledge base -- that is, the encyclopedia of real-world rules. (Wired Magazine)

Natural languages

Natural languages correspond to spoken languages, and are designated as such as to differentiate them from programming languages. The automatic processing of natural languages is one of the major areas in which research into information technology is taking place.


Moving around within one or several documents by the successive opening of the pages concerned, and with the help of hypertext links, icons and other software commands. In general use for consulting online help facilities, navigation systems are also used within all documentation in digital form. Adapting navigation systems is also part of the translator's work.


In the context of translation, it refers to the concept that establishes that the translator's or interpreter's job is to convey the meaning of the source text or speaker's discourse, and under no circumstances may he or she allow personal opinion to tinge the translation or interpretation.

Non breaking space

Used to keep words together that would otherwise appear on separate lines due to word wrap.


Offset Printing

The process of printing where an image from a metal, plastic or paper plate attached to a cylinder, is offset to a blanket cylinder, which in turn is offset to a piece of paper. Offset printers can either be sheet fed where individual pieces of paper are fed into the press, or web, where the paper is fed into the press on a continuous roll, as in newspaper printing.


Open Lexicon Interchange Format. It is a vehicle for exchanging terminological and lexical data.

Online dictionary

A dictionary that can be viewed on the screen, from resources available on the Internet.

Outbound text

Text intended for publication, i.e. for a readership outside the originating organisation. Essentially designed to sell products and services. Includes PR articles, brochures, catalogues, advertising copy, etc.


PageMaker (Adobe)

A page layout program that allows precise placement of graphics and text on a page. Each page is constructed as a separate item. PageMaker excels at doing small complex documents.

Paragraph Style

A description of how a paragraph of text is presented. For example, a level 1 heading might be 18pt bold Arial with a 10pt space above and a 20pt space below. A paragraph style affects a whole paragraph. Parts of a paragraph can be reformatted using a character style.

Parallel text

Text in the source or target language that is comparable to the text to be translated in terms of subject matter or text type. Includes previous translations of the same type of text.

Passive languages

The languages from which an interpreter is competent to interpret professionally. The term is also used in meetings & conventions to mean the languages from which interpreting is provided. For example, in a meeting where all presentations are given in English and interpretation is provided into Spanish, French, and Russian, English is the passive language and Spanish, French, and Russian the active languages.


tands for Portable Document Format. Developed by Adobe to address the need for a universal format to share documents across different platforms that will look exactly the same without loss of any formatting information. A compressed postscript file with additional features such as a table of contents, navigation pane and hyperlinks. PDF files can be edited in a very limited way.


Stands for Practical Extraction and Report Language. Invented by Larry Hall, a Unix programmer who had got bored of the text handling limitations of the programming languages available at the time. Perhaps, the best thing about Perl is that you do not have to worry about low-level programming tasks like data types or memory allocation. It also gives strong support to regular expressions vital for any serious text processing task. Although certainly powerful and easy-to-learn, Perl can be cryptic at times.

Per-word rate

Industry standard for assessing cost of a translation. The per-word rate can be quoted based on the source word count (original text) or the target word count (translated text). Since there can be enormous differences in source and target word counts, depending on the languages involved, when comparing estimates for a translation be sure that the per-word rates you are comparing specify either source or target text.

Photoshop (Adobe)

The industry standard for professional bitmap graphics editing.


A simple programming language with similarities to Perl. PHP code embedded in a web page is executed on the server. This is a similar concept to Active Server Pages (ASP) and Java Server Pages (JSP).

Phraseological dictionary

A data bank for storing standard phrases describing concepts or actions likely to be repeated within the framework of a series of documentation. For example, if the phrase "Press Enter to open file" recurs frequently in the instructions for using a piece of equipment, the writer can select this as such from his or her dictionary of phrases. Beyond saving time, this tool makes it possible to guarantee the phraseological consistency of a text.


A simplified language containing vocabulary from two or more languages, used for communication between people not having a common language.

Plain English

A form of English that is clear, concise, direct, and natural. Advocated by an increasing number of people as a style of language that should be used by authors of technical texts – such as user manuals, legal documents, articles and speeches –, plain English is easier and more enjoyable to read than legalese or texts laden with technical jargon and complex sentences for both experts and laypersons.

PMS Pantone Matching System

A standard for printing colours in which each colour has an assigned number and formula for mixing.


Stands for Portable Network Graphics. PNG has some major advantages over the old GIF format such as 24-bit image support, an alpha-channel for true transparency and custom gamma values for different platforms. Unlike the GIF format, PNG does not have any patent problems, and it is totally free.

See also: GIF, JPEG


A page description language created by Adobe and based on the Forth programming language. A Postscript file has no concept of tables or paragraphs. Each word or collection of words has a set of xy coordinates describing its location on the page. A table is simply a collection of words on a page which happens to have lines in close proximity. A Postscript file is essentially non-editable.


Translation projects of some considerable size, and especially if they include the use of computer assisted translation software (CAT), require preparatory work on the texts to be translated. This particularly concerns a spelling check on the source text (in case of error, the terminology software does not recognise the terms), the conversion of files into a format accepted by the CAT software, a statistical and qualitative analysis of the source text, the preparation of the special dictionary, etc.

Procedural markup

Markup that describes what a piece of text should look like on the printed page or screen. For example this text is marked as bold. The procedure is, "make this text bold". See descriptive markup. The use of procedural markup is discouraged when authoring documents using SGML.

Process colour

Printing using ink is generally based on a four colour process. These colours are cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Also known as CMYK. These four inks can represent a very large range of colours and is what is used on colour magazines.

Professional Human Translation

Is the translation of text by accredited native language professional translators. Translation by professional translators is more accurate than machine translation, however, it is usually more expensive and requires more resources than machine translation.

Project Manager

In a translation company, this is the person responsible for total translation project management.

In international companies, this title is sometimes given to the person who supervises in-house translators, hires freelancers, and manages translations.


Proofreading means the critical revision of a text. In translation, this task mainly consists of checking aspects of spelling, grammar and syntax plus the general coherency and integrity of the target text. Proofreading constitutes the translator's quality assurance; a factor that is always necessary within a purely human procedure. Proofreading should always be carried out by an experienced translator.


A cross platform object orientated programming language, in some ways silimar to Java. Python is quick to write, easy to read, but slow to debug due to it's lack of type safety and compile time checking.


Quality Manual

Quality assurance has nothing to do with quality. The correst name should be "consistancy assurance". A quality manual contains procedures that must be followed. The company is responsible for creating its own procedures. Deviating from the published procedure will result in the loss of QA accrediation.


A page layout program similar to Adobe PageMaker and Adobe InDesign.


Raster image

An image composed of pixels. See bitmap.


See target readership


The tendency to pattern language behavior in relatinon to a particular type of activity, level of formality, etc. (e.g. colloquial, legal, scientific, religious)

Registration Marks

Cross marks or circles printed to assist the printer in aligning multiple colours.

Release note

A document distributed with a software program to indicate changes or problems. Empirical studies show that the vast majority of people do not read release notes. If the information is important, it should available using a "Help — What's new" menu option.

Repetition rate

Percentage indicating the amount of terms or segments that are repeated within a text. The repetition rate is an important notion within CAT since it determines, in advance, the percentage of a text that will only need translating once. Greater phraseological and terminological consistency increases the repetition rate and thus the efficiency of the translation process.

Requirements Document

A written document describing what the customer wants. In theory the customer should be the main author of a requirements document. In practice, engineers frequently end up writing requirements documents because the customer is incapable of expressing their thoughts in a clear and concise manner. A requirements document should be signed off by the customer and the engineering team before work begins. Beginning a project without a requirements document is a recipe for disaster.


Describes the output precision of computer peripherals such as screens, printers and scanners. For computer screens resolution is defined as the number of pixels that can be displayed such as 800 x 600 (the first value is the number of pixels on a line, and the second value is the number of lines). For other devices, DPI is commonly used to define resolution. For both measures of resolution, it is always the higher the better.


Reading a text to identify errors, inconsistencies, incorrect grammar and punctuation, poor or inappropriate style, and, in the case of a translation, conformance with the source text, and making appropriate changes and corrections to the text. In general, the number of revision stages is proportional to the demands on the text quality: a translation intended for publication may, for example, be revised by the translator and by one or two third parties (e.g. the author, a subject expert, a second translator, an editor), whereas an internal memo may not require any revision after translation. (What exactly revising and editing entail and how they differ is the subject of much debate. What is important is that the person commissioning the work communicates clearly what is expected of the editor.)

RGB Red, Green, Blue

An additive colour model used for screen display. RGB images need to be converted to CMYK for conventional subtractive colour printing.


A help authoring tool for Windows.


Used to define the change occurring in certain elements of a web page when a visitor moves the mouse cursor over and out of those elements (e.g. on and off states of a button). Requires JavaScript.


Stands for Rich Text Format. A standard established by Microsoft for cross-platform text and graphics interchange. Although RTF is not a very sophisticated format, it does a good job in storing font, color and formatting information, but page layout may not be always reproduced correctly.


Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

A W3C standard for vector graphics on the web. A viewer application can be downloaded from the Adobe web site.

SDK Software Development Kit

A collection of documentation and source code designed to aid the writing of programs that need to interface to an existing product.


Publishers of the SDL Trados CAT suite, which consists of the former products Trados and SDLX.

Search Engine

A software application which queries an index file. In broader terms it refers to a collection of programs which are used to firstly "index" a web site and then present a user interface that allows queries to be constructed and searched.


In order to create the translation memory, the CAT software divides the source text into segments. The segment usually corresponds to a phrase, at least in running texts. Segmentation is governed by complex rules based, in principle, on punctuation. See also translation unit.


The branch of linguistics concerned with meaning.


The server side of a client-server system. On the web, your browser is thought to be the client and a web server hosting a web site is thought to be the server (hence the name). When you request a document from a web server by entering an URL or clicking on a link, the server sends information to your client (in this case your browser) in the form of text, graphics or audio.


Standard Generalized Markup Language. It is called a metadata language and is used for defining markup languages.

Sight translation

The oral translation of a text. One example would be when a consecutive interpreter at a press conference is handed a prepared statement in English and asked to read it aloud, in the target language.

Simplified English (SE)

set of writing rules and a dictionary of controlled vocabulary aimed at improving the readability of technical documentation. Developed by the Association of European Airlines (AEA), it is also used to write texts for translation using machine translation tools.

Sim Ship

Simultaneous Shipment. Release of all localised versions and the original product at the same time.

Simultaneous interpreting

Oral translation of a speaker's words into another language while the speaker is speaking. The interpreter usually sits in a booth and uses audio equipment. (cf. consecutive interpreting)

Single sourcing

Writing a document in one format and then automatically translating it into a number of other formats, for example, HTML for the web, RTF for help files and PDF for print. Fine in theory but very difficult to achieve in practice. Webworks Publisher is the only tool I've seen that comes close.

SME Subject Matter Expert

Someone who is considered an expert in their particular field.

Software localisation

see Localisation


In translation, and as opposed to "target", the term "source" defines everything connected to the language of the text to be translated.

Source language

Language in which the text to be translated is written.

Source text

The text to be translated.

Source text analysis

A pre-translation process aimed at evaluating the qualitative and quantitative properties of the source text. The main purpose of source text analysis is to determine the procedures to be followed and the translation tools required in order to optimise work on projects of some considerable size. Among other advantages, analysis makes it possible to extract a list of terms and collocations and their frequency, to establish a list of terms not found in a specific dictionary, to analyse a term within its various contexts (concordance), to determine the repetition rate and the terminological and phraseological consistency, or to establish a provisional glossary.

Specialised language competence

Familiarity with the relevant subject matter and command of its special language conventions.

Specialised terminology

The term used within the profession to define highly specific vocabulary within a given field. With today's increasing specialisation within professions and the rapid evolution of applied techniques, it is increasingly difficult to obtain dictionaries containing up to date, specialised terminology.

Speech act

The action which is intended in the utterance of a sentence. Speech acts may be direct (e.g. Get out!) or indirect (e.g. it's hot in here = Open a window). How often do we say exactly what we really mean? This is one of the things that most often fools computers performing machine translation.

Speech community

The group of people sharing a language or dialect.

Spot colour

A colour produced by using an specially mixed ink rather than by printing CMYK colours. Spot colours are guaranteed to be consistent from one print job to another and are therefore used for important images such as company logos. The disadvantage of spot colours is the cost. Each spot colour requires a separate printing pass. A typical catalogue page is printed using CMYK with 2 spot colours.


Stands for Structured Query Language. Developed by IBM in 1970's, SQL is a simple yet extremely powerful database query language. A typical SQL statement looks something like this:


Many database programs support SQL such as Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL.


Stands for Secure Shell. With SSH, you can log on to a remote server safely. Intended as a replacement for telnet which transmits data including user name and passwords unencrypted between local and remote hosts.

Standard language

The language spoken by the dominant class and generally recognized as the standard of correct language. Some examples would be "the King's English", "New York Times English", the Spanish prescribed by the Real Academia, etc.

Standard line

A standard measure of the size of a text. The standard line length varies from country to country. In Germany, for example, it is usually 55 keystrokes, in Belgium 60. Translation projects are rarely priced on a per line basis.

Standard page

A standard measure of the size of a text, used esp. in the publishing industry and in literary translation. The standard page length may vary from country to country and depending on the sector, but is generally in the region of 1500 to 1800 keystrokes. Translation projects are sometimes priced on a per page basis, although — except in the case of literary translation — this practice is becoming less common, being replaced by the standard line.

Structured Document

A document with a structure that complies with a certain standard. A HTML document is an example of a structured document.

Style Sheet

A document that contains a list of formatting styles corresponding to paragraph styles or tag mark-up. In the context of web publishing, version 4 and later browsers support style sheets whereas version 3 browsers do not. FrameMaker+SGML produces version 4 HTML files and corresponding style sheets.


A list of characters representing syllables and (in some languages or stages of writing) serving the purpose of an alphabet. (e.g. in Japanese - hiragana and katakana)

Syntax Highlighting

Syntax highlighting in action on a PHP program

A feature commonly found in many advanced text editors and integrated development environments (IDE) which makes it possible to automatically assign different colors to certain keywords, variables, or function names used in a computer program to make a programmer's life easier.



In translation, and as opposed to "source", the term "target" designates everything related to the language into which the text will be translated. The "target" or "translated" text is the objective of the work to be carried out. The target language must be the translator's mother tongue.

Target audience

The group of people that an interpreter addresses. Used mostly in connection with simultaneous interpreting. Sometimes used (incorrectly) in the sense of target readership.

Target language

Language into which a text is to be translated.

Target text

The translation, i.e. the result of the translation process.

Target readership

The group of people for which a text is translated, for example subject experts, novices, prospective customers. It is important to specify the target readership when commissioning a translation so that the translator can choose an appropriate style and vocabulary.

Target word count

As opposed to source word count the term target word count is the number of words in a translated document. For example, if a client needs a Danish document translated into English and a source word count was not possible, they will be charged according to the number of English words in the final product.


Tariffs for translation vary widely, not only in terms of price but also as far as calculation methods are concerned. The English-speaking world calculates by word, whereas Switzerland usually applies a tariff per line. In some cases, the tariff is based on the source text and in others, invoicing is calculated on the target text. Quoting a tariff by line or by word alone is an advertising argument which should not inspire confidence, since this reveals nothing about either the services included or about the quality of the texts and the customer support, etc.

Technical translation

Because of volumes that are often high and the necessity of respecting absolute consistency, the translation of technical texts (installation, user or maintenance manuals, catalogues, data sheets) is today inseparably associated with the use of computer assisted translation tools and terminology analysis.

Technical translator

A translator with training, knowledge, and experience in a particular technical field, such as engineering, chemicals, electronics, etc.


Interpretation technicians are a very important part of the interpretation services. They set up and maintain the interpreters' equipment and distribute and maintain the receivers used by the participants.

Telephone Interpreting

Interpreting carried out over the phone, using a three-way calling phone patch. Also with video-conferencing.


The relationship between addresser and addressee, as reflected in use of language (e.g. level of formality, relative distance).

Terminology analysis

Analysis of the vocabulary within a text or specific field, mainly carried out with a view to creating special dictionaries. An important process within pre-translation, it is also a means of providing a long term guarantee consistency and quality within texts (thanks to regular updates).

Terminology extraction

The creation of a corpus of monolingual or multilingual subject-specific terminology by extracting individual terms and phrases from a body of text.

Terminology extraction tool (TET)

A computer program that provides functions to assist with or automate the extraction of terminology from a body of text.

Terminology software

A data processing tool that makes it possible to create, edit and consult dictionaries or electronic dictionaries.


Terminology program published by Star. A component of the Transit translation memory program, but also available as a separate product.

Text (TXT)

Data presented with alphanumeric characters, usually in the form of words, sentences, and paragraphs. Typically, the term text refers to pure text stored as ASCII codes (that is, without any formatting). Objects that are not text include graphics, numbers (if they're not stored as ASCII characters), and program code.

Text act

The dominant speech act in a text.

Text expansion

An increase in the length of the target text as compared to the source text.

The problem of text expansion must be anticipated by the graphic artist wishing to use the same page format for both the source text and the translation.

This problem also arises when translating texts for software screen features, where the space reserved for a text is usually extremely limited (e.g. Print -> Imprimer).

Text function

The function served by a text, e.g. to sell a product, to provide instruction on the use of a product, to convey information about an event. It is important to specify the text function when commissioning a translation to so that the translator can choose an appropriate style and vocabulary.

Text style

See Text type

Text type

Class of text (e.g. abstract, news report, light fiction, commentary) with specific characteristics of style, sentence formation, terminology, etc.


Tagged Image File Format. A loss-less graphics file format often used for archiving images. Web browsers cannot display TIF images.


Translation memory exchange format, designed to allow easier exchange of translation memory data between tools and/or translation vendors with little or no loss of critical data during the process. Supported by the latest versions of most leading translation memory programs. (For a full specification, go to

Tone languages

Languages that use pitch to distinguish words, either by meaning or grammatical function (e.g. Chinese, Thai)

Topic file

In the context of WinHelp, a Word or RTF file containing topics in a format suitable for the WinHelp compiler.


Positive or negative tracking values can be used to change spacing between characters

The space added to or subtracted from the normal space between characters in a block of text. Not to be confused with kerning, which is used to adjust space between pairs of specific characters.


Former publishers of the Trados translation memory software. Now it is published by SDL International in various SDL Trados product packages.


As opposed to linguistic adaptation, a transcription is a literal (word by word) method of translation which is rarely applied with the exception of lists and catalogues.


Translation memory program published by Star.


The act of rendering written text from one language into another. (cf. interpreting)

Translating competence

Ability to render text into the target language correctly in terms of language, subject matter and idiomatic style, having regard to the text function of both the source text and the target text.

Translation agency

Provides translation and interpreting services, acting as middleman between customers and freelance translators. May offer value-added services such as typesetting, publishing, project management.

Translation company

Provides translation services using mainly in-house translators. May specialise in a particular field — such as legal, patents or technical — and may offer value-added services such as typesetting, publishing, project management. The term is often used synonymously with translation agency.

Translation environment tool (TET)

A computer program, or a suite of programs, that provides functions to aid human translators in their translation tasks. Includes Translation memory, CAT, localisation and terminology management tools.

Translation manager

Person in charge of managing a translation project. In large translation projects, the translation manager is responsible for liasing between customer and translators, coordinating the translation work (which may be carried out by several translators for each language), maintaining the terminology database, ensuring consistency of style and terminology, etc.

Translation memory

A translation memory is a data bank in which a source text and the corresponding target text are recorded in the form of translation units. This memory — the basis of CAT software — makes it possible to find passages that have already been translated automatically, or to find modified passages that it then submits to the translator for updating. See also: alignment.

Translation project manager

In a translation company, this is the person responsible for total translation project management.

Translation unit

A translation unit consist of the source segment and the corresponding target segment, recorded as equivalents in a data base. It thus constitutes the base unit for the translation memories.


Renders written text from one or more languages into an other language, usually into her language of habitual use. May offer additional services, such as desktop publishing or proofreading. (cf. interpreter)

Translator equipment

Properly speaking, it refers to the computers and software used by translators, human or machine. However, the term is often used by interpretation brokers and equipment companies to refer tointerpretation equipment, since they often don't know the difference between translation and interpretation.

Translator neutrality

The concept that establishes that the translator's job is to convey the meaning of the source text and under no circumstances may he or she allow personal opinion to tinge the translation.

Translators system

Properly speaking, it refers to the computers and software used by translators, human or machine. However, the term is often used by interpretation brokers and equipment companies to refer tointerpretation equipment, since they often don't know the difference between translation and interpretation.


Transforming text from one script to another, usually based on phonetic equivalences. For example, Russian text might be transliterated into the Latin script so that it can be pronounced by English speakers.


A popular scalable font format developed with the joint effort of Apple and Microsoft that did not want to adopt Adobe's Type 1 format for their operating systems namely MacOS and Windows.

See also: Type 1

Type 1

A scalable font format developed by Adobe that uses a subset of the PostScript language.

See also: TrueType



A character encoding scheme which addresses the shortcomings of ASCII and other competing encoding schemes. Unlike ASCII, which has space for only 128 characters (7-bit), Unicode can store 65536 characters (16-bit) to cover virtually all alphabets in the world.


Vector Graphics

Used to describe graphics made of mathematical objects called vectors such as curves and lines. Since every object can be defined as an equation, vector graphics can be scaled or transformed (e.g. rotation) without loss of detail unlike bitmap images. Also you can easily modify an object or a group of objects without disturbing others. For instance you can change the color of a circle by selecting it with the mouse and assigning a new color however you must literally paint if you want to change the color of a bitmap circle. On the other hand, the convenience of vector graphics comes with a cost: you cannot reproduce continuos tonal ranges of photographs or paintings. You can create smooth gradients or even simulated brush strokes (see Adobe Illustrator), but still there are certain limitations.

The program responsible for handling vector graphics converts vectors to bitmaps in order to physically show them on computer screens, which can only display pixels. Therefore the end result is always a bitmap image regardless of the underlying method of producing graphics.


Commentary in, e.g., a film, television programme, video, or commercial spoken by an unseen narrator. Foreign-language voice-over consists of two parts: translating the narrative, whereby, e.g., timing (coordinating the voice with the film sequence) is an important consideration; recording the voice-over, which may be performed by a linguist with special training and/or expertise or by an actor. Voice-over services are provided by some translators and translation agencies/companies.



Similar to simultaneous interpreting, whereby the interpreter sits close to the listener and whispers the translation without technical aids.

Whistled speech

A system of communication using set whistles and tones.

Word count

A standard measure of the size of a text. Translation projects, for example, are often priced on a per-word (US) or per-1000-word (GB) basis.

Word-for-word translation

Translation that closely follows every word in a source text. A word-for-word translation usually reads like nonsense, but at times it can be quite amusing. A good example is machine translations.

Word order

Arrangement of words in a sentence. There are some distinct, recognized patterns:

SVO - 'cows eat grass' - English, Finnish, Chinese, Swahili

SOV - ' cows grass eat' - Hindi/Urdu, Turkish, Japanese, Korean

VSO - 'eat cows grass' - Classical Arabic, Welsh, Samoan.

The similarity of word order patterns between source and target languages is a factor in the relative ease of translation - or otherwise - between them. World knowledge

Whatever extra-linguistic or real-world factors are brought into the translation process in the mind of the translator. We are starting to see this introduced into the newest machine translation technology research projects. Also called 'shared assumptions' or 'real-world knowledge'.


Stands for "What You See Is What You Get". Originally used to describe software applications that let you see how your work will look like after it gets printed. Some software produced in 1980's and early 1990's lacked the capability of displaying different typefaces or graphics on screen because of technical limitations, while they can produce them in printer output. First popular WYSIWYG applications were written for the Apple Macintosh that made its debut in 1984. PCs started to catch up a few years later with the introduction of Windows 2.0.

A new use has recently arisen to separate text-based HTML editors from their graphical WYSIWYG counterparts. Text-based HTML editors such as BBEdit and HotDog Professional exclusively require hand coding while in WYSIWYG HTML editors such as Macromedia Dreamweaver and Microsoft FrontPage, you can edit elements of a web page graphically with a mouse.



XML Localisation Interchange File Format. It is a XML specification for multi-lingual data exchange. This standard is under the supervision of Oasis.


eXtensible Markup Language. It is called a metadata language — a language describing other markup languages. It is a format used for structuring documents and data on the web. XML is a simpler subset of SGML.

A simplified form of SGML. A W3C standard for semantic and structural tagging of XML documents. It is a set of rules for forming semantic tags that break a document into parts and identify the different parts of the document. You can create tags as long as they are documented in a DTD, a DCD, or some other XML schema.

It should be noted that from a writers point of view, authoring an XML document (using a text editor) is harder than authoring an SGML document because XML does not support markup minimisation.

XML schema

A structured framework or plan that contains the elements or tags (and their definitions) to outline the organization of your content in an XML file.

Published in April 2021.

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