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Global Business 01.22.21 BLOG 

What Does Translation Mean? From Free Translation Engines to Language Service Providers

TransPerfect Life Sciences Team


What Does Translation Mean? From Free Translation Engines to Language Service Providers

For some, starting the translating process looks like launching the Google app on their mobile device, typing the words in their native language on the left, and waiting for it to populate the sought-out translation on the right.

As long as the app supports the source language, it may give you a sense of what the text means in the target language.

Sounds like a great tool for personal use.

But what happens when you need a translation for a legal document, patient questionnaires and health information, or marketing materials?

Would you feel comfortable using your Google app for that?

Perhaps you could ask your bilingual friend to translate the document for you, but how long until asking for that favor gets old?

What Is Translation?

According to the Translation Journal, translation is an act through which the content of a text is transferred from the source language into the target language.

Translators need to have exceptional knowledge of both the source and the target language, in addition to a high linguistic sensitivity. They should be able to transmit the writer's intention, original thoughts, and opinions in the translated version as precisely as possible.

What Qualifies a Translator?

Several key qualities come into play when choosing a linguist or translator. These include the following:

Language Skills

Translators need a perfect understanding of the source language.

Example: They may be a native speaker of the target language.

Writing Skills

Not only do translators master the art of transferring words into another language, they make it sound like it isn’t a translation.

Example: Saying “He is blue” (er ist blau) in colloquial German means “he is drunk,” whereas the same word would mean “sad” in English.

Subject-Matter Expertise

Translators need in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, as translation experience alone is not sufficient in many cases. Translation skills need to combine with hands-on experience in a certain field (e.g., automotive, pharmaceutical, legal, etc.). Based on the industry, translations can be extremely technical and complex. Think about translations for medical devices.

Example: Speaking English and Spanish fluently may not be sufficient to translate a manual for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

Cultural Exposure and Insight

Language is constantly adapting to reflect our changing lives, experiences, and cultures. It is therefore typically recommended that the translator resides in the target country or at least spends a certain amount of time there in order to keep up with spoken language developments.

Example: Teenagers’ language changes all the time. A teenager in the 1950s would probably not have used words like “extra,” “snatched,” or “savage.”

Attention to Detail

An enormous amount of attention to detail is required, as even small typos in the translated document could have a huge impact.

Example: For medicine labels, typos or conversion mistakes for dosages could be life threatening.

What Do LSPs Do?

When it comes to multilingual communication for businesses, a language service provider (LSP) might be your best bet.

Think about safety information, clinical trial documents, legal communication, and marketing copy—these require the highest caliber language solutions.

Language service providers ensure high quality and content compliance by:

Selecting the Correct Team

Translators should fulfill criteria required for content per client, while proofreaders perform a second quality check to minimize risk of human error in the translation.

Utilizing Computer-Aided Translation

Working with computer-aided translation (CAT) tools ensures a healthy balance of human expertise and technology. CAT tools are used to detect inconsistencies, streamline the approach to terminology and style, and check spelling and grammar.

Ensuring High Quality

The quality assurance team should perform regular quality checks.

Setting Realistic Turnaround Times

There is a common misconception that translation is nothing more than speaking two languages back and forth. This leads to another common misconception: that it’s not a time-consuming process.

For example, it’s not realistic to ask a translator to translate a Harry Potter book in two months when it took J.K. Rowling six years to write the first one.

Rowling’s creativity and her engagement in the writing process can be found in almost every name in the Harry Potter universe. Each character’s name is well thought out and thus quite hard to translate accurately, since the character’s name often mirrors his or her personality.  

To translate well, translators need to be creative, have time to research, find the right words, and not work under pressure.

Implementing Expertise

LSPs that specialize in your subject matter can provide more than a “simple” translation.

The translation process is often complemented by medical reviews performed by healthcare professionals that know local in-country regulations. This removes the burden of heavy medical review steps and ensures quality every time.

Applying Innovations

In many cases, LSPs may offer integrations with content management systems. This eliminates the need to handle file exchange manually, resulting in quick turnaround times, easier project management, and full security.

Providing Peace of Mind

Speaking of security, did you know that everything you put into Google Translate automatically becomes Google’s property?

With an approved and certified LSP, you can have peace of mind knowing that there will always be an audit trail, and confidentiality will remain at the forefront.


Are you ready to instill quality with an LSP? Contact TransPerfect here to learn more about our translation services.

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