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Language Services Glossary

What's the difference between translation and interpreting? Find out the answer, along with more definitions and terms from the language services industry, with our A-Z below. 


ad hoc interpreting 

Another term for consecutive interpreting.


Short for 'Association of Translation Companies'.


BS EN 15038:2006 

This flurry of letters and numbers represents a European standard for translation companies. In short, if a translation agency holds this you know you can rely on them to provide high quality translations. This has been replaced by ISO 17100:2015.


CAT tools 

Name given to the software used for computer-assisted translation. This is not related to machine translation.


The French term for whispered interpreting. This term is sometimes used in English, too.

computer-assisted translation (CAT) 

Not to be confused with machine translation. A human carries out computer-assisted translation using specialised software to make the translation process easier, faster and more consistent. See also: translation memory and translation glossary.

conference interpreting 

A form of simultaneous interpreting suitable for large groups. Requires interpreting equipment, such as microphones and headsets so that delegates can hear what is being said in real time, in their own language.

consecutive interpreting

Type of interpreting during which an interpreter listens to the speaker for about half a minute, whilst making notes, before interpreting into the target language. Suitable for small groups.


desktop publishing

Using computer software to professionally style and design the layout of a page so that is is ready to be printed or published on the web.


Short for desktop publishing.


When videos are adapted so that the voices in the original language are replaced with voices in the target audience's native language.


face-to-face interpreting

Similar to consecutive interpreting, though usually just between two people.



The process of converting one language (spoken or signed) into another as carried out by an interpreter who is fluent in both languages. Interpreting allows two people who don't speak the same language to understand each other.

ISO 9001:2008

An international quality standard for translation. If a company conforms to this, you know that they have a quality management system in place. This is recognised worldwide.

ISO 17100:2015

An international quality standard for translation and revision. If a company conforms to this, you know that they have a quality management system in place. This is recognised worldwide.


Short for 'Institute of Translation and Interpreting'.



Localisation ensures that a translation can be understood culturally. For example, a joke about an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman could be translated into Thai, but the likelihood of a Thai person 'getting' the joke and finding it funny is rather slim. Localising the joke by changing the characters, the setting and even the punch line allows for the same level of humour to be translated and enjoyed by the Thai audience, without them even being aware that the joke was ever not in Thai in the first place. Localisation is commonly applied to software and video games.


machine translation 

The type of translation carried out by an application like Google Translate, which uses statistics to guess the best match for your translation. Although it should never be used to translate entire professional texts without human supervision, machine translation is improving year-on-year, to such an extent that some professional translation agencies are even beginning to implement and use the technology to successfully produce high-quality translations.

meeting interpreting

Uses consecutive interpreting to assist with larger meetings.

mother tongue 

The language a person has grown up speaking from early childhood.

multilingual interpreting

Interpreting for conferences involving more than one language, in which interpreters sit in booths and interpret to delegates using microphones and headsets.


project manager

The person in charge of managing a translation or interpreting assignment.


When a fully qualified, mother tongue translator thoroughly checks the work of another translator. Also known as revision.


quality management system

A series of procedures followed by a company to ensure that it is well managed and is constantly aiming to improve its effectiveness as a well-run business.



When a mother tongue speaker who specialises in the subject of the text proofreads what has been translated without having read the original. This is to make sure the text 'sounds' right in the target language.


A full proofread by a second professionally qualified, mother tongue translator. Also known as proofreading.



A section of text which is to be translated or has already been translated into the target language.

simultaneous interpreting 

When an interpreter relates exactly what is being said more-or-less in real time whilst listening to and fully understanding the next sentence.

source language 

The language from which you translate or interpret.


target language

The language into which you translate or interpret.

TM tool 

Short for translation memory tool.


Taking a text that has been written in one language and rewriting it in another language.

translation glossary 

A glossary into which a translator records certain words and phrases specific to the text they are translating in order to ensure consistency throughout the translation.

translation memory

A database that stores segments of text that have previously been translated.

translation memory tool

A piece of software that allows the (human) translator to search the translation memory for similar, previously translated textsegments, which makes the translation process easier, faster and more consistent.


The arranging or generating of text on a page. For example, after translating the text of a brochure from English into German the length of the translated text will be somewhat longer due to the nature of the German language (long words!) and as a result, the text has to be rearranged accordingly to make it fit into the original brochure.



Short for the 'United Kingdom Accreditation Service'.



A production technique which allows a recorded voice to be heard over video footage.


whispered interpreting

A whispered form of simultaneous interpreting appropriate for interpreting between individuals. Also known as chuchotage.