Localisation Glossary

This translation and localisation glossary provides simple, jargon-free definitions for some of the most popular terms in the translation industry.

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Welcome to our translation and localisation glossary! Here, we provide simple, jargon-free definitions for lots of industry terms! That’s right! Gone are the days of having to ask someone for an overly convoluted explanation of any industry terms. We hope this is of use to you. Enjoy!

ATAAmerican Translators’ Association.
ATCAssociation of Translation Companies.
AlignmentIn the context of translation, alignment refers to the result of matching the segments of text in a source document with their counterparts in the translation of said document. Thanks to this process, it is possible to create a translation memory out of existing translated documents. Since, at the moment of writing this, aligning translations is largely a manual task, it can be quite time-consuming.
Audiovisual Translation (AVT)Also called multimedia translation, it refers to the transfer from one language to another of the verbal components contained in audiovisual media, like feature films, television programmes, theatrical plays, musicals, opera, websites, and video games, etc. Audiovisual translation includes processes like dubbing, subtitling, voice-over, and more. See our AVT Glossary for related concepts.
Back TranslationQuality assurance procedure in which a translated text is translated back into the original language. Usually, it is done by a translator who has no prior knowledge of the source text or its context. Even though a back translation will never be exactly the same as the original source text (such is the nature of language), it can help identify any confusion, ambiguities or errors in the translation. A back-translation needs to be quite literal to serve its purpose, and therefore it is usually perceived as stiff and unidiomatic.
Bi-directional TextBidirectional text occurs when a right-to-left language or a left-to-right language has segments of text which are in the other direction. The may occur when using loan words, for example.
CAT ToolComputer Assisted/Aided Translation – computer applications which help linguists translate text from one language to another.
Certified TranslationAlso called sworn translation, it is a translation that fulfils the requirements of the country where it is needed to be recognised as a legal equivalent of the original, enabling it to be used in formal procedures. These requirements vary widely from country to country. Some countries recognise self-declared competence by the translator as enough, while others require the translator to be an official state appointee. In United Kingdom, certain government institutions require that translators be accredited by institutions or associations, such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting or the Chartered Institute of Linguists, in order to be able to carry out certified translations.
Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL)British professional association founded in 1910. It represents language professionals, be they translators, interpreters, teachers of modern foreign languages, university lecturers or professionals who use their foreign language skills as a core part of their work. Its aim is enhancing the recognition and promoting the value of languages and language skills in the public interest. It provides professional qualifications and standards for language practitioners through its awarding organisation, the IoL Educational Trust (IoLET).
CJKThe group of Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages known as double-byte languages.
Clean FileA file in the original source format exported from a CAT tool to the target language. It is not a “bilingual” file, such as an .xliff. This terminology comes from older versions of Trados, which had an option to ‘clean up’ the file. We now use the term “finalise” instead.
CMSContent Mangement System – a system used to create, edit, manage and publish web content in a consistently organized manner.
Consecutive InterpretingConsecutive interpreting is a mode of interpreting in which the interpreter first listens to the source-language speaker, and, after a sentence or a part of the speech, reproduces the speech in the target language for the audience. In consecutive interpreting, the interpreters use a special note-taking system in order to recall the contents of the speech when the speaker pauses. Usually, interpreters sit next to the speaker, and it’s common for them to work into and out of their mother tongue and a second language. Consecutive interpreting is used in medical appointments, interviews, business meetings, etc.
CopywritingStrategically crafting and publishing targeted, reader-focused texts (“copy”) that get people to take some form of action. Copywriting is a form of marketing that generally focuses on creating content like blogs, articles, and infographics, etc. which are designed to pull readers in and provide relevant and valuable content. When copy is needed in a foreign language, depending on the creativeness of the source text, or its intended use, employing a professional copywriter in the target language might be more effective than getting the text translated. The copywriter will write copy for the target audience following a detailed brief and referring to the original for inspiration only.
CSSCascading style sheet – an external format that determines the layout of tagged file formats such as HTML.
Double-byte languagesSome languages use twice as much memory because their characters are more complex and graphical than Roman characters types. These languages are Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
DTPDesktop Publishing – using computers to lay out text and graphics for printing in magazines, newsletters, brochures, etc. Software used in Desktop Publishing includes QuarkXpress and InDesign.
Exact/Full MatchWhen analysing a source text using a computer-assisted translation tool, the tool calculates the degree of similarity between the text and one or more specific translation memory. A “full match” or “exact match” is a source text segment which corresponds exactly (100%) with a sentence that has been translated beforehand and stored in an existing TM.
FIGSAbbreviation for a language group: French, Italian, German and Spanish.
FTPFile Transfer Protocol is a way of transferring data from one computer to another through a network such as the internet. Often used when files are too large to be attached to an email, such as high resolution PDFs.
Fuzzy MatchWhen analysing a source text using a computer-assisted translation tool, the tool calculates the degree of similarity between the text and one or more specific translation memory and provides it as a percentage figure. A situation when a sentence or phrase in a TM is similar but not a 100% match to the sentence or phrase currently being translated, is known as fuzzy-match.
GALAThe Globalisation and Localisation Association (GALA, www.gala-global.org) is a non-profit international association of companies providing translation, internationalisation, localisation, and globalisation products or services.
GlobalisationIn the language industry, it refers to the broad range of processes necessary for businesses or other organisations to prepare and launch products and activities internationally. Effective globalisation requires internationalisation, localisation and regionalisation. In g11n, the common abbreviation for globalisation, 11 refers to the number of letters between the G and the N.
GlossaryIn the context of localisation, a glossary is a list of terms in a source language paired with a list of corresponding terms in a target language.
GMSGlobalisation Management System – a system that focuses on managing the translation and localisation process synchronising with the source content management system. Centralisation is achieved via usage of termbases, different available glossaries and branding standards across content for translation.
HiraganaA phonetic writing system used in Japanese. Hiragana is a syllabary since, unlike alphabets, it doesn’t represent single consonants (except for ん “n”). The modern hiragana is made up of 46 base characters: 40 consonant-vowel units, 5 vowels and 1 consonant. Hiragana and katakana both denote the same syllables, but they look completely different from each other. Hiragana can be recognised by its roundness, and it is mostly used to write inflected verb and adjective endings (okurigana) as a pronunciation guide for kanji characters (furigana), grammatical particles, and words which have no kanji or whose kanji is considered obscure or too difficult to read or remember.
HTMLStands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language – a mark-up language that uses tags to structure text into headings, paragraphs, lists and links. It ‘tells’ a web browser how to display text and images on a web page.
Institute of Translation & Interpreting (ITI)Professional association founded in 1986, representing translators, interpreters and language services businesses in the United Kingdom. ITI is affiliated with the International Federation of Translators (FIT). It has over 3,000 members both in the UK and internationally. The institution’s aim is to promote high standards in the translation and interpreting professions, and it has rigorous criteria for full membership including examinations and peer assessment.
Logographic LanguageJapanese Kanji, Chinese Hanzi and Korean Hanja are examples of logographic writing systems (often misleadlingly called “ideographic”, which suggests that each character can simply be mapped to a concept – that is not the case). Unlike an alphabet, a character-based writing system associates each character with an entire syllable. Chinese characters represent words of the language using several strategies, to name a few: a small number of characters were originally pictograms (depicting the objects denoted) or ideograms (in which an abstract concept was expressed iconically). The vast majority of characters, however, were written using the phonetic loan principle, in which a character for a similarly sounding word was either simply borrowed or (more commonly) a new character was formed by adding more strokes that had a specific meaning by themselves, resulting in a compound character.
Internationalisation (I18N)The process of developing products and services so that they can be adapted to specific local languages and cultures without the need for redesign. In I18N, the common abbreviation for internationalisation, the 18 refers to the eighteen letters between the I and the N.
Interpreting vs TranslationInterpreting is facilitating oral and sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between two or more users of different languages. Whereas translation is the action of processing the meaning of a text and producing an equivalent text, also called a translation, that communicates the same message in another language. Simply put, translation is written, interpretation is spoken.
JargonSpecialised language used by people who work in a particular profession. It has specific terminology and people outside the industry can find it difficult or even impossible to understand.
KanjiAdopted logographic Chinese characters used alongside the Japanese syllabic scripts hiragana and katakana (which are themselves descended from kanji). In modern Japanese, kanji are used to write “content words” such as nouns, adjective stems, and verb stems. The 2,136 jōyō kanji are regarded to be necessary for functional literacy, and about a thousand more are commonly used and understood by most Japanese speakers. A total of 13,108 characters can be encoded in various Japanese Industrial Standards for kanji.
KatakanaA phonetic writing system used in Japanese. Katakana is a syllabary since, unlike alphabets, it doesn’t represent single consonants (except for ん “n”). The modern katakana is made up of 46 base characters: 40 consonant-vowel units, 5 vowels and 1 consonant. Katakana and hiragana both render the same syllables, but they look completely different from each other. Katakana can be recognised by its angular shapes, and it is mostly used for representing onomatopoeia, non-Japanese loanwords (except those borrowed from ancient Chinese) and for emphasis on certain words.
KeywordsIn simple terms, “keywords” are a selection of words which best surmise the content of your website. Web-Translations’ website, for example, uses ‘translation, website translation, multilingual websites,’ and so on, as keywords. These are the words people wanting to find us on the internet would type into a search engine.
Language Service Provider (LSP)Language Service Providers (LSP) are companies that offer varying degrees of translation, interpretation, localisation, and consultancy related to languages and cultural differences. Web-Translations is an LSP focused on translation, website localisation and consultancy.
Language VariantGeneral term for any distinctive form of a language. It is necessary to know which is the language variant of the target audience in order to provide an effective translation. For example, if a client requests a translation in French, possible language variants include European French, Canadian French, Belgian French, etc.
Language vs DialectLanguages and dialects are both “codes”, i.e. linguistic systems for communication. Linguists tend to define a language as the standardised code used in spoken and written form, whereas dialects are vernacular codes spoken by a specific community without a standardised written system. There is also the idea that we can differentiate them based on “intelligibility”: if you can understand it without training, it’s a dialect of your own language; if you can’t, it’s a different language. For example, it’s generally agreed that Yorkshire, New Yorkese, South African are all dialects of a language called English. However, neither of these classifications stands true for all codes that we think of as either a language or a dialect. For example, the different spellings and vocabulary of the dialects within the Catalan language (like North-western Catalan, Balearic Catalan, etc.) are officially recognised as valid forms in both spoken and written Catalan. As for the intelligibility argument, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, which we consider different languages, are mutually intelligible. On the contrary, spoken Chinese, rather than a language, is a family of mutually unintelligible languages (like Mandarin, Cantonese, etc).
What is a language and what is a dialect, then? We could say that a dialect is considered as such until it is promoted to the status of language, usually for political reasons.
Legal TranslationType of specialised translation that involves translation of texts within the field of law, such as contracts, legal rulings, patents, etc. Only professional translators who specialise in the legal field should work on these documents. Textual conventions in the source language are often culture-dependent and may not correspond to conventions in the target culture, and legal translators must also have in-depth knowledge of both the source text’s legal system and the target text’s legal systems, which may differ greatly from each other.
Liaison interpretingType of interpreting in which the interpreter works both into and out of the client’s target language, either in consecutive mode or simultaneous whispered mode.
Linguistic ValidationProcess of ensuring the reliability, conceptual equivalence, and content validity of translations, such as Patient Reported Outcomes (PROs) questionnaires. The translated questionnaire must behave statistically the same way across all languages. Translated text can be actively tested with patients in the target population through cognitive debriefing (CD) interviews. For example, if the PRO instrument is a questionnaire intended to measure the symptoms of diabetes in a clinical trial in the Flanders region in Belgium, the cognitive debriefing interviews would be conducted with diabetic patients in that region, who have Flemish as their mother tongue.
Literal TranslationAlso called direct translation, or word-for-word translation, it is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately without attempting to convey the meaning of the original phrase or sentence. Literal translation leads to errors in the translation of idioms and shades of meaning, but it can be a first step in the translation process, as it might be useful in dissecting how the words in the source relate to each other.
Literary TranslationTranslation of literary works, such as novels, plays, poems, etc. Literary translation requires creativity and deep knowledge of the original work and is considered a literary pursuit in its own right. There are two main approaches to literary translation: “domesticating”, which might involve deviating from the source text in order to create an equivalent effect while maintaining the aesthetic function of the original; and “foreignising”, which involves a faithful translation of the form of the source text that sends “the reader abroad” (for example by keeping culture-specific references) with the downside of being less idiomatic in the target language. See Lawrence Venuti’s works on translation theory for more information.
LocaleTarget market of a localised product in relation to a specific geographical location. A locale includes considerations of language variants, currencies, units of measurement, date formats, etc.
Localisation (L10N)Process of adapting a product, software, website or brand for a specific language or culture, so that it seems natural to the particular region this language is spoken in. Common considerations include language, culture, customs, currencies, writing systems and other characteristics of the target region. While localisation often involves changes to the software’s writing system, it may also change the keyboard usage, fonts, date, time and monetary formats. Graphics, colours and sound effects also need to be culturally appropriate. In l10n, the common abbreviation for globalisation, the 10 refers to the ten letters between the L and the N.
LocalisedSaid of a product, software, website or brand that has been adapted for a specific language or culture so that it seems natural to that region. Considerations include language, culture, customs, currencies and writing systems.
Machine Translation (MT)Fully automated software that converts text in one language to text in a different language. Since translation is never a mere word-for-word substitution, MT alone cannot usually produce a good translation of a text. Despite current developments in this field and the spread of neural machine translation (NMT), raw MT output is not reliable and should be checked (“post-edited”) by a human translator. The use of machine translation is advised against in translations that require creativity, as MT output, even after post-editing, tends to follow the source more closely than fully human translation.
Marketing TranslationMarketing translation involves the translation and localisation of appealing and persuasive copy from one language to another. It can include the adaptation of linguistic elements, such as idioms, for its intended audience. However, it is important that marketing content stays on-brand and that it uses the right terminology for the company and its corresponding sector. Marketing translation relates mainly to the translation of text, rather than touching on branding and imagery.
Medical TranslationType of specialised translation that involves the translation of texts which relate to healthcare, medical devices, clinical, regulatory, and technical documentation.  In addition to linguistic skills, medical translation requires specific training and subject matter knowledge because of the highly technical, sensitive, and regulated nature of medical texts. Instruments, such as questionnaires used in clinical trials, might need to undergo linguistic validation.
memoQComputer-assisted translation software suite developed by the Hungarian company memoQ Fordítástechnológiai Zrt. (“memoQ Translation Technologies”), formerly Kilgray. memoQ is used by project managers and LSPs as well as by freelance translators. It has a built-in terminology management function and it offers dictation support for iOS users.
MetadataLiterally, metadata is ‘data about data.’ As such, it is information hidden in the code of your webpages which describe the content and, in turn, allow search engines to categorise your website.
PinyinHanyu Pinyin is the official romanisation system (that is, a writing system to represent non-alphabetical scripts using the Latin alphabet) for Standard Mandarin Chinese in the People’s Republic of China. Pinyin is widely used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system is based on the pronunciation of Chinese characters in the Standard, and it includes four diacritical marks that appear above vowels which denote the 5 different tones in Standard Mandarin Chinese (which denote changes in meaning), but it is also used without the tone marks to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet. Pinyin, introduced in the 1950s, has largely substituted the Wade-Giles romanisation system published in 1892, but Wade-Giles spellings can still be occasionally seen. For example, the Wade-Giles spelling of “Beijing” is “Peking”.
ProofreadingProofreading generally consists in reading a text in order to detect and correct any errors. At Web-Translations, proofreading is carried out after the translation stage by a second translator who is also a native speaker of the target language with the relevant specialisms and experience, who checks the work of the initial translator against the original text for accuracy, spelling, grammar, formatting and terminology errors to ensure the best possible target text is achieved.
QA CheckA Quality Assurance Check is a service offered by Web-Translations. This check is carried out by one of our linguists, who checks a translation they have been involved in after it has undergone desktop publishing/typesetting and before it is published and reaches the public. Usually, this check includes amending typos and formatting issues introduced during DTP which are easy to spot and could cause embarrassment if not dealt with.
RegionalisationIdentifying and addressing the needs specific to a region or a country for a product or service to satisfy the market requirements. E.g. using local carriers for the delivery of products. In r13n, the common abbreviation for regionalisation, 13 refers to the number of letters between the R and the N.
RegisterLanguage variety used for a particular purpose or in a particular situation. For example, if working in an hotel reception, a speaker may be more likely to use formal language while in a casual setting among friends informal vocabulary and non-standard grammar may be used.
RepetitionsWhen analysing a source text using a computer-assisted translation tool, a repetition is a translation unit that is repeated within the source document but is not available in the translation memory. The translation of repetitions, also called reps, is offered at a lower price as, once a unit has been translated, our translation software places it wherever else that unit occurs in the text.
Right-to-left languagesLanguages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and Urdu are written primarily right-to-left. The reversed text flow has significant text and graphic layout implications, which means that it may be necessary to carry out some redesign.
SDL Trados StudioComputer-assisted translation software suite developed by Trados GmbH and currently available from SDL plc. It is used across the entire translation supply chain: from language service providers to freelancers. The suite includes a terminology management tool, SDL MultiTerm, and additional applications and plug-ins can be obtained from the SDL AppStore.
SEOSearch Engine Optimisation – various techniques which are used to improve the search engine rankings of a website.
SERPSearch Engine Results Page – the list of webpages returned in response to a keyword query on a search engine.
Simplified ChineseStandardised Chinese character set used as the written form of the Chinese language(s) in the People’s Republic of China, Malaysia and Singapore, and is in most cases the first character set that students of Standard Mandarin Chinese as a second language learn (Standard Mandarin Chinese is one of the spoken languages that can be written using this character set). This character set reduces the number of strokes and simplifies the forms of a sizable proportion of Chinese characters. The government of the People’s Republic of China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy.
Simultaneous InterpretingSimultaneous interpreting is a mode of interpreting in which the interpreter reformulates what the speaker says into a language their audience understands at the same time the speech is taking place, with a delay of only a few seconds. Simultaneous interpreters usually work in an interpreting booth or sit next to their client and interpret in a quiet voice (called chuchotage, “whispered” interpreting) and they generally work from their second language into their native language. This method of interpreting is generally used in large-scale conferences and international meetings when two or more languages are spoken.
Source TextText to be translated into one or more other languages. It can be supplied in different formats, such as Word document, webpage, PDF, etc.
Target TextText that results from the translation of a given source text into the intended target language(s).
Technical TranslationType of specialised translation that involves the translation of texts which relate to technological subject areas or texts which deal with the practical application of scientific and technological information. Technical translation requires a high level of subject knowledge and mastery of the relevant terminology and writing conventions in the target language.
TermWord or expression that has a precise meaning in the context of a particular field.
TerminologyGroup of specialised terms used within a particular field.
Terminology DatabaseAlso called termbase, it is a database that contains terminological entries and related information, usually in multilingual format. A termbase allows for the systematic management of approved terms and is a helpful tool for promoting terminological consistency.
Terminology Database EntryEach entry in a termbase contains at least one term and its related information. This can be a translation of the term into one or multiple languages, a definition, the context of the term, an image, the subject area, grammatical information, usage, verification status, etc. For example: a term entry might contain the English “door”, a photo of a door, the definition of door, the Portuguese translation “porta”, the Spanish “puerta”, etc.
Terminology Management SoftwareSoftware specifically designed to collect, maintain, and access terminological data.
Test PieceTranslation sample, in which a short text (usually less than 300 words) is translated by a linguist to showcase their skills.
TMXTranslation Memory eXchange (TMX) is an XML file format for the exchange of translation memory data between computer-assisted translation and localisation tools, with little or no loss of critical data.
Traditional ChineseChinese character set used as the written form of the Chinese spoken languages in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao as well as in overseas Chinese communities outside Southeast Asia. The retronym “Traditional Chinese” is used to contrast traditional characters with Simplified Chinese characters, the latter a standardised character set that was introduced in the early 20th century.
Transcreation“Recreating” the source text in a new language, by freely adapting the text so that the message it carries for the original audience evokes the same emotions and implications in the target audience. Transcreation takes more time and resources than translation, but it is widely used in marketing and advertising. Imagery, headlines, branding, colours, etc. can all be changed in order to ensure that the readers or viewers feel the same way as a result of the advertisement. Here’s a transcreation example: Intel’s slogan, “Sponsors of tomorrow,” when translated into Brazilian Portuguese, implied that Intel would not deliver on its promises immediately. As a solution, Intel decided to use “Apaixonados pelo futuro,” which translates to “In love with the future.”
TranscriptionRepresentation of spoken language in written form. See Transcription in our AVT Glossary for more information.
Translation MemoryDatabase that is used in translation software (CAT tools) to store translation units – segments of text made up of phrases, sentences or whole paragraphs – which have been previously translated. When a new text is imported into the CAT tool, the software identifies segments or text that “match” (either partially or completely) the content in the translation units stored in the TM. These are then presented by the program as possible translations.
Translation Project PackageA project package is a bundle of files which includes all assets, terminology database data, and translation memory data needed to perform translation offline by using a translation software (a CAT tool). Project packages can be sent for translation or proofreading to linguists with compatible software, who will deliver a “return package” on completion of the task. It used to be called translation kit.
Translation UnitIn the field of translation, segment of a text that is treated as a unit for the purpose of establishing an equivalence in translation. It can be a single word, a phrase, or even some sentences. Translation units can be stored in translation memories to produce fuzzy or exact matches when other similar texts are translated. The larger these units are, the better chance there is of obtaining an idiomatic translation; however, it also becomes increasingly difficult to obtain matches.
TransliterationConversion of a text from one script to another by using the most similar-sounding letters/characters. The purpose of transliteration is to represent the characters accurately and unambiguously. For example, “Russia” is “Россия” in Cyrillic script, which is transliterated as “Rossiya”.
TTXTTX is the native format of Trados TagEditor, part of SDL’s legacy computer-assisted translation tool called Trados Translator’s Workbench. It is a bilingual file which matches source text units to target text units.
UnicodeUnicode is a computing industry standard for consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text worldwide. The standard is maintained and continuously improved by the Unicode Consortium, and it contains a repertoire of more than 130,000 characters, covering 150 modern and historic scripts, as well as multiple symbol sets and emoji. The character repertoire of the Unicode Standard is synchronised with the Universal Coded Character Set (UCS) defined by ISO/IEC 10646; both are code-for-code identical.
Word CountIn a translation project, the word count is the number of words in the source text. This word count is usually obtained by analysing the source file with a computer-assisted translation tool, and it can include varying degrees of matches with an existing translation memory. This word count can be used to estimate the turnaround and costs of a translation project.
XLIFFXML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF) – XLIFF is an XML-based format used to standardise the passing of data to and from tools during each step of the localisation process. It is a bilingual file that has features, among others, for updating strings of text, revision control, marking different phases of the localisation process, word count calculations, and for the provision of alternative or suggested language translations.
XMLeXtensible Mark-up Language (XML) – is a programming language/specification which represents an international standard for the publication and delivery of electronic information, designed specifically for web documents