January 30, 2023

Navigating the world of translation: What types of translations exist?

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Lishia Velavan

Customer Success Executive

What is a translation?

The translation is a process of expressing the meaning of one language to another. Many different types of translation exist, and each type is appropriate for specific situations. A simple translation conveys the basic meaning of a source text without using elaborate terms or structures. A traditional or formal translation uses precise wordings and traditional equivalents to produce a highly literate piece of work. By contrast, literal or direct translations are intended to be word for word without adding any additional meaning.

There are different types of translation, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. It is therefore important to understand the differences between them so that you can choose the right type of translation for your needs.

Types of Translation

Literal, traditional, formal, and simple translation

Literal translations are straightforward but lack nuance and stylistic flair. Traditional or formal translations involve a lot of preplanning and can sometimes result in a high literary style. On the other hand, simple translations use only the words needed to convey the original message. Traditional and simple translations share similar concepts but have distinct methods. Traditional or formal translations involve an extensive research process that includes working with the source text and the target language for many days or weeks beforehand. The target language is chosen prior to performing the translation. After choosing an appropriate target language, sources are chosen and translated manually by an individual or a team of translators. The translated work is then reviewed by native speakers of the target language before being approved as complete.

Translation of words, texts, and localisation

When it comes to translation, there are three main types: translation of words, translation of texts, and localisation. Translation of words is the most basic type of translation. It involves translating a word from one language to another. This type of translation is often used for technical manuals, labels, and other short pieces of text. The translation of texts is more complex than the translation of words. It involves translating a text from one language to another while preserving the original meaning and structure of the text. This type of translation is often used for books, articles, and other long pieces of text.

Localis ation is a type of translation that is specific to the context in which it is used. It involves adapting a text to reflect the cultural norms of the target audience. This type of translation is often used for websites, software, and other digital content.

“Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.” — Günter Grass

In comparison, simple or direct translations rely heavily on word definitions from a secondary source- such as an English dictionary, glossary, or lexicon. These translate directly from one language to another with no pre-planning involved by anyone but the translators themselves. These versions can be referred to as parlance translation since they translate in terms of words rather than sentences or paragraphs. Although this type of translation requires extensive knowledge of both languages, it facilitates accurate and fluent communication between speakers of different languages.


Translation is a complex field with a variety of services and approaches. When commissioning a translation, it’s important to understand the different types of translation and the various approaches to translation, so that you can make an informed decision about which service best suits your needs.


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