Best Practices

What are translation services?

From the most abstract perspective, translation services are employed when something that is in one language needs to be understood in another language.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

From the most abstract perspective, translation services are employed when something that is in one language needs to be understood in another language. This could encompass anything from an email or a birth certificate to an entire software or a Presidential address. Translation services can be separated into two main categories:

Translation of media can include:

  • letters,
  • videos,
  • documents,
  • contracts,
  • statements,
  • presentations,
  • user guides,
  • websites,
  • eLearning
  • or any other content that exists in a recorded form.

Whether it’s an audio file or an affidavit, media translation does not require physical or virtual simultaneous presence in order to render the translation. Someone can write a letter in Taipei on Friday. It can be translated in Paris on Saturday and filed in New York on Monday.

Translation of media is typically asynchronous which means that the translation itself does not need to take place at the same time as the event.This contrasts with the translation of live events, which by definition requires synchronous translation. A Doctor for instance providing a patient with a diagnosis may require a live interpreter in order to relay what the doctor is saying in another language.

Live translation is typically done by interpreters, whereas media translation is typically handled by translators. At the end of the day everyone is translating but when you look under the hood these are wildly different activities with profound ramifications.

Talent Required

Live translators need to be great listeners, fast thinkers and require this nearly preternatural ability to seamlessly listen in one language and speak in another language.Whether they are performing simultaneous translation or consecutive translation, they need to focus 100% of their attention and then some on ensuring that meaning is relayed appropriately.

There is no room for mistakes or corrections.Live translation typically involves high-stakes situations such as a key business meeting, a press conference, or a Doctor’s diagnosis. One slip in meaning can have catastrophic consequences.

Check out our article that helps to Recognize the Best Professional Translation Services. Translation of media typically does not require superhuman listening skills as most media translated is either already in written form or transcribed prior to translation. But the translation of media does require the ability to read between the lines taking into account:

  • domain,
  • context,
  • subtext,
  • political movements
  • and other elements that interfere in the production of meaning.

It also requires acute research ability and the discipline to remain hours, days and often weeks on end focusing on the same assignment.Translation of media is typically done in CAT tools such as:

Translators need to understand intuitively how to work with technology in order to leverage their sentence and terminology knowledge bases.As you can see within the umbrella of translation services there is a huge gap in between media translation and live translation. The very best live translator will not necessarily be a fantastic media translator and vice-versa. The skills and traits required to excel in each of these fields diverge irreconcilably.

Management Required

Translation services pertaining to media require a ton of translation management tools and overhead typically.

Files need to be received, analyzed, processed, and fed into a translation management system. Media-specific quotes are generated and signed off on and then project managers will typically schedule the translation tasks with translators and reviewers. Translated assets then typically go through rounds of layout adjustments and quality assurance prior to delivery.

These translations also need to be accounted for and invoiced just like everyone who worked in the production process needs to get paid.There is monstrous project and resource management when it comes to media translation.While live translation is also complex, there is less that happens from a management perspective. It’s still immensely complex though.Event details need to be triaged:

  • Wil it be a physical or virtual?
  • What are the kinds of requirements?
  • What will be the logistical arrangements?
  • Is lodging necessary?

The questions can go on, but the key difference is that there is little room for maneuverability. Once you assign an interpreter or two to an event, it’s often challenging or even unfeasible to replace an interpreter in case things don’t perform as expected. It’s a make it or break it kind of deal.With translation services pertaining to media, things are very different in that regard.Files can be assigned to a given translator.

They may perform below expectations and this will typically get flagged during the review process providing the translation agency with the opportunity to iterate and improve on the work prior to delivery.And while there is typically no logistical complexity to media translation services, there are an insane amount of microactivities required to prepare, analyze, dispatch, translate, review, layout, evaluate quality, deliver and pay those involved in executing these translation services.

The differences between these translation services go on and on but this article just helps you to understand the fundamental split between live translation services and media translation services.

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Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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