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Standard or specialised translation: What is the difference?

By Julie Fry, 

Are you confused as to the difference between standard and specialised translation services? Julie Fry, a senior translation project manager here at Brightlines Translation explains the difference between standard translation and specialised translation, with a handy checklist too…

In a nutshell, the two differences between standard and specialised translation are:

  1. Terminology: Content requiring specialised translation has terminology or jargon specific to a certain industry. Specialised content would not easily be understood by those outside the subject, and could be misinterpreted.
  2. Cost: Due to the level of expertise required, specialised translations cost more than standard translations.

Standard translation services

As a basic rule of thumb, anything aimed at members of the public such as basic safety instructions, user guides and operating manuals for items on general sale, will probably require only standard translation. The language is not likely to be too specific or complicated as it has been written for the lay person. A standard translator will be very suitable.

Take the following line from a kitchen appliance user guide for example:

‘Once all the moving parts have come to a complete stop, lift up the upper housing cover by turning the small lever clockwise. You can now remove the mixing bowl from the mixer plate and remove the ingredients.’

Although the text is from a user manual, there does not appear to be anything in the above sentence that would not generally be understood – especially with the aid of an associated diagram.

Specialised translation services

If your translation is aimed at qualified people within your industry however, specialised translation will probably be required. In the following sentence from an engineering manual, we can see seven key pieces of terminology.

‘To achieve high resolution, the position sensor location eliminates any backlash effect in the gearing. The sensor is a 12-bit rotary magnetic encoder, fitted at the output gear stages, removing any internal backlash effect that may exist in the drive train’. 

Although you could argue that many of the words indicated above could be found in a dictionary or online, if you do not have experience in this area, the sentence is open to mistranslation and misinterpretation. These mistranslations could end up costing you time and money in complaints and refunds and possibly (but we hope not), a law-suit to an injured party.

Of course the term ‘specialised’ covers an array of areas. At Brightlines Translation we have translators who specialise in all engineering disciplines (eg. electrical, chemical, nuclear, mechanical to just a few) pharmaceuticals and medicine, law and marketing – amongst other fields. Our specialist translators have hands-on work experience in their area of expertise so they have not just studied it, but also lived it. This level of expertise ensures that the source text will be perfectly understood and interpreted with confidence and accuracy.

Do I need specialised translation services?

If you are still confused as to whether you need standard or specialised translation services? Here is a checklist for you. If you answer YES to any of the following five questions, chances are high that YOU WILL need specialised translation services.

  1. Does the content contain terminology that would not be understood by those outside your industry?
  2. Does the content have a strong tone of voice with brand specific terminology?
  3. Are you trying to sell something by using a strong sales message?
  4. Does your content have legal implications?
  5. Is the content complex and difficult to read (academic as opposed to a newspaper article)?

If you are ever unsure of whether you might require standard or specialised translation, please feel free to send a sample of your text over to us at [email protected]. We will be happy to take a look at it for you.

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