Get with the lingo: A cheatsheet for the translation industry

Five terms that will help you decipher what your translation partner is saying

Working with a translation agency can be the ultimate solution to your international ambitions. They can take all the worry of translating and localizing your content out of your hands. But as you start working with a translation agency, you might notice they use some pretty obscure lingo. For starters, what is the difference between translating and localizing? In this blog, we aim to demystify the language around translation. Using this cheatsheet, you will be able to decipher what your translation partner is saying, and ask the right questions to get the service you need.



The most common service translation agencies provide is TEP. TEP stands for Translation, Editing, Proofreading. It might also be referred to as Full Service. This is the bread and butter of most translation agencies. However, for the laymen among us, this abbreviation can be confusing at first. So let’s break it down.

A TEP service includes a translator, proofreader, and a project manager. The project manager prepares the text and oversees the project.

translation process

The process

The first step is T for Translation. The translator will translate the text, usually using a CAT tool (more on that later) referring to a translation memory (again, we’ll get to that). They will also use reference materials provided by the client.

The next step is E for Editing. A proofreader checks the translation and refers to the same reference materials as the translator. They either implement their feedback directly or document their suggestions for the translator. The translator then reviews and implements this feedback. In any case, a proofreader’s appraisal of the text is always reviewed by the translator. This is crucial for two reasons: a. in case either one of the linguists disagrees on the changes due to a misinterpretation and b. for the translator to learn from their errors and prevent future mistakes. No translator is perfect, and there will always be human errors. Moreover, language is fluid. There is always room for different interpretations, preferential changes, and improvements to tone and style.

Finally, in the P for Proofreading stage, the Project Manager will perform a final check of the file. This is after the translator has approved the feedback from the proofreader. This includes performing a spellcheck, automated quality check (a functionality within CAT tools), and checking if the client’s instructions have been followed. The Project Manager will flag up any questions or concerns with the linguists. Then, they will export the file and deliver it to the client.


Translation vs localization vs transcreation

When you want to offer your service or products in more than one language, you will likely do a bit of research. While your first thought is to look for “translation”, you’re quickly bombarded with various different terms: translation, localization, transcreation, machine translation, etc. So what’s the deal?

Let’s start with the three terms that seem most similar: translation, localization, and transcreation. These three services can be seen as a sliding scale, where translation is the most basic service, and transcreation is the most in-depth service.

  • Translation: Translation is converting text from one language directly into another. The text is adapted to the language conventions of the target language (for example, American English to Dutch would mean toning down the language and reducing the number of exclamation marks). However, the text is not necessarily adapted to a particular locale or target audience. The translation will stick to the tone and style of the source, and the conventions of the text type (e.g. a manual would be translated to suit the instructional language).Creative transcreation
  • Localization: Localization is like translating while reading between the lines. The translator goes to work with the cultural expectations of the audience in mind. Whereas in translation the target is a language, in localization the target is a location (as the name suggests). The translator pays closer attention to the client’s goal and their brand identity. This is where it’s not only useful that translators are native speakers, but that they live in the country where the language is spoken. This means they know the cultural sensitivities and traditions. This is especially important in marketing texts, where negative connotations to certain words or phrases can make or break your content.
  • Transcreation: This service gives the translator the most creative freedom. It’s the most suitable service for marketing content, where a message needs to be completely adapted to make sure it has the same effect in the target country. Think of creative storytelling, jokes, puns, brand and product names, taglines, slogans, or scripts for videos. Perhaps the clearest example is translating videogames, where the way characters communicate with each other needs to feel natural and relatable in every country in order to get the players to emotionally invest in the storyline.

Post-editing and MT

Most people nowadays are familiar with machine translation. Every single day, billions of words are processed by Google translate, and it doesn’t take more than a few clicks to get a translation of a word or phrase. We’ve also seen plenty of machine translation gaffes though. And when it comes to your business, you don’t want to run the risk of embarrassment. More importantly, machine translation errors could lead to serious consequences when it comes to manuals of machinery, legal texts, or medical texts like IFU’s.

It goes without saying we can’t let the robots take over just yet. But that’s not to say that there’s not huge potential in machine translation technology, especially when it comes to increasing turnaround times and decreasing costs. The translation industry’s answer to this problem is post-editing. In a post-editing service, a professional, native translator will adapt a text that’s been generated by a machine translation engine. This is also called MTPE (Machine Translation Post-editing). The translator interprets the meaning, intent, and style of the source text, and ensures the target text matches it in every way. Then, a proofreader will provide the second pair of eyes to ensure the text is truly accurate. As always, a Project Manager will do the final review.

Does this sound familiar? The post-editing service is just like the TEP service, with an additional first step where technology lends a hand.

Machine translation robot

CAT tools

Machine translation isn’t the first time that technology lent a hand to the translation industry. For many years now, various tools and software have been developed to make translators’ lives easier, and translations more reliable. The biggest breakthrough was the development of CAT tools. CAT stands for Computer-Assisted Translation. Simply put, they are text-processing tools with a plethora of added functionalities to aid the translation process.


  • This includes being able to process a whole host of file types (from software strings to InDesign files) and filter out the text. This text is chopped up into segments (lines or sentences) then appears in two columns – source text on the left, empty segments on the right. A translator can get to work, and export the file in the same format but with translated text.
  • Secondly, CAT tools offer smart functionalities that not only detect spelling errors but also inconsistencies or mistakes in language conventions (e.g. number and date notation). This is especially handy for project managers doing final checks.
  • The final benefit of CAT tools might be their most important. This is their ability to store translations into a translation memory (see next paragraph) and give suggestions based on previous translations. If a translator has translated a specific sentence, the CAT tool will automatically suggest the same translation if that sentence (or a similar one) appears again. This improves the turnaround time and consistency of translations.


Translation memories and “weighted word count”

As stated earlier, translation memories store previous translations. Simple, right? Of course, this has an effect on the workload of a translator. If a text is translated, but the client makes a few changes and resubmits it, the translation memory will recognize the majority of the text. Each sentence might not be exactly the same, but they will be very similar. This is where match rates come in.

A match rate is a degree in which a source segment matches the correlating translated segment in the translation memory. This is expressed in percentages. For example, if a sentence is only changed by a single word, the match rate might be 90%. A segment with a high match rate takes the translator less time, and in effect, should cost the client less money. This is why we utilize a match grid that determines how much of our word rate is charged per percentage category (i.e. 0-50%, 50-75%, 75-85%, etc). After all, why should the client have to pay full price for something they’ve already paid for?



Every industry comes with its own set of jargon. For example, a “cloud” can mean an entirely different thing when it’s in a brochure for an exposition by Ian Fisher, compared to a text about online data storage. This is crucial in translation, as words are easily misconstrued without context. While most translators are specialized in their chosen field (and won’t confuse art with IT) misinterpretations frequently happen. That’s why it’s important to set up glossaries.

Glossaries can be very simple. They can consist of a list of common terminology and your preferred translation. This can be tricky to set up yourself, as you might not speak the target language enough to know what the most common translation is in your industry. You can enlist a translation agency like Nimus translations to set up a glossary for you. You can review and approve this glossary. We will then integrate it into our CAT tool for future projects. That way you know your industry’s jargon is correctly translated in each project.

Brand identity
The next step

You can take this a little further and set up a brand lexicon. This is a collection of terms and phrases that represent your company and brand identity. It is especially useful for marketing translations, as you can specify how you want your brand to be represented. Do you want to come across as warm and friendly, or experienced and authoritative? Specifying the words you would like linguists to feature in their work can be a huge benefit to creating a consistent voice for your company, across languages. Again, should you have trouble creating a brand lexicon on your own, this is something Nimus translations can help you with. Provide us with your brand identity or target audience, and we will do the research for you. This way we can create your voice together, so your international audience knows exactly who you are.


Are you looking for a translation partner that makes things simpler, not harder for you? Someone whose services don’t require a dictionary? Contact Nimus translations, the translation agency that aims to work with you, and offers the advice you need to gain international success.

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