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Types of Translation

Did you know that there are over sixty translation types out there? Some of which are outstanding like culinary, and cryptocurrency translations. Translation, as hundreds of centuries-old practice, is to this day one of the ever-growing fields. Being connected to a diverse range of professions, disciplines, and industries, it is always undergoing additions and alterations that even the experts try hard to keep up with. For ordinary people, it might strike them as new, knowing that when submitting a work to be translated to a professional translation house, it is much more than just word-for-word, sentence-for-sentence, or page-for-page general interpretation.

Today, whether you are aiming for a career in translation, thinking of providing translation services, or simply want to get professional help on any foreign language text, a summarized overview of the most common translation types out there can pave the way to answering lots of questions you might have in mind.

Below you’ll find a nutshell explanation of 11 of the main translation types, all of which crown plenty of other sub-types below them.


Modes & Mediums of Translation

Firstly, let’s establish that translation in its basic sense is not only written, but the translated product could be spoken; like in simultaneous translation, and even signed, as in sign language interpretation.


Types of Translation

General Translation

It refers to a wide range of texts that can be translated without specialized knowledge in a certain field. General translators with an excellent command of both source and target languages can be required to translate general documents like manuals, or emails, and everyday speech texts.


Specialized Translation

The name is already telling. A specialized translator can be under great demand from clients and companies because he or she acquires advanced knowledge of the subject at hand while at the same time remains an experienced translator. One of the primary characteristics of specialized translation- also known as LSP- is the use of jargon specific to the field. The diverse fields of specialized translation could be anything from finance, fashion, sports, media, economics, medicine, science, culinary, and even lesser common fields like archaeology.


  • Legal Translation

Legal translation is not only about legal contracts and court documents. It involves a wide range of other documents like birth or marriage certificates. Below the broad type of legal translation, there are dozens of other sub-types, like international law, legislative, and judicial translations. When looking for different legal translation services you’ll find terms like apostille translation, notarization, and sworn translations, where each of them serves a different type of language accuracy and degree of credibility, especially in regard to international documents. 

Legal translation is most known for its sensitivity. For instance, there is a difference between ambiguity found in an electronic machine manual, and ambiguity found in a legal text.

-Judicial Translation: encompassing documents like lawsuits, contracts, court documents, and all other documents part of judicial processes.

-NGO and IGO Translation: Extremely crucial to humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations to document press releases, and new project information, and make sure their mission is delivered to multinational audiences.


Notarization refers to the authentication of legal documents. A notary is authorized by the government to take note of legal acts, in the form of witnessing signatures. A notary has their own unique stamp that approves of the credibility of a legal document.


  • Religious Translation

One of the most important types of translation. Religious translation is expansive not only to the three Abrahamic religions but goes far deeper than to involve other spiritual doctrines around the world, ancient or contemporary. For instance, religious translators of the Islamic scripture, Quran, can be required to interpret verses, religious sermons, and lectures, or other religious books. It is on demand from non-natives who are looking for ways to understand the words of Allah without knowledge of the Arabic language.

Like legal translation, religious texts require a great deal of accuracy, advanced knowledge of the subject to ensure a safe and accurate delivery of meaning across different languages, and cultures to avoid ambiguity.


  • Journalistic Translation

Journalistic translation is one of the translation types that involves language play, and creativity more obviously than the forementioned ones. 

It involves translating anything from news pieces, reports, interviews, and much more. In addition to having strong command of both the source and target language, a journalistic translator keeps in mind the distinct language of the media world that can depart from conventional grammar rules or use emotion and imagination to highlight a certain piece of information in a news article. 

A journalistic translator is a journalist in disguise because he or she is also aware of the surrounding political atmosphere and of the sensitivities in the region.


  • Medical Translation

Given the nature of healthcare literature present in different forms; medical translation can be highly technical which makes it belong to the top of the list of specialized translations. Medical translators can handle academic medical papers, patient records, medical reports, and other educational material.

Are you on the hunt for a professional medical translator? we’ve published a comprehensive article on top medical translation agencies in the MENA.


Read more: What is Cognitive Debriefing?


  • Culinary Translation

Have you ever picked a menu at a restaurant and noticed something distinct about how the dishes were named? Maybe a traditional dish was named in an odd way, or a foreign dish was left transliterated into the target text. This is all the work of culinary translators, who not only work on food menus, but cookbooks, and various kinds of culinary content online like recipes. Culinary translation is one of the interesting types because it is flooded with cultural knowledge, and of course, taste!


  • Financial Translation

Financial translation is essential for businesses because it deals with sensitive financial information that can’t risk errors. A financial translator handles financial agreements, tax reports, bank reports, insurance policies, and client meetings.


  • Ecommerce Translation:

Used by businesses to translate their brand identity to different target customers. For instance, localizing measurement units, or keeping an eye on seasonality. For e-commerce websites, everything from reviews, landing pages, and product descriptions are also translated.


  • Technical Translation

Did you ever buy an electronic device, throw away its manual, and then have a hard time trying to figure out how it functions? Well, technical writing and translation are behind all the user guides, and instruction leaflets, in addition to other technical content provided to make life easier for users dealing with IT, engineering, or manufacturing information. Working as a technical translator necessitates knowledge of technical jargon, and the ability to deliver meaning as simply and coherently as possible.


Literary Translation

The literation of literary works involves any text that is considered creative writing. This involves short stories, books, and novels, although some translators argue that poetry is untranslatable, film scripts or literary essays.

Literary translation requires a solid understanding of the stylistics and the elements of literary genres. A literary translator has the responsibility to deliver the tone, and the effect of a literary work to the reader, as close as possible to the source text. In this kind of translation, it is possible to find the target text recrafted better than the source one, owing much to the translator’s creativity and devotion to the comfort and pleasure of the target reader.


Script Translation:

An on-demand derivative of literary translation. Script Translation is crucial nowadays because nearly all films strive to reach a worldwide audience. It involves not only the dialogue but even the transitions, action lines, and in plays it involves stage directions.


Read more: Professional Book Translation


Audio Visual Translation

Audiovisual content is not limited to films; it includes diverse mediums such as games, advertisements, websites, and eLearning content. This branch of translation is booming with the increasing demand for video content. 

Audiovisual or multimedia translation has several modes like dubbing, subtitling, surtitling, and voice-over. Therefore, it is a branch that combines technicalities, creativity, and localization.

An audio-visual translator has a strong background on audio editing software, knows how to preserve the tone and emotional impact of dialogue by consistently looking for language equivalents, while at the same time being extremely careful with cultural sensitivity by avoiding offensive language, or hate speech that could be present in a TV show, or a game narrative. 

Read more: How to translate video from Arabic to English


Machine Translation 

More than ever before, artificial intelligence is witnessing its peak, even when it comes to a field human dependent as translation. Over the years, software companies have developed ways to make the process of translation easier, quicker, and more cost-effective. Now, machine translation is integrated on anyone’s smartphone, and crowned in something like Google Translate. 

Due to this, a new role for translators and linguists emerged, which is Machine Translation Post Editing. Abbreviated as MTPE, these translators receive the attempted translation of the software and double-check it from various aspects.

Although it is yet an emerging and new field, it keeps human translation like an open-ended story, with an unclear future, is it an enemy or a companion to the human translator?  


Read more: What is social media translation?


Final Note

Translation encompasses diverse types that can be classified in different ways, either according to their modes, specialty, or their alignment with either the Source or Target text. It is important to mention that the above summary of some of the major types acts merely as an intro to a vast field. However, what combines all types together is the concrete qualities needed from each translator, namely their attention to detail, comprehensive knowledge of different fields, and impeccable research capabilities. It is safe to say that despite the difference in approach from one type to another, the translator remains a walking encyclopedia.

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