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What are the Different Types of Translation Services?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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There are several types of translation services that can handle various kinds of written work. Translators can be contacted through language schools or universities. Either place may put one in touch with freelance translators, or may have staff who regularly take on translation work. There are numerous translation companies that can address one’s needs. Also, one can obtain translation software, which can cover more basic translation needs. Further, one may hire translators through any of the above resources to conduct oral translation as needed.

Translation services are only as good as the translator. Saving on cost may lead to problems when words or phrases are not properly translated. Someone who is not only fluent in the required language, but also fluent in the language of law or science, should probably translate scientific or legal documents.

When considering freelancers to provide translation services, one should be certain to ask for, obtain, and check references. Freelancers are generally the least expensive option for translation services, but fluency in speaking does not ensure quality writing. References can help those in need of translation services determine the past quality of a freelancer’s translations. When seeking translation for legal or scientific documents, one should consider a freelancer’s skills in these specific areas.

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Language schools and universities often provide translation services at a low cost as compared to translation companies. Universities can be particularly good with documents requiring citations in a particular format, like the Modern Language Association (MLA) format. They can provide not only translation, but also editing for a work published in, for example, a scholarly literary review magazine.

Since university professors spend much of their life correcting the translations of others, they frequently have significant experience in the field of translation. Translators are not a wealthy group of people, by and large. Often, gifted and experienced translators teach to augment the income received from their translation work. Language professors may offer a wealth of translation experience at value prices. However, as with freelancers, references should be thoroughly examined.

Translation services from companies tend to be the most expensive, but they may also give one access to translation into less common languages. Translation companies frequently have specialists in fields like law or medicine, who can address specific legal or medical and scientific terms. Translation companies generally have easily obtainable references. They can point to a body of work that proves their translations services in the past have been successful. They offer peace of mind, in many respects, once references have been verified.

Translation services offered through software or on free websites may translate simple sentences, but should probably not be used for technical documents or for creative writing. Software such as this fails to recognize most idiomatic expressions. This wiseGEEK writer visited a free translation site to test an idiomatic expression from English to French. When I typed in “All cats are grey in the dark," and asked for a French translation, I knew the response should be “Tous les chats sont gris,” literally, “All cats are grey.” What I received instead was a word for word translation of my sentence, which ignored the idiomatic translation into French of this old maxim.

If using an online or software translator to convert short works or sentences, one must be quite aware that idiomatic expressions may not translate well. Though much business or friendly correspondence can be conducted through this means, one should avoid idiomatic expressions. Either a freelancer, a professor of a given language, or a translation company best undertakes significant correspondence, particularly for any type of business.

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