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The different types of translation and how to tell them apart

There aren't really any bounds to the types of documents that can be translated: Legal documents, birth certificates, websites, poetry… Each field has its own terminology, requirements, and a specific process. Although different translation types require different methods, they all share the same goal of facilitating communication.

So, why do you need to know the main types of translation?

How can you identify each of them? How can this help you to choose the right translation agency?

As multilingual specialists, here at Powerling, we want to help you understand the different types of translation and the specific elements of each of them! Most importantly, we're here to give you pointers that will help you choose the right translator, to make sure that your documents aren't at any risk of getting lost in translation!

For a successful translation project, you need to be able to identify the type of translation needed. Despite popular belief, it's not just a case of taking words in one language and putting them into another language and choosing the right agency or translator can unlock significant advantages for your business. Check out our article to find out more about how to choose the best translation agency!

Certified translation

To get us started, the first type of translation we'll look at is certified translation.

Also known as sworn translation, this type is accepted by French or international administrative authorities. The result of this translation process is a translated document that is certified to conform to the original. This type of translation makes sure that your document is admissible to the authorities, as it gives the target document (which is what we call the translated document) an official status.

When considering certified translation, it's important to note that, in France and certain other countries, this type of document can only be provided by a translator that has been sworn in by a Court of Appeal. Also, only entire texts can be translated - no excerpts or extracts.

Certified translation is in the same vein as legal translation, which is the translation of a legislative text, a contract, terms & conditions, or a regulation, etc.


Next up, we have localization, which is a translation procedure that goes beyond the mere words to adapt content to a specific region. The Powerling team has put together a detailed article on localization, which you can find here.

Much more than just translation into a target language, localization involves adapting references, such as to standards, laws, and regulations, to those applicable in the target region. The translated content needs to align with the region's culture, which requires specific knowledge and good analysis skills.

Thanks to the analytical groundwork, the translator will be able to ensure that they use the correct terms for the target audience in the region in question, which will be much more beneficial than a simple translation if you really want to focus on effectively communicating with your target audience!

Which documents are covered?

There's such a huge variety of documents that can be localized that we won't bore you with a list as long as your arm, but to give you some examples: Websites, software, e-learning materials, business documentation, catalogs, packaging, etc.


Sometimes referred to as "creative translation", transcreation is predominantly used in the advertising and marketing sector, as well as in the audiovisual and video game fields. Amongst other uses, it can be used for the translation of titles, slogans or even ads on social media. Transcreation adapts content into another language, whilst taking into account cultural and regional specifics.

So, what makes it any different than localization?

Transcreation is a step beyond localization. Instead of focusing on the words of the original content, it takes an overall message-based approach with a specific target in mind. So, it's not only a case of translating the original content into the target language in a way that ensures that target readers understand it, but also ensuring an "invisible" translation, delivering target content that is written specifically for the target audience or region, creating the same effect for every audience, no matter where they're from. For example, we all know that jokes can easily get lost in translation, so the point of transcreation is to make sure that the target content's joke will land with local readers in the same way as it did for readers in the original language. For more details on transcreation, Powerling has put together a few examples in this article!

What next?

Once you've identified the type of translation that your project or document requires, you'll be able to choose the right agency or translator to effectively and successfully translate your content.

Using the services of a professional has nothing but advantages and benefits for you. These experts have the skills, experience, and knowledge needed to translate your documents to a high standard.

Plus, they use translation-specific tools, such as Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools. In concrete terms, in this case, the translator uses software. This tool offers multiple benefits, such as being able to segment translations and to identify segments, phrases or words that have already been translated before, and then populate these translation matches into the target. This way, you're able to build up a bilingual database that can be added to over time. The terms found in this database are then automatically translated in future documents. This saves valuable time and really boosts productivity!

For example, Powerling uses Déjà vu to optimize the translation of your documents. Developed by ATRIL in 1993, the software is a CAT tool that uses Translation Memories. Translation Memories have revolutionized productivity and consistency in translated documents.

By working with translation professionals who have mastered these tools, you can be assured that you're receiving content that's translated in a way that meets your requirements and expectations. Using specific tools and methods, translators can now optimize your content, making sure that consistent terminology and turns of phrase are used across different documents, Regardless of the domain, a good translation of each and every one of your documents is a sign of high quality for your project or your company in the eyes of your clientele or target market.

Identifying and distinguishing the types of translation is an essential step in the process of launching your translation project and choosing the best agency for you. There are various types of translation which respond to specific needs.

Powerling is a multilingual content specialist with more than 20 years of experience: Delivering perfect translations of your documents is just what we do!

Got a translation project in mind? Get in touch with us now and let us take care of it - just like we've done for more than 900 other clients!

NEWS : Powerling has recently acquired WCS group.

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