Different types of translations

Although it may be thought that all kind of translations are the same, there are different types that require different kind of expertise in both translations and in a specific field. Basically, seven types of translations exist and each of them has their own characteristics. Most of this services are provided by any respectful translation agencies. The following is a list of translation types categories and subcategories.


1 Literary translation

Prose: Literary texts written in prose such as stories, novels and plays. In addition to preserving the meaning of the original text, its goal is to maintain the author’s form, style and voice. It requires a high level of creativity, as well as excellent writing skills on the part of the translator.

Poetry: Poems and other literary works written in verse. Aspects such as rhyme, rhythm, metric and cadence must be taken into account. It is possibly one of the most difficult translation types to successfully carry out.

2 Audiovisual translation

Subtitling: Subtitles are translated text units written on the screen in movies, videos, documentaries and television programs. Its intention is to express both the dialogues and the general elements of an audiovisual material. They relate the image and the sound and synchronize them in time and space.

Dubbing: Is the audiovisual soundtrack replacement from one language to another. It consists of re-recording the voices of the actors in synchrony with their vocal movements. It is the most complex type of audiovisual translation to carry out and therefore the most expensive one.

Voice-over: Is the superposition of the translated voices on top of the original soundtrack, which continues to be heard at a lower volume. Unlike dubbing, voice-over does not seek perfect synchrony. It is a type of translation often used in documentaries and news reports.

3 Commercial translation

Marketing and publicity: Is the translation of advertising texts such as brochures, promotional materials and web pages for companies, as well as advertising and commercial campaigns for products or services. In this case, the translators must be creative and have deep knowledge of the target audience. Their biggest challenge is to assimilate culturally specific elements and transfer them to another language and culture.

Location adaptation: Adaptation of an advertising message to a specific local market. They combine translation, copywriting and marketing skills. They may consist of completely rewriting the texts to adapt them to the cultural and linguistic specificities of the receiving public.

4 Official or certified translation

This are necessary translations for official procedures in public or private organizations such as ministries, embassies, consulates or notaries. They are delivered with a certified official translator seal and signature. The translator assumes total legal responsibility for the veracity and accuracy of the translated documents.

5 Music translation

Translation of operas, musicals, lyrics and song videos, among others. It is largely related to literary translation and in particular to the translation of poems, in terms of elements such as rhythm, rhyme and musicality. It varies depending on whether the translation was made to be read or sung.

6 Translation for international organizations

Translation of documents for United Nations agencies, international institutions, administrative entities and NGOs, among others. The topics are varied, ranging from the environment and agriculture to education and children protection. Contrary to what people think, translators working for international organizations do not require the official translation seal.

7 Specialized translation

This category gathers translations of reference texts, which usually use a specialized language and terminology. It is often intended for a more restricted audience and, unlike other types of translation such as literary or commercial, it fulfills a practical and non-aesthetic function.

Scientific texts: Medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc.

Financial texts: Reports, corporate balance sheets, bank bulletins, shareholders’ meetings records, etc.

Legal texts: Contracts, agreements, testaments, litigation documents, etc.

Technical texts: Instruction manuals, user guides, patents, technical sheets, etc.

Academic texts: Academic articles, essays, doctoral theses, etc.

The translating world is a wide one and there are opportunities for different kinds of professionals.