Demystifying translator speak

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Source and target language

When you ask a translator for a quote, he or she will quote you a price in either target or source language. What does that mean?

In Germany, most translations are billed by the final product, and usually by line (with either 50, 53 or 55 characters each). Since German runs a little longer than English, the English source text may be shorter than the German target text. Target language or target text refers to the final language the text is translated into. For example if I translate from English into German, English is my source and German is my target language.

If I translator quotes you a price in either words or lines or standardized pages (common for literary translations in Germany), he needs to clarify whether this refers to the source text or the target text. If it refers to the source text, this will be the final amount. If it refers to the target text, the translator may only be able to give you an estimate of the costs but will eventually only know the final amount himself after completing the translation.


Localization in a translation context refers to adapting the translation for the target audience instead of “simply” translating. What does this mean? A good example of this are book blurbs. English blurbs tend to be very detailed and give a short summary of the story. German blurbs are usually more consise and have a more teasing quality. Again, with the German text usually ending up about 10 to 15 percent longer than the English text, a literal translation may not even fit on the book jacket anymore. Therefore localizing a book blurb means to adapt it to the typical conventions of the German market instead of simply translating the English blurb. The same goes for author bios, by the way.

Do you have more questions? Please ask them! We are happy to help!



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