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Translation and web-writing glossary

Definitions and explanations of common terms used in translation and web writing. From accessibility to zoom...

Accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. Web accessibility enables people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with and contribute to the web. Accessibility also benefits other web-users, including older people with changing abilities due to ageing. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the web, including visual, auditory (hearing), physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities. (Adapted from definition by W3C Web accessibility initiative)

Alt text stands for “alternative text”. It is used to describe images to visually impaired users, who can use screen readers that read the site’s content to them. On this web site, for example, we use the alt text “Dougan Naio logo, link to home page” whenever our logo appears.

Assistive technology is technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. For example, people with limited hand function may use keyboard navigation or a keyboard with large keys or a special mouse to operate a computer. People who are blind may use software that reads text on the screen in a computer-generated voice. And people with low vision may use software that enlarges screen content. (definition courtesy of AccessIT)

Computer-assisted translation (CAT) means translation of a text using translation memory software. CAT software aids terminological consistency and helps translators increase their efficiency and productivity.

Translators use the software to build up a database (memory) of phrases and sentences from texts they have previously translated. The software then suggests these sentences or phrases when they re-occur in a new source text. The translator, not the software, decides whether or not to use the suggested translation, and whether it needs to be amended to suit the new text.

CAT is not suitable for all kinds of text – for example creative or highly nuanced texts, or texts that require background knowledge for understanding. It is suitable for texts and projects with a high degree of repetition. CAT is not the same as automatic or machine translation, which produces “gist” translations at best and gibberish at worst.

Content management system (CMS) allows users to create, manage and up-date their own web content. Once their web designer/developer has designed and created their site, users are then free to edit content to their own specifications.

Copywriting: writing material (print, web, blogs, tweets etc) to a client’s brief or instruction. Copywriters (and translators) need to take cultural and linguistic factors into account.

Gist translation Gist” means “the main point(s) or part(s)”. So a “gist translation” provides an outline or summary of the main points of a text. Gist translations are usually intended for in-house use, not publication.

Language service provider (LSP) refers to a company that supplies language services such as translation, localisation, or interpretation.

Legibility is a measure of how easy it is to distinguish one letter from another in a particular typeface. It is an important factor in short texts that must have a strong, immediate impact - road signs, for example.

Localisation means adapting a product or text to a specific place or market. It is often used for software or web sites. In addition to translating the text, localisation also involves the adaptation of cultural references, images, colours, design, web-site keyword selection, etc.

Machine translation refers to translations produced by computer programmes with no intervention by human translators. It is not suitable for complex or creative texts, texts that require background knowledge on the part of the translator or reader, or texts with any degree of subtlety. Machine translation produces “gist” translations at best and gibberish at worst.

Metadata means “data about data”. In a website context, it mainly refers to page descriptions and keywords (but also includes page title, publish date, review date, expiry date, and author). The page description is the text that shows up in search-engine results pages, so can influence users’ decision on whether or not to click through to the site concerned.

Quality of translations means the degree to which the translated text complies with the required standards of accuracy, consistency, completeness, clarity, ease of understanding, register, formatting, deadline, etc. High quality translations should take both clients’ and readers’ needs into account.

Readability is a gauge of how easily words, phrases and blocks of copy can be read. Readability is an important factor for large blocks of text (books, for example), or for on-screen reading.

Review means to examine a translated text for its suitability for the agreed purpose and compliance with the conventions and needs of its intended sector, market or readership. It also includes making any amendments necessary for this purpose.

Revise or revision means systematic comparison of the original (source) and translated (target) texts before delivery. The aim is to ensure that the target text is an accurate and consistent rendering of the original, that it meets quality requirements and that any discrepancy between the source and target texts is eliminated. Revision therefore includes making any amendments necessary for this purpose.

Screen reader: a text-to-speech system, intended for use by blind or visually impaired (low-vision) users, that speaks the text content of a computer display and enables users to “read” content.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the art and science of making web pages attractive to search engines. Most people who use search engines only look at the first page or so of the search results, so for sites that depend on high search engine traffic to obtain business, it’s important to achieve a high search engine ranking and be listed in those first few pages (ideally, the first!).

Search engine ranking is the position at which a web site appears in a user’s search-engine query results. A high search-engine ranking (ie on first page or so of results) is a desirable goal for e-commerce sites, or sites that depend on high search-engine traffic.

Source text or original means the text in the source language to be translated into the target language, and revised and reviewed or amended as necessary.

Standard page is the unit of measurement used by many translators to measure a text and price their projects. The standard page length varies from one country to another, and even from one sector to another. We use a standard page of 1,500 characters, including spaces, in the source language. Other translators base their prices on word count.

Target text or translated text means the result of the translation, revision, review and/or amendment process in the target language.

Terminology means the relevant terms that express the concepts specific to a given subject area.

Translate or translation means rendering a text in the source language specified into the specified target language. Whenever we use the word “translation” to describe a service we mean a revised and reviewed translation of a source text or original.

Translation memory A database that stores previously translated words, sentences and phrases and is used by translators as part of their Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) system.

Translation service provider means a person or organisation providing translation services.

Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. Usability is an important feature for web sites, as users will simply leave sites they find difficult to use. (Definition courtesy of Jakob Nielson)

Utility refers to a web site or design's functionality: Does it do what users need? Usability and utility are equally important: It matters little that something is easy if it’s not what you want. (Again, definition courtesy of Jakob Nielson)

Web content Text, images, animation or multimedia (video or audio) content that is included in web sites.

Web designers deal with the design and presentation of everything the website visitor sees – the visual aspects of the site.

Web developers create the behind-the-scenes (back-end) functionality and interactivity of the site, ie the databases and programming.

Note. The distinction between web design and web development is not important when dealing with a larger firm of web designers as they will normally have specialists in all the important fields. These (often overlapping) fields include design, usability, accessibility, SEO, front-end coding, database design and various programming languages.

The grey area is the “front-end” code (predominantly HTML and CSS) that is used to display the web site in the user’s browser. The quality of this code is critical for accessibility, usability and search engine optimisation. Both designers and developers should have a good understanding of front-end coding. If you are hiring just one individual to build a website, whether primarily a designer or a developer, they must be proficient with front-end coding. (Definitions and note courtesy of Zoë Tucker at Rude Goose, the creator of this site).

Web-proofing means writing a text, typically for print, in such a way that it will adapt easily to the web. For example: eliminating footnotes; inserting section summaries; and using short sentence and paragraphs, headings and sub-headings, and bullet points instead of long lists in sentences.

Web writing Writing (or adapting existing) content so that it’s suitable for the web and for the way users read web content. For example, web content will typically have shorter sentences and paragraphs, and more headings, than printed content.

Zoom In the web accessibility context, the “zoom” function enables visually impaired users to enlarge text. Sites should therefore be designed so that text and pages are scalable. The zoom feature is usually accessed through the site itself or via the browser’s “View” menu.

Please get in touch if there are any terms you'd like us to include in this translation and web-writing Glossary - we’d love to hear from you.