Different type of translators

Not all translators are equal. According to their training and specialization, translators can be distinguished into different types such as general translators, interpreters, audiovisual translators, sworn translators, technical translators and literary translators, among others


Translation is a fundamental activity that generates billions in the world and even has its own International Translation Day, celebrated every September 30th. Despite the improvement of machine translation technologies, translators are still needed and will be needed for a while.

Apart from complete command of the languages to which he translated, a competent translator is required to have specialized training. In most countries these studies are taken in universities and last normally four years. This training is not compulsory to work as a translator. Therefore, there are lots of intruders in the sector. The result is poor quality translations.

A translator is not the same than an interpreter. The first one is a professional dedicated to the written translation of all kinds of texts and can specialize in different fields. The second one is the professional specialized in oral translation. Interpreters could be simultaneous (real time) or consecutive (after speaker´s pause).

Another category of translators that requires an additional degree is sworn translators. These professionals specialize in carrying out official translations needed for certain procedures in public offices.

They certify the accuracy of the translation or interpretation they perform and assume that responsibility for legal purposes. To be a sworn translator or interpreter, a degree issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be obtained.

In a translation agency there are usually both generalist and specialized translators (click here). Generalist translators are able to translate any kind of texts, as long as they do not require very specialized knowledge. On the other hand, specialized translators focus on specific subjects, which can be very varied. A respectful translation agency has both kind of translators, and within their specialized translators there are variety of fields covered.

Among the specialized translators, the following are the most common ones and translation agencies have them all:

Scientific translator: specialized in scientific texts from varied fields such as medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc. Often it is not enough to master the language. Additionally, the translator needs to have scientific background to understand what the translated text is about and to make a rigorous translation that can be published journals, for example. In some of these cases, translation agencies work in project teams formed by an expert translator working together with an expert of the specific field.

Technical translator: specialized in technical documents such as manuals, guides, patents, specifications, etc. Again, specialized knowledge is required and teams may be formed as well.

Software translator: is another type of technical translation that focuses on adapting a software program, application or video game, among others, to the target language. This requires special tools, as content is often integrated into the software code that is translated.

Legal translator: specializes in legal documents such as contracts, commercial agreements, etc. In addition to the difficulty of mastering both languages, law differences between the origin and target countries’ languages must be taken into account.

Literary translator: its function is to adapt novels, stories, poetry, etc. from one language to another. This is not always easy, because in addition to preserving the meaning, voice and style of the author should be maintained.

Audiovisual translator: this professional is dedicated to translate audiovisual content such as audio recordings, videos, films, etc. These translations can be used in several ways: transcriptions, subtitles, audio descriptions for people with visual disabilities or dubbing. From the original dialogues, the translator creates a script in the target language, which will then be interpreted by an actor specializing in dubbing.

As noted, there are many types of translators and each one has its specific field of work. A professional translation agency should have most of them as they provide a complete range of services. As in any discipline, choosing a professional translator, with the appropriate training and experience in its sector is the best to guarantee that quality results will be obtained.