1. Commercial translation
This is the broadest category. A commercial translator can be either specialised or generalised, and the texts can relate to anything from user instructions and medical technology instructions to contracts, agreements, newspaper articles or dissertations on art.
Many commercial translators specialise in one or more fields, such as law or medicine. It’s not uncommon for a medical translator, for example, to have a background within the field and may have previously worked as a nurse or a doctor.
When private companies send texts for translation, these can relate to anything from press releases, product descriptions and software texts to website translations for large, multinational websites. Authorities often send court rulings, doctors’ notes and certificates. (See also point 2.)
2. Translations of official documents
Translations of official documents are carried out by an authorised translator. In Sweden, an authorised translator has been approved to translate official documents to or from Swedish having been tested by Kammarkollegiet, the Swedish Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency. The translator receives a personal stamp with which to stamp the translation. The document is then valid for use with foreign authorities, for example. In Sweden there are currently almost 400 registered authorised translators working in around thirty different language pairs. Each country has its own rules for authorised translations and authorising translators, so it’s worth checking the requirements that apply if you need an authorised translation.
Translating official documents often involves court rulings, doctors’ notes, insurance decisions or divorce papers, and it is common for these documents to be translated from one of Sweden’s immigrant or minority languages.
A subtitler translates spoken language rather than written text. The subtitler translates everything said in films, TV programmes and news broadcasts. Here, the translator must be skilled at summarising a large amount of information in a few words since the on-screen space for subtitles is extremely limited. The editing process is therefore at least as important as the actual translation. Subtitlers also translate other media, such as computer games. Some translation agencies specialise in this type of work.
4. Literary translation
Literary translation includes translating novels, prose, plays and poetry. A literary translator needs a good insight into the cultural background and development of the source language, since works of fiction often contain cultural references, plays on words, slang and references to other works. Rhythm and style are also even more important in literary texts, and this type of translation is more like an art. Depending on the subject matter, a literary translator may encounter terms within a specific subject area.