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Transcription and Translation

MEANINGS AND USAGE

Transcription and translation in the language and communications industry,​ without a doubt,​ need a bit of clarification. These are,​ in one respect,​ two different services,​ and on the other hand,​ understandably interchangeable terms.

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

Transcription is the process of converting speech (either live or recorded) into a written or electronic text document. According to Wikipedia,​ “transcription services are often provided for business,​ legal,​ or medical purposes. The most common type of transcription is from a spoken-language source into text such as a computer file suitable for printing as a document such as a report. Common examples are the proceedings of a court hearing such as a criminal trial (legal transcription by a court reporter) or a physician’s recorded voice notes (medical transcription)”.

Generally speaking,​ translation refers to words (whether in audio or text format) that are changed from one language into another,​ so from Arabic into Lebanese,​ or Russian into Spanish for example.

TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION DEFINITIONS

The first two definitions below,​ from the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary,​ convey this process of change from language to language.

A simple definition of translation?

  • words that have been changed from one language into a different language: words that have been translated
  • the act or process of translating something into a different language
  • the act or process of changing something from one form to another

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

It’s the third definition from Merriam-Webster that causes a little confusion and accounts for the tangling and confusion of transcription and translation: the act or process of changing something from one form to another.

While transcription occurs in one language only – whether English,​ Polish or German – it does go through a process of “changing something from one form to another”. As mentioned previously,​ transcription is the “translation” of live or recorded speech into a text document. So while the language remains the same – English recording into English speech,​ for example – the form changes (audio into text),​ or in other words,​ the form is “translated”.

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