Translation includes the study of lexis, grammar, communication situation, and cultural nuances of the start text. All these are essential to be analyzed in order to determine the right meaning of it. Once the meaning of the original or start language text is determined, it’s reconstructed in the target language using the appropriate vocabulary and grammatical structure. Now when the translation is done, it’s hard to point out the difference between a good and bad translation. It’s simply because every translation has certain points weaknesses and strengths. It also depends upon what approach or method of translation was used.

Speaking about methods or approaches of translation: literal translation and free translation are two basic translating skills. Proper use of these two translation approaches can make your translation better.

Table of Content

  1. Literal Translation
  2. Free Translation
  3. Literal vs. Free Translation
  4. Let’s Take UI Translation as an Example:
  5. Wrapping up

Literal Translation

Literal translation refers to a method to render text from one language to another by following closely the form of the source language. Definitely different from mechanical translation (word-for-word translation), literal translation shall provide a fluent and accurate translation that is easily comprehended by the readers of the target language.

Free Translation

Translation is a method to deliver the intended meaning of the source text without paying attention to details such as syntax, style, and so on of the original text. Free translation is suitable in case the translation is difficult to be understood or accepted by the readers or the translation does not as attractive or powerful as the original text by the approach of a literal translation.

Literal vs. Free Translation

People often get confused between literal and free translation. Moreover, they get confused about how to handle different types of translation. Which type of translation should be used? It depends solely on your target audience.

Keep in mind that the audience that is reading your text might be monolingual. Different from a translator, they will not check the source to help them understand the translated text. Literal translations are really difficult to read and comprehend.

It is because when the translator sticks too much to the source it loses the intended message; however, it is recommended to use literal translation when your document is full of technical terminologies.

On the other hand, if your content is generic then you should avoid literal translation and go for free translation. It will help your content sound natural in another language. To retain the original essence of the translation is the work of the skilled translator. If you follow some steps then you can provide your audience with seamless free translation

  • Do not copy the text like sentence structure and punctuation word to word from the source language.
  • Get a pause using the translation task and read the translation aloud to feel how natural the translation sounds.

Just like other things, it is very important to maintain a balance between literal translation and free translation. A good translation must portray two things

  • Depict a clear picture of the original text.
  • A sound text without any grammatical mistakes

Accurate translation means conveying the right message despite changing the order of the words and sentences. The translated text should sound like it is written for you.

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Let’s Take UI Translation as an Example:

Are you sure you want to permanently delete the selected user(s)?



When shipped from the factory, no passwords are set.



When the Security Indicator flashes, enter the password and press the Enter button.

当 Security Indicator 闪动时,输入密码然后再按一下“Enter”键。

当安全指示灯闪亮时,输入密码,然后按 Enter 键。

Double-click this icon to test your double-click settings. If this icon doesn’t change, adjust your settings using the grid above.”



When translating the UI strings, generally you can follow the syntax of the source text and get an accurate and acceptable translation. Please note such pronouns as “you”, “your”, “we”, etc. have not to be translated in most cases.

Besides UI strings, the literal translation is also suitable for mechanical, pharmaceutical, and even commercial materials:

Paper mills normally cook native (unmodified) or modified starch onsite to prepare it for use.



In modern paper plants, automation is used to ensure consistency and cost-effectiveness.



In papermaking, the coating working station is a circulation system that pumps the homogenized coating colors from the storage tanks in the coating color kitchen through filters in the processing tanks and then to the coating head.



Wrapping up

Whether it is the literal translation or free translation, you have to opt for the translation process according to your translation requirements. CCJK has a team of native translators who are also subject matter experts in their field. If you require a literal translation or a free translation, you can get services from proficient translators at a fast turnaround time and affordable rates.

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