Common Phrases in Interpretation: What Does It Mean?

If you have never used interpretation or LSP (Language Service Provider) services before, navigating through the terminology can seem like a daunting task. To aid you in your quest to find the right service for your needs, here are the industry terms and common phrases explained. LSP services are better understood when one can avoid getting lost in translation.


“We have a video in XX language and would like the written text of what it is being said.”

“We need the spoken words of this video/audio file in writing.”

The service you need is TRANSCRIPTION. Transcription is a written text version of what is said in a video or audio file. There are a few different kinds, such as word-for-word verbatim transcription, intelligent transcription without interjections and summarised transcription. Another popular type is discourse transcription, a type of verbatim transcription that adds information on tone of voice, pauses, etc. Service rates are usually based per source minute. Once you provide the audio or video file, a professional transcriptionist will give you a text file which will have the specified transcription.

Rates are usually on a per minute basis, but will also vary depending on the level of work required. A transcription or SRT file can be provided by clients. Alternatively, SRT files are created from scratch. For subtitles in different languages, the transcription is translated first and then edited to fit in with the original video format. There will also be a fee to burn the subtitles on to the video file.


“Can we have the translation of this video?”

In this case, you are most likely after SUBTITLES, which is a written rendering of the dialogue or commentary in audiovisual media, displayed on the screen in sync with the audio. They can either be a translation of a dialogue in a foreign language, or a written rendering of the dialogue in the same language (Close Captions). In either case, they can have additional information on the soundtrack to make the video accessible to viewers who are deaf or hard of hearing. They can also include on-screen titles or text in graphics like street signs or newspaper headlines.

Live captions

“We need live subtitles.”

You actually need LIVE CAPTIONS (or REAL TIME SUBTITLES). In this case, all words heard during a live production are simultaneously translated and displayed as text in the foreign language on the video live broadcast. As live captionists are not translators, this is possible if a live captionist can capture the interpretation of the live speech into the particular foreign language required. Software solutions are available to aid in speech-to-text services in real-time in another language.

SRT master file

“I need the spoken text in a written file with time codes.”

Here, you need an SRT MASTER FILE, the transcript with timestamps included. Subtitlers translate the master SRT file to another language. The file is first checked for accuracy (i.e., matching the timecodes) before translation. Subtitlers then use a specialised software to load the video, master SRT file and the translated subtitles. The rates are usually based per source minute or sometimes per word.

Audio description

“We need audio for hard of hearing or deaf individuals.”

The term for this service is AUDIO DESCRIPTION (alternatively, REAL TIME CAPTIONS). Audio description is a live transcription of the dialogue and conveys a description of what is happening, assuming the audience cannot hear. It will appear as text in videos of the live broadcast. Along with live captions during the event, a transcripted file with time codes will be provided after the event. Captions are similar to subtitles and not full verbatim of the entire dialogue. They are monolingual in that the captions provided are in the same language as the spoken language. Specially trained live captionists provide audio description services, usually charging by the hour. They use specialised software and work in pairs for events longer than an hour.

Voiceover recording

“I need the video/audio dubbed.”

The service you want is VOICEOVER RECORDING WITH SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETATION, which refers to post-production synchronisation and overlay of the simultaneous interpretation audio on to the source video. Only certain trained conference interpreters can provide this service if they have proper equipment for recording clean tracks of their simultaneous interpretation. Alternatively, an AV production specialist can capture the interpreter’s recording via Zoom or vMix and work on the post-production tasks afterwards to synchronise and overlay the audio on to the video file. Interpreters’ fees vary based on the language needed, the length of the original video and the topic at hand.

Community interpretation

“…with a medical appointment or hospital surgery.”

“…with a school meeting or interview.”

You are probably after COMMUNITY INTERPRETATION, which is interpretation provided in a community setting. Examples include medical settings, public housing, schools, hospitals and legal settings. Another term for this service is DIALOGUE INTERPRETING or PUBLIC SERVICE INTERPRETING. A community interpreter will use the appropriate mode and strategy of interpreting based on the particular situation. For instance, for a housing application, police interview or medical check-up, the interpreter will use short dialogue or liaison interpreting. An asylum seeker’s narrative or a vulnerable witness in court may need consecutive interpreting with note-taking. A single or limited number of clients may require simultaneous interpreting, usually whispered (chuchotage).

Consecutive interpreting

“I would like a translator to help with my meeting.”

“We need a translator on-site to translate our meeting/discussion/arbitration.”

This is a specific type of interpreting, CONSECUTIVE INTERPRETING. The speaker talks for a short period and pauses for the interpreter to translate. Because of the pauses, it normally takes longer than simultaneous interpretation. Small group discussions, legal proceedings, arbitration, interviews and speeches often use consecutive interpreting. It does require an interpreter with good note-taking skills and professional training. This service is available for both in-person and online meetings and does not require any specialised equipment. Consecutive interpreters tailor their professional demeanour to the nature of the assignment.

Simultaneous interpretation

“We are running an event on Zoom and would like to offer ‘live translation’/interpretation to the participants.”

You want to offer SIMULTANEOUS INTERPRETATION, delivered remotely via Zoom. Simultaneous interpretation is real-time interpretation of what is being spoken from a particular audio into the target foreign language. Specially trained conference interpreters provide simultaneous interpretation services. Large translation agencies tend to deliver poor service as they normally focus on written translation. Whereas smaller specialist providers in the market, like WordlyWise Interpreting, excel in providing high-quality simultaneous interpretation services. Simultaneous interpreters always work in pairs, alternating every 20 or 30 minutes.

To run multilingual events online successfully, in-meeting support tends to be crucial and requires prep work like briefings and rehearsals. Clients can also utilise the live-streaming function Zoom offers. Combined with broadcasting software, the Zoom live video feed can be relayed to a chosen website (like YouTube, Facebook, or the event host’s website) in just one of the specific languages being simultaneously interpreted. This is also a cost-effective way to retain video footage of one’s event in the primary language without having to pay extra for post-event subtitling.