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Translation is the process of communicating the meaning of a source-language text via the use of an equivalent target-language text in another language. A terminological distinction between translating (a written text) and interpreting (oral or signed communication between users of different languages) is made in the English language (which is not made in every language); under this distinction, translation can only begin after the appearance of writing within a language community.

A translator always runs the danger of unintentionally introducing vocabulary, grammar, or syntax from the source language into the target language rendering. On the other hand, similar "spill-overs" have sometimes brought in valuable source-language calques and loanwords that have enhanced the target languages in which they have been introduced. Translators, especially early translators of holy writings, have played an important role in the development of the languages into which they have worked.

In response to the time-consuming nature of the translation process, attempts have been undertaken, with various degrees of success, since the 1940s to automate translation or to mechanically assist the human translator. More recently, the growth of the Internet has enabled the development of a global market for translation services as well as the process of "language localization."