Due to Western colonialism and cultural dominance in recent centuries, Western translation traditions have largely replaced other traditions. The Western traditions draw on both ancient and medieval traditions, and on more recent European innovations.

Though earlier approaches to translation are less commonly used today, they retain importance when dealing with their products, as when historians view ancient or medieval records to piece together events which took place in non-Western or pre-Western environments. Also, though heavily influenced by Western traditions and practiced by translators taught in Western-style educational systems, Chinese and related translation traditions retain some theories and philosophies unique to the Chinese tradition.

Translations into European languages from Arabic versions of lost Greek and Roman texts began in the middle of the eleventh century, when the benefits to be gained from the Arabs’ knowledge of the classical texts were recognised by European scholars, particularly after the establishment of the Escuela de Traductores de Toledo in Spain.

Caxton’s ‘Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres‘ (Sayings of the Philosophers, 1477), was a translation into English of an eleventh century Egyptian text, which reached English through its translation into Latin and then French.

Though Indianized states in Southeast Asia often translated Sanskrit material into the local languages, the literate elites and scribes more commonly used Sanskrit as their primary language of culture and government.

Link proposes a kind of uncertainty principle that may be applicable not only to translation from the Chinese language, but to all translation:

Arabic translation efforts and techniques are important to Western translation traditions due to centuries of close contacts and exchanges. Especially after the Renaissance, Europeans began more intensive study of Arabic and Persian translations of classical works as well as scientific and philosophical works of Arab and oriental origins. Arabic, and to a lesser degree Persian, became important sources of material and perhaps of techniques for revitalized Western traditions, which in time would overtake the Islamic and oriental traditions.

had conceded defeat in their centuries-old battle to contain the corrupting effects of the printing press, [an] explosion in publishing ... ensued. Along with expanding secular education, printing transformed an overwhelmingly illiterate society into a partly literate one.

In the past, the sheikhs and the government had exercised a monopoly over knowledge. Now an expanding elite benefitted from a stream of information on virtually anything that interested them. Between 1880 and 1908... more than six hundred newspapers and periodicals were founded in Egypt alone.

Nevertheless, in certain contexts a translator may consciously seek to produce a literal translation. Translators of literary, religious, or historic texts often adhere as closely as possible to the source text, stretching the limits of the target language to produce an unidiomatic text. Also, a translator may adopt expressions from the source language in order to provide "local color".

Il s'agit donc de trouver les équivalents. Et là, ma chère, je vous prie laissez vous guider plutôt par votre tempérament que par une conscience sévère ...

Sworn translation, also called "certified translation," aims at legal equivalence between two documents written in different languages. It is performed by someone authorized to do so by local regulations, which vary widely from country to country. Some countries recognize self-declared competence. Others require the translator to be an official state appointee. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, certain government institutions require that translators be accredited by certain translation institutes or associations in order to be able to carry out certified translations.

Computer-assisted translation (CAT), also called "computer-aided translation," "machine-aided human translation" (MAHT) and "interactive translation," is a form of translation wherein a human translator creates a target text with the assistance of a computer program. The machine supports a human translator.

These tools speed up and facilitate human translation, but they do not provide translation. The latter is a function of tools known broadly as machine translation. The tools speed up the translation process by assisting the human translator by memorizing or committing translations to a database (translation memory database) so that if the same sentence occurs in the same project or a future project, the content can be reused. This translation reuse leads to cost savings, better consistency and shorter project timelines.

A 1998 nonfiction book by Robert Wechsler on literary translation as a performative, rather than creative, art

The broad historic trends in Western translation practice may be illustrated on the example of translation into the English language.

As a language evolves, texts in an earlier version of the language—original texts, or old translations—may become difficult for modern readers to understand. Such a text may therefore be translated into more modern language, producing a "modern translation" (e.g., a "modern English translation" or "modernized translation").

Modern translation often involves literary scholarship and textual revision, as there is frequently not one single canonical text. This is particularly noteworthy in the case of the Bible and Shakespeare, where modern scholarship can result in substantive textual changes.

Modern translation meets with opposition from some traditionalists. In English, some readers prefer the Authorized King James Version of the Bible to modern translations, and Shakespeare in the original of ca. 1600 to modern translations.

Translation of sung texts is generally much more restrictive than translation of poetry, because in the former there is little or no freedom to choose between a versified translation and a translation that dispenses with verse structure. One might modify or omit rhyme in a singing translation, but the assignment of syllables to specific notes in the original musical setting places great challenges on the translator. There is the option in prose sung texts, less so in verse, of adding or deleting a syllable here and there by subdividing or combining notes, respectively, but even with prose the process is almost like strict verse translation because of the need to stick as closely as possible to the original prosody of the sung melodic line.

Other considerations in writing a singing translation include repetition of words and phrases, the placement of rests and/or punctuation, the quality of vowels sung on high notes, and rhythmic features of the vocal line that may be more natural to the original language than to the target language. A sung translation may be considerably or completely different from the original, thus resulting in a contrafactum.