Literal translation – transference of one language format to another following the form of the source language and using the ‘verbum pro verbo’ principle. This is also known as metaphrase process and commonly used in technical translation and legal annotation conversions to preserve the original format of the text undermining the context of the original text.
In the light of contextual aspect, literal translation can be considered as erroneous since it does not carry the register of the source language.
As for usage, literal translation can be a very useful tool for translation preparation as it serves as a foundation in translating unfamiliar language format.
In communication, literal translation is currently being used in the form of machine translation. One the most common example of these would be internet translators (i.e. babelfish, google translate, microsofttranslator, freetranslation, worldlingo, etc.)
Without the tweaking process of human translators, machine translation could be misleading and sometimes totally erroneous. The common result of this would be pidgins or translation with reference to the target language’s native format and mistranslations that contextually unacceptable.