Mitochondria are cellular organelles responsible for generation of chemical energy in the process called oxidative phosphorylation. They originate from a bacterial ancestor and maintain their own genome, which is expressed by designated, mitochondrial transcription and translation machineries that differ from those operating for nuclear gene expression. In particular, the mitochondrial protein synthesis machinery is structurally and functionally very different from that governing eukaryotic, cytosolic translation. Despite harbouring their own genetic information, mitochondria are far from being independent of the rest of the cell and, conversely, cellular fitness is closely linked to mitochondrial function. Mitochondria depend heavily on the import of nuclear-encoded proteins for gene expression and function, and hence engage in extensive inter-compartmental crosstalk to regulate their proteome. This connectivity allows mitochondria to adapt to changes in cellular conditions and also mediates responses to stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. With a focus on mammals and yeast, we review fundamental insights that have been made into the biogenesis, architecture and mechanisms of the mitochondrial translation apparatus in the past years owing to the emergence of numerous near-atomic structures and a considerable amount of biochemical work. Moreover, we discuss how cellular mitochondrial protein expression is regulated, including aspects of mRNA and tRNA maturation and stability, roles of auxiliary factors, such as translation regulators, that adapt mitochondrial translation rates, and the importance of inter-compartmental crosstalk with nuclear gene expression and cytosolic translation and how it enables integration of mitochondrial translation into the cellular context.