5 Biggest Challenges Faced by Translators

March 21, 2022

Every translator should know that being a translator includes much more than just being bilingual. Being a translator requires the ability to interpret and transcribe a message that adapts the most to the target audience while also dealing with the linguistic and cultural challenges in translation.

As you can already see, being a professional translator copes with many challenges. In this article, we will discuss the 5 most important translation challenges that translators face frequently.

Read more: 5 Steps to Develop a Language Access Plan For Your Healthcare Organization

1. Linguistic Challenges in Translation

The first linguistic challenge that good translators must overcome is word-to-word translation. Many translators find it difficult not to fall into the trap of literal translation. Translating expressions literally does not usually work since its meaning might completely change.

English has more than 160 different dialects all around the world. And this number is gradually increasing thanks to the diversity in delivery and pronunciation in local cultures in the world.

To overcome this obstacle, translators must seamlessly learn to keep updated with every new dialect or change in a language.

2. Cultural Challenges in Translation

Each country has its separate culture and way of conveying messages. Think about language, symbols, shorthand, etc. Depending on what cultural background is communicated, these messages might get a different expression. Therefore, translators should not only know the languages that they are working with but also need to have a comprehensive understanding of the cultural background to translate a text accurately.

This requires a combination of two disciplines: translation and interpretation, because of the need to contemplate the translated word inside a written context and a spoken context.

3. Sector Expertise and Multidisciplinary Background Needs

There are many different types of translation. All these types of translation take place within a different sector and cannot be translated by a translator who does not have knowledge about the field.

For example, laws also known as legal translation, have a whole set of rules and cannot be simply translated word for word. 

Sector Expertise and Multidisciplinary Background Needs

Another skill that a professional translator should have is creativity. For instance, when you want to translate a slogan that rhymes, it is not always rhyming when you translate it literally to another language.

This slogan should be adapted in a separate way by the translator, who also has to think about the target audience’s society and lifestyle. This requires a lot of creativity from the translator and makes literary translation one of the hardest disciplines in translation.

4. Specialized Translation or Specific Content Translation

When it comes to translating specific or specialized content, it may be a big challenge for many translators. For example, when a translator translates films, he has to use the right words and the right expressions in a way that will adapt the scene to keep the story coherent.

Another example is when translators are translating texts from books or poems. These texts need to keep the original message and writing style that makes the author unique. Translating specific content is a challenging task and requires a lot of effort from translators.

5. Loss of Translation / Untranslatable Words

Some words in one language do not have a direct translation in other languages. When this happens, we call it loss of translation. Some examples of these are the following:

𝗦𝗵𝗲𝗺𝗼𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗷𝗮𝗺 in Georgian refers to eating something because it’s so yummy and delicious, even though you’re not hungry.

𝗔𝗸𝗶𝗵𝗶 comes from the Hawaiian and is used when you ask someone for directions and immediately forget what they said as soon as you walk off.

𝗞𝗮𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗻 (改善) is a Japanese term that means “change for the better” or “continuous improvement”.

These words do not have a direct translation in other languages. As a translator, you need to deliver the right message. This challenge requires you to have more skills than just being able to find the correct words. A good translator should be aware of this challenge and know how to localize messages accurately.


Thanks for staying until the end, we hope this article helped you learn something new on the main challenges of translation. Please do not forget to check our Blog to learn about this and other topics related to translation.

Wise-Concetti provides Documents Translation for all kinds of documents. With our prompt and accurate interpretation, we focus on building trusting relationships with partners from around the world. We also have become a fast-rising player in the translation industry.


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