Avoid These 8 Common Errors in Translation

May 11, 2022

When the translation process is smoothly operated by native, professional translators, global corporations can reach out to audiences around the world with their desired messages. However, just a minor error in the process going wrong can fuel an embarrassing result for the company’s image. Hence, if you’re mapping out to localize your content, be wary of these 8 common errors in translation before hitting the road.

Verbatim translation from source languages to target languages

This is an open wide way to invite blunders to your translation. Although words might be precisely translated, it’s vital to know that different languages have different syntax, sentence structure, and subject-object agreement. For example, in French, inanimate objects are assigned gender while it is not applied in English. It’s also possible that the gender assigned in the two languages differs like “fatherland” in German shares the same meaning with “motherland” in English. Hence, you should bear in mind that the job requires you to translate the document without changing its meaning, not to make a literal translation. When you do a verbatim process, the resulting text will not make much sense, which can easily confuse readers.

Using inaccurate words

This frequently happens with inexperienced translators as they may use inappropriate words in specific contexts. There are some words, phrases, and jargon that have no similar replacement in the target language. In such situations, it’s a decent choice to remain the original term rather than trying to convey it. There is no need to translate every single word. This especially fits for the legal translation since there are plenty of Latin or French terms that are applied even in English documents, or in courts such as voire, habeas corpus, de facto, etc.

Exaggeration of word meaning

Well-versed linguists always attempt to produce the top-notch translation that may sometimes go over the top with exaggerated and complex words. If these phrases make the sentences wordy then they’re certainly not appreciated. It’s important to understand what the customer needs, and to proceed accordingly. Therefore, you should keep the translation output simple and closely connected to the scenarios but still be able to offer the highest quality.

Unable to convey intent behind languages

Missing the intent behind a translation may lead to big implications. If the translators technically correct the nuance of intent, they may completely change the meaning of sentences from the source language to another. A practical example would be the “Assume Nothing” campaign of HSBC Bank. The brand’s call to action was translated into “Do nothing”, which obviously doesn’t work out when the goal is to appeal to more people to use your service. This tagline was an awkward translation, leading to serious damage to HSBC’s reputation.

Accepting more workload than your ability

We all understand that the more work you handle, the more income you gain. However, don’t put yourself under workload pressure if you’re not aware of your working ability. The number of word translators can work on per day may vary widely. It depends on the time they need for research and their level of subject-matter expertise. However, there is no point in handling much more workload and not being able to complete the project on time. It’s always better to accept a moderate workload and keep your deadline promise rather than vice versa. After all, you don’t want to get stressed and have your health and timetable suffer from work.

Translating without paying attention to style and tone

Each type of content has a certain style of scripting, you should get familiar with it before starting the process. Otherwise, your translation could be disastrous. For example, if you apply the same style of the movie script to the printer manual, the users may be highly confused about how to properly install and use the machine. Another instance is when translating a book, it’s essential to follow the required style to define the approaching method. Will it be formal or informal? Is it necessary to translate the proper names or not? Always mind that inappropriate style will make the content soulless and unable the audience to fully understand the message.

Working in an industry that you are not proficient in

This could be referred to as an eye doctor not accepting patients with respiratory problems. As a translator, you should only welcome projects that are under topics you’re highly familiar with. Experience leads to expertise and will let you produce a top-notch translation of the topic that you’re specialized in. Otherwise, you may conduct an output full of vague meanings and incorrect jargon, which can ruin your prestige and reputation. Each niche has its specific style and tone as we mentioned earlier, and other special requirements, which can be complicated if you are not familiar with the industry. Hence, you need language plus subject specialization, and only handle work where you have experience in both.

Thinking languages never change or update

One of the most common errors in translation is to assume that languages remain stable all the time. Similar to the technology that updates every day, languages are also evolving but with a modest frequency. It’s important to update with new terms relating to your specialization then you can deliver a modern translation. Continuous learning is vital for translators to avoid off-guard situations when you encounter unfamiliar words and negative feedback about your old-fashioned results.

Knowing the pitfalls helps you to avoid them and prepare for a seamless working process. Bear in mind where you can go wrong, and ensure that you don’t commit these mentioned these common errors in translation in the future.


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