Translation Myths

Common Misconceptions about translation

Myths surround translation like any industry. Here, we explore common translation myths.  Likewise, we hope you enjoy the post and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.

My friend speaks Spanish, so she’s a translator

Speaking a language and being a translator aren’t equal. To become a good linguist requires years of study and practice. It demands education, training, and practice. Consequently, not everyone who translates is a professional translator. The main certifying body in the US is the American Translators Association. To be certified, candidates must pass a rigorous exam. As a result, certified linguists demonstrate expertise in both their language and subject matter.

I need a translator at a trade show.

Another misconception about translation involves translating and interpreting – two different activities. Translation involves the written language, and interpretation involves the verbal (or spoken) language. Interpreting occurs in person, by phone, or by video. Translating involves documents, websites, and other published content.Similarly, each professional requires its own unique training and certification process.

Google translate woks fine, right?

Probably the most common translation myth! Machine translations consistently result in errors of all kind. Gender, tense, meaning, etc. Even the best software lacks the ability to infer context. At their best, the tools may provide a gist of the content. At their worst, they introduce errors that range from hilarious* to potentially hazardous. While a useful tool, algorithms still don’t capture the nuance of language. Until they do, a professional linguist works best!

I need a 500-page manual translated Monday!

A common translation misconception. Quality jobs require expertise and time. Translation, like any activity, needs smart planning and good timing. A quality translation includes translation, editing, proofing and QA. Consequently, complex documents require smart planning to produce a quality output. Ultimately, cutting corners results in sloppy or inaccurate work and damages credibility. To ensure quality, use professional linguist who adhere to good practices and quality.

* We had a client who used Google Translate for a teaching contract. Part of the contract included language about when and on what grounds teachers could be fired. The translation literally said that teachers could be “lit on fire.”

Charlie H.

Foreign Translations serves companies around the globe. Since 1998, we’ve offered language solutions in document website translationdesignITmultimedia & voice, and telephonic interpreting.  

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