Common Mistakes In Translation – Speak Your Language

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Common Mistakes In Translation

Posted on: November 15, 2021 by admin

Communicating in a foreign language can be very challenging. You need to consider many things including tone, tempo and slang words. There are many benefits to using a translator with a native tongue. They will have a firm understanding of the culture and the true meaning of phrases. There are many common translation mistakes and things to look out for when using a translator, and we have touched on them below.


Not a Native Speaker

Using a native translator can ensure that the meaning of the words holds their integrity. It can help ensure that no information gets excluded from the original document and guarantee a natural-sounding translated document. A native speaker’s localised text will naturally be smoother and likely contain no cultural, social and linguistic errors when compared to non-native translators. It will help avoid sounds and fundamental linguistic mistakes, and the reader will be able to understand the intended information immediately. Native translators are always one step ahead!


If you go with a translation performed by someone fluent in the target language, the contrast will be strong. The language will be based on the literal translation of sentences and phrases, which doesn’t necessarily leave a good impression on your reader.


Lack Of Technical Knowledge

Translation requires technical knowledge. By that, we mean a fluent understanding of the subject in which you are translating. For example, if you studied engineering, it’s probably safe to assume you can’t spout off legal terms! Now imagine doing that in a foreign language. Technical translation requires not only linguistic but subject matter experience. Your translater should have a crystal clear understanding of the field that requires translation to avoid any vital errors. Engaging in a translator that is well immersed in the industry-specific terminology ensures a professional and accurate translation that conveys the original message. If your translator isn’t well-versed in the industry, it can lead to severe misinterpretation. You wouldn’t go to a medical practitioner for automotive advice; the same theory applies to translation.


Understand The Difference Between English

Another factor to consider when using a translator is understanding the difference between British and North American English. Translating using incorrect English will impact your documents, especially documents that are used for migration purposes.


English differences include:

  • Color vs. Colour
  • Favor vs. Favour
  • Organization vs. Organisation


Although British and American English share the same mother tongue, pronunciation and spelling vary across the board, and your translator must have a fluid understanding of this.


Failing To Translate The Meaning

It’s one thing to translate text from one language to another but when you are translating essential documents, your translation should convey the meaning behind the original document. This allows you to extract all the expressions, points and accurately translate them into the target language. There’s no point in translating a document if it’s going to lose its meaning. Translation accuracy is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the message, and we’re not just talking about words. This includes concepts and knowledge about the target market, customers, culture and grammar.


Word For Word Translation

It’s guaranteed that errors and issues will occur if you have a translator doing word for word translation, also known as ‘literal translation’. This is considered bad practice and will result in a mistranslation of idioms and other grammatical differences that can affect the meaning of your text.


For example, the word ‘gift’ in English has a very different meaning in Germany and other European countries, which is the word used for ‘poison.’ See what we mean? That’s a no-no when it comes to translation.


You can have a 10-word sentence in English that might only be a 4-word sentence in a different country. If you were to approach translating this using a word-for-word approach, you would lose the sentence’s meaning and could confuse the reader. It is unsuited for consumer-facing content.


Exaggeration Of Word

Exaggeration is another factor you should look out for. Sometimes translators will go over the top in an attempt to be diligent. It’s best to avoid this altogether- it’s not required nor appreciated, especially when addressing complicated and technical terms. It’s best to keep the translation clear, concise and straight to the point.

As a translator, having a thorough understanding of what your client needs and is looking for to achieve can help avoid this. You want to honour the original message and consider the tone and flow that it was written in.


There are many factors to consider when translating professional documents. Speak Your Language provides NAATI certified translation services. Our NAATI certified translators and interpreters provide customised solutions throughout Australia. Contact us today or click here to submit a translation quote.