Clarifying General Misconceptions About Translation – Part I

Translation is one of the oldest professions of humankind and has played a crucial role in shaping global co-existence for millennia. Certainly, our world would not be the same if translation did not exist and today, in our globalised lives, most of us encounter translations every single day. But even though translation has been so important for such a long time, there are several huge misunderstandings and general misconceptions surrounding it. If you are planning to translate any type of content or if your professional position includes duties such as international communication or regional marketing management, this blog will certainly help you understand essential aspects of translation and get rid of wrong assumptions.

General Misconceptions About Translation

It is NOT true that every bilingual person can be a good translator

In many companies, it is pretty common to assign translation tasks to bilingual employees or friends/relatives, assuming that bilingualism alone is a sufficient qualification to translate. The truth, however, is that professional translation requires much, much more than bilingualism. Professional translators will, for example, specialise in certain areas (such as legal translation or financial translation) to make sure that they fully understand source texts. Professional translators also need to know how to use translation tools and be able to create translations in their native language that read naturally and do not contain errors (style, grammar, terminology, etc.). More than anything else, however, translators need years of experience and daily practice to actually become really good.

In short: There is simply no way around it: A professional company MUST use a professional translation service provider.


Translation is NOT fast

Most people severely underestimate the time it takes to produce a good translation. It might surprise you to read that even very experienced linguists normally just manage to translate a maximum of a few pages per day. And while many texts contain long passages that can be translated swiftly, most translators will confirm that it is often just a couple of short bits that require an intense amount of time to work on. One example: It might be possible to translate 10 sentences without any problem, but then the 11th sentence can easily take 30 minutes (or longer)to work on. This might be because the linguist will have to do research on highly specific terminology, because it is hard to find any good equivalent in the target language, because the original is not 100% clear, etc.

While a good translation does require a lot of time, it is clear that many translation projects are urgent. Good news is that there are certain things that professional language service providers can do to increase turnaround-time, for example applying CAT tools.

Translation is NOT fast

There is NOT only one right translation

Especially clients who order translations for the first time, often assume that “accurate translation” means that every word and every phrase in a source language will have a precise equivalent in target languages. In fact, however, for most words and phrases there will be several different options – all are accurate. This means that if you give the same source paragraph to 10 different translators (all who are experienced and professional), you will normally receive 10 different versions. That is because language is always subjective and each and every individual has personal preferences. Certainly, however, this does not mean that “anything goes” in translation. In fact, there are very clear indicators for what is correct/incorrect and what is a good/low quality translation.

There is NOT only one right translation

Machine translation will NOT make human translators superfluous

Advances in machine translation should not be denied. Machine translation can meanwhile work okayish for a set of grammatical structures, phrases and terms in certain language combinations. However, while machine translation can sometimes be handy to get some rough idea about what foreign language texts are about, it is certainly not reliable for critical information. In most cases, the output of machine translation will include parts that are grammatically incorrect, stylistically inappropriate or simply mistranslated. In more severe cases, however, mistranslations by machines will lead to undesirable consequences and for sure, there is absolutely no machine translation that actually “knows” or “understands” any input or output text, which is why no professional enterprise will rely on machine translation anytime soon (you can find out more here).

Machine translation

… and that’s still not all!

We know that most outsiders hold incorrect assumptions about translation and we are very eager to clarify them. Please stay tuned, as Part II of this blog will be online soon.

elionetwork has been providing translation services for around two decades. We are proud to have a huge number of returning clients who have been coming back to us for many years. At the same time, we are always excited to welcome new customers who have never ordered translations anywhere before. We understand that most of those first-time clients do need guidance when they order translations – and we are more than happy to advise them. Contact us now if you have any questions about translation or if you would like to request a free quote.