8 Misconceptions About Translation – Part I of II

  1. Translation is just changing words into another language

There is much more to translation than just switching each word from one language to another. Things like idioms, metaphors, and other figurative language cannot be translated word for word because the translation would not retain the underlying meaning. Translators must analyze sentences or paragraphs as a whole so that they can translate the intended meaning of the text instead of just each word on its own.

Translators also must spend time preparing, editing, and formatting in order to produce a suitable translation.

  1. Any bilingual person can translate

A qualified translator is not just any person who can speak two languages fluently. Translators should have a degree or at least a certificate in translation studies, as there is more to the process than just being able to communicate in both languages. Translators have a code of ethics to follow, strategies they can use to more effectively translate the exact message, and specialized knowledge of the industry for which they will be translating.

  1. If you speak one dialect of a language, you can translate any document in that language.

Though many people are under the impression that all speakers of a language use the same vocabulary, slang, and grammar, this is not exactly true. American English speakers can always understand British English, but they will know that each dialect uses slightly different spelling, vocabulary, and slang. The differences between English dialects, though, is nothing compared to the variations between dialects in some other languages. Spain Spanish and Latin American Spanish have different vocabularies and even slightly different grammars. And even though Argentina is part of Latin America, its dialect of Spanish is almost as distinct as Spain’s. The Arabic language takes dialects to a new level. The variation goes far beyond vocabulary and slang. The grammars of each dialect differ drastically from each other, and many dialects are not mutually intelligible. A translator must have a thorough knowledge of the specific dialect with which they are working or the translation will seem awkward to the readers.

  1. Everyone speaks English anyway these days!

Though English is one of the most studied second languages and has sort of become the main language of international business, English is far from being spoken by the entire global population. Even within countries with English as one of their official languages, there are many residents who do not understand English at all, or if they do, they have a very limited grasp of the language. If you are hoping to reach out to potential clients or partners, you must consider the language that makes them feel the most comfortable. Even if the person you are reaching out to does speak English, they will always respond better to someone who understands their language and culture. People are much more likely to do business with someone who is communicating with them in their mother tongue. The same applies to websites since 73% of internet users access the web in a language besides English.

Look out for our next post to learn 4 more common misconceptions about translation!


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Nisar, the dynamic force behind Translation Excellence, stands tall as its founder and CEO. This isn’t just any company—it’s a global heavyweight in boutique language services. Hailing from the vibrant city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nisar brought his passion and expertise to the U.S. shores in 2001. In the realm of languages, he’s a titan. With 19 years under his belt, he’s worn hats from a linguist and instructor to a cultural bridge-builder and curriculum craftsman.

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