Five Common Translation Misconceptions | Blog

Five Common Translation Misconceptions

Five Common Translation Misconceptions

Friday, 6 June 2014

5 common translation misconception

Some people believe that simply knowing a second language is enough to make someone a translator. Without knowledge of the many skills required of a professional translator, people sometimes overlook the hard work and value of these language experts. In this article, we’ll look at the five most common misconceptions about translation.

1. Being bilingual automatically makes anybody a translator.

Being bilingual simply means that you have a thorough knowledge of two languages. However, translation is not a simple word-for-word exchange. Rather, translating involves a deep understanding of the text written in the source language and a talent for choosing the best words and expressions to most accurately convey that message in the target language – something which not all bilingual people can do.

This doesn’t mean that you cannot be a good translator unless you have a translation degree – there are plenty of excellent translators who have not had formal training. But unfortunately, there are many people who advertise themselves as translators simply because they have studied a foreign language in high school or speak a second language at home. The reality is that being a fluent speaker does not make you a proficient translator by default; it doesn’t guarantee that you can write in the second language, let alone accurately translate into it.

2. Modern translation machines make human translators unnecessary.

The translation technology available on the market today may be getting better, but it is still far from being able to provide a consistently accurate and reliable translation. Because machines translate sentences in complete isolation from their context, they are not able to understand the different meanings, let alone the nuances, that a particular word may have. Therefore, machine-translated text often ends up being a disjointed and unintelligible string of words.

In addition, machine translation fails to take into account the differences in word order that often exist between the source language and the target language. This failing results in awkwardly worded sentences that require rewriting by a human translator in order for the text to make any sense at all.

3. Proofreading can fix a bad translation.

Sometimes translation clients ask us to proofread or edit documents that have been translated either by machine or by someone lacking a thorough knowledge of the source and/or target languages. But what these clients often don’t realize is that “editing” this kind of translation usually involves translating the entire document again almost from scratch. This retranslation inevitably results in higher fees and often takes longer than simply performing the original translation in the first place.

4. A 5,000-word document can be delivered in two hours.

Have you ever tried typing 5,000 words in two hours? You need to be really quick! Actually having a human translate 5,000 words in two hours is not feasible.  It is difficult to estimate exactly how many words a translator can translate per hour; it depends on a number of factors, such as the type of text to be translated, the subject matter (a highly technical article rich in specialised jargon takes longer than a general text), and the format.

On average, however, an experienced professional translator can translate approximately 300 to 700 words per hour. At this rate, it would take between 7 and 16 hours to translate a 5,000-word document. Within a translation agency, a group of translators may work on the text simultaneously, so the translation may be ready sooner. However, you should always bear in mind that if your goal is a high-quality translation, you definitely need to allow enough time for the work to be done correctly.

5. Every translator will translate a text the same way.

Different translators may translate the same sentence in different ways – all of them correct. Translation, like language itself, is not an exact science, and there is no one uniquely correct way of conveying an idea in another language. It is true, however, that some translations will be more appropriate for the context or more in tune with the target audience.  A translation language service provider that deals with multiple languages and many projects often are best acquainted with your document’s particular industry and target audience.

Karen CEO 70

Written by:
Karen Hodgson, CEO of Translationz

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