Common misconceptions about the translation industry

Emanuel Longo | June 6, 2012

common misconceptions about translationWhen I tell people I work for a translation company, I am asked two questions: “What languages do you speak?” and “What does the company do?”

The translation industry, in which we are included as a Language Services Provider (LSP), faces many misconceptions. While many of these misconceptions are trivial, debunking some of the myths can help translation projects run more smoothly in the future.

Myth: We can translate any document in one hour.
Fact: Unless translators know to plan ahead for a possible document, the odds of translating a document within an hour or two are slim. We use human translators, and other assignments and personal lives must all be considered before they can accept an extra project. The size of the project is also important in figuring out how long it will take to translate, because a translator can only translate so many words in one hour!

Myth: Everyone who works in the language services industry speaks another language.
Fact: While the ability to speak another language is beneficial for understanding how other languages work, it’s not a requirement for working in the translation industry. Yes, of course, translators and interpreters must be fluent in two or more languages, but certain in-house positions do not require knowledge of an additional language, although I have found it useful in the past. The most important thing to remember is that the rules of one language don’t apply to all other languages.

Myth: As long as the audience gets the gist of what I’m saying, there’s no need for quality human translation.
Fact: If you’re translating a document for your own personal educational use and the document will not be seen by any greater audience, then this myth may not really be a myth. But if you’re translating a document for use in marketing, publishing or business communication, quality human translation is essential!

Myth: Anyone who speaks a second language can be a translator.
Fact: I wish. I really do. Quality translators are hard to come by, and once you’ve found one, you need to hold on to him or her. Translation is a skill—a great one! The ability to understand a document and convey the same information in a different language is one that cannot be easily dismissed. Speaking two languages is essentially like having two dictionaries in your head, and you need to remember which dictionary to access at any given time. While trying desperately to think of a word in one language, all you may be seeing are the pages of that second dictionary. Figuring out a way to minimize those mind blanks is essential/ Translating takes great finesse, practice and skill.

Myth: All translators can deliver quality translations in every subject area.
Fact: We receive documents for translation that are part of multiple industries and fields of expertise, ranging from website text (peppered with HTML coding), marketing materials, government forms and technical writing, to name a few. The odds are slim that someone has the desire and the experience to translate in all of these fields. We always strive to assign any given translation to someone who is an expert in that particular field. Not only will they have the vocabulary to make the final product just as good as the original, but they’ll be much more likely to understand the original document and keep its meaning through the translation.

Are there any other misconceptions about the translation industry that you’ve encountered? Let us know!


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