The 6 don’ts of translation

Translation is a minefield, and not just anybody can do it. There are several factors that have to be taken into account when commencing any piece of translation. We list just a few, and explain why and how these can lead to mistakes.

1. Don’t assume that all native speakers can translate

Translation is much more than simply knowing a language, years have to be dedicated to fully begin to understand the intricacies of translation.

Using a native speaker might mean that they do speak the language, and can write in it, however it doesn’t mean that they can effectively convert what you want to say from one language to another.

This is also the case for those who are not experts in certain fields. If someone doesn’t have the industry specific knowledge, then their translation won’t make any sense. It is always necessary to use translators who are not only experienced, but also have a specialism within a certain industry.

2. Don’t ignore the tone of voice

If you’re looking for a fun, quirky tone, then this must be kept consistent across all languages and translations. It would be no good receiving something that wouldn’t look out of place in an 18th century novel. The tone and style of the language is one of the most important parts of any piece of work or marketing material.

Capturing the correct tone is a vital part of the translation process, and one that requires a lot of experience and know-how to truly master.

3. Don’t use word-for-word translations

All languages are different; they all have their own style of grammar, and their own style of writing. Some languages, such as Japanese and Persian, don’t follow the subject verb object order in sentences. Therefore, if you were to translate a sentence from English into one of these languages, using the same grammatical structure, then it would make no sense.

The same could be said for translating idioms or phrases; it’s incredibly rare that any phrases would literally translate across any languages.

Talented translators will make sure to use similar idioms across languages, as turns of phrase are often some of the most unique parts of any language.

4. Don’t ignore cultural sensitivities

Certain phrases and imagery might sound nice in one language, however have an entirely different meaning in another language. Language impacts of culture, and vice versa, therefore it is important to not only think of the language that you’re translating into, but also the culture that it will reach.

5. Don’t confuse synonyms

Just because a word might technically mean the same thing as another, doesn’t mean that they can be used interchangeably.

There are some adjectives that may only fit for inanimate objects, and using them for a person would be either humorous, rude, or both.

6. Don’t skip proof-reading

We’ve all written a piece of work and been so keen to finish it, that we didn’t take the time to proofread it later. This leads to silly mistakes; missing punctuation, incorrect spelling, and sounding nonsensical. Using qualified proofreaders guarantees that your work will be of the highest possible quality, and it eliminates any silly errors that have slipped under the radar.


These are just 6 typical examples of places where translations tend to go wrong. Using a professional translator is absolutely vital to avoid making any of these mistakes. Making mistakes when translating is often very costly to fix, and if it’s on an international scale, then a certain amount of damage control will be vital. Therefore, employees professionals, with degrees in translation, and industry specific knowledge is a vital way to move forward, and to be seen on a global level.

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