five translation mistakes to avoid
Posted by Anna Stevenson on May 11, 2023
Are you aiming to reach an international audience? Then translation should probably be high up on your to-do list. Too often, though, translation is an afterthought – or even overlooked altogether. At scriever, we’ve heard all the myths and misconceptions about translation. Here’s a round-up of the most common ones, to help you get your message across and avoid costly mistakes.
(1) ‘Let’s just run it through Google Translate’
Yes, online translation tools are improving rapidly: if you’re on holiday abroad, chances are you’ve got the tools in your pocket to be able to ask for directions to the museum, or a vegetarian pizza. But for anything more complex, you need the human touch if you want to go beyond the literal and avoid becoming a #badtranslation meme.
(2) ‘My mate Dave speaks French – I’m sure he could translate the English site’
Dave may have read the complete works of Proust in the original. He may know all the words to ‘La Marseillaise’, and be able to fluently debate the performance of Les Bleus in a Paris bar. But, if he doesn’t live, breathe and dream en français, we don’t recommend he translates into French.
That’s because, no matter how well you speak a foreign language, you’re unlikely to capture every nuance and turn of phrase to make your writing sound truly natural – which, after all, is the aim of translation. What’s more, even the biggest grammar geek is likely to slip up somewhere (Do I use the subjunctive here? Is this word followed by the present tense or the future?) And that doesn’t make a good impression on clients – if you can’t get the basics right, why should they trust you?
This is why, at scriever, we only work with translators working into their mother tongue. That means if you’re launching your app in Japan, we’ll get one of our trusted native Japanese speakers to translate it – ensuring you always have the right words.
(3) ‘Pass me the dictionary, I’ll figure it out’
Translation isn’t code-breaking – deciphering the words one by one and putting them next to each other. You need to be a skilled writer in your own language, so your text ‘sounds right’ as well as being accurate.
The translators we work with at scriever are talented professionals. Often, they’re experts in a particular field, maintaining up-to-date glossaries of industry terms to ensure accuracy and consistency. And they keep up to date with the languages and cultures they work with, ensuring they capture every nuance of the original text.
(4) ‘We don’t need translation, most of our clients understand English’
Maybe they do – but there’s no guarantee. It’s true that in today’s global marketplace, many people are used to accessing content in a second language. But why should they have to? And why would you put up barriers to your clients? Users decide within seconds whether or not a website is helpful – if they can’t easily find what they need, they click over to something else. Let us help you make your content as relevant and accessible as it can be.
(5) ‘I could get it done cheaper’
Yes. Yes, you probably could. But if you don’t speak the target language, you’re putting a lot of trust in your translator. Wouldn’t you rather work with a proven expert than outsource your work to the lowest bidder? Compromising on quality could harm your customer experience – which impacts your reputation and, ultimately, your bottom line.
At scriever, we’ve got all your translation needs covered. We’re experienced translators ourselves, and if we don’t speak your language, we’ll find someone who can! And with our multilingual typesetting expertise, we’ll ensure it looks great on the page or screen too.
Large or small, print or digital – you can trust us to deliver your international project accurately and on time.