Services | 30.11.2015

Translation myths debunked

We hear it all the time: international borders are becoming invisible as globalisation brings the world closer together. This puts translation firmly on the list of must-haves for most international businesses, but how much of what we know about translation is true? Here, we take a look at the top three myths about the translation sector in a bid to separate fact from fiction.

Translation consists of replacing source words with target words

For many non-linguists, translation is often seen as a rudimentary process in which the target language simply replaces the source, but this is not the case. Grammatical differences and implications surrounding words and the shades of meaning that tie a language together are aspects often left unconsidered. A German joke, a French compliment, an Italian euphemism – there really is nothing like your native tongue to ensure all the subtleties are conveyed. Using linguists who work exclusively into their native tongue promises material which is both accurate and appropriate. Above and beyond merely substituting source for target, a translator has the specialist know-how and experience to ensure the slight nuances of the source language are aptly conveyed in the target.

  • Being bilingual or multilingual qualifies you to be a translator

Speaking another language certainly puts you in a favourable position to answer questions such as “how do you say ….. in French?” or “what’s the Portuguese word for….?”. What it won’t do however, is make you a professional translator. In the same way that many of us can cook but would never consider ourselves chefs, the same is true of translation and interpretation: they are professions which require higher qualifications and extensive experience to be considered professional. Here at The Translation People, our translators are registered and tested professional linguists who have been recruited in accordance with translation standard BS EN 15038. This means that the translator working on your project won’t just speak the necessary foreign language, but they will be qualified, experienced and highly specialised in it. Our dedicated Vendor Manager is continually reviewing our suppliers to ensure we have linguists with a multitude of language combinations and skills If you have specific requirements or operate in a niche market we would be pleased to assist.

  • Machine translation will wipe out the demand for human translation

As computer systems get smarter and we learn more about how machines best process translations, the quality of machine translation output is indeed improving. There’s no denying that popular automated translation tools can give you a prompt, comprehensible solution to an otherwise foreign message and in some circumstances this may be the exact solution that you are looking for. However, machine translation is actually fuelling the demand for human translation, with translation named the fastest-growing career in the United States[1]. Machine translated content highlights in black and white what a machine cannot do, and what it may never be able to do. It will never have the backing of a human conscience taking into account context, coherence, connotations or cultural awareness. It can churn out large amounts of data in virtually no time at all, but it cannot comprehend humour or cultural references, for example. As many linguists have observed, computers are devices which can amplify human output, not replace it.

What have we missed? If there are any common conceptions about the localisation sector that you’d like an insider’s answer on, get in touch and let us know.

[1]Tolan, C. (2015, June 9) Why translation is the fastest-growing career in the country. Retrieved from

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