AVOIDING TRANSLATION & INTERPRETATION ERRORS

Errors in translation from language to language can be expected, even with live translators. One way to get past it is to test a translator before engaging them. Here are some common errors and ways to test them, using English as one of the languages.

The two most common sources of translation errors are a translator’s poor reading skills and their misinterpretation of English meanings. Even when a translator knows both languages well, problems arise with one language not having equivalent words in the other, but when a translator is faced with the above issues, it’s almost impossible to translate accurately.

Translation is not easy.

A detour sign in Kyushu, Japan, reads: Stop! Drive sideways.

A sign in a Hong Kong tailor shop says: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

Both of these translations are funny, not only because they are inaccurate, but because English speakers can see how the translator arrived at each. In both, it’s clear that the translators were native speakers with no real experience in an English speaking country.

Poor reading skills.

Translators who don’t fully understand English often make mistakes in reading. For example, “hop” has a far different meaning from “hope,” yet they are easily misread. “Bunnies hop to their burrows for safety,” does not mean the same as “Bunnies hope to find safety in their burrows.” This may seem a small difference, but when someone is translating your business, political, or financial documents this way, the effects of mistranslation can be monumental. Test your translator by having them read aloud.

Assumptions from cultural background.

This is also a form of poor reading skills, when the translator misinterprets a text as related to an event in their own background. For example, Kramer vs. Kramer has already been misinterpreted by translators in the Far East as Khmer fighting Khmer. Kramer is meaningless to a Cambodian, whereas Khmer carries a whole world of depth for them. The best translators have actually lived in both countries or have associated extensively with people from both cultures.

Misinterpretation of English words.

Choosing the wrong meaning of a word can result in mistranslations too. For example, the word “right” can mean either a direction or the correctness of a thing, whereas the British phrase, “I’ll be right along” doesn’t mean either of those. A good translator will know the difference between each of these uses, while a poor one will struggle.

Dialog One provides only experienced and accurate translators. Be sure to contact us whenever you need one and feel free to devise your own tests.