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The Many Challenges Translators Face While on the Job

The Many Challenges Translators Face While on the Job
on August, 21 2014
Image credit: Translation taken by Marberi under Public Domain.

Image credit: Translation taken by Marberi under Public Domain.

According to the most basic definition, translation is the process of transferring written text from one language into another. It is believed that translation began after written literature appeared, while the process has been in demand since the mid-18th century, when business documents were needed during the Industrial Revolution. Specialties were subsequently formalized through the formation of professional organizations and dedicated schools.

Machine and computer-aided translation began automating the process during the 1940s. In more recent years, the advent of the Internet has cultivated a worldwide market for translation services. The new market is called "service translation," whereby translators transfer texts into both their mother tongue and foreign languages.

As a result of the information-sharing and communication that is increasingly connecting the world, translation is now especially important. You can see a great demand for translators on the web, and many are even employed by multinational companies. According to Ata Omer Salih, an experienced Kurdish translator and interpreter, translation can be tricky, and there are many difficulties that can be encountered.

Difference in Language Structure

One of the challenges faced by translators is difference in language structure, and it affects the simplicity and accuracy of the translation. For instance, a simple English sentence consists of a subject and predicate, and commonly, sentences feature a subject, verb and object. In other languages, the order is different or the subject pronoun forms part of the verb.

Overall Context and Intended Audience

For a translation to be successful, a sentence or paragraph should not be changed word for word, as the context could be affected, and the tone of the text and the target audience should also be considered. Furthermore, an effective translator should be familiar with the history, culture and customs of the two languages involved. Translating texts should always take into account the total context and intended audience.


Translating idioms makes the process of translation a more difficult task. In this regard, translators should first understand the meaning of an idiom before they can naturally look for an equivalent way to express it as a whole, as idioms should not be translated literally. Even translation tools are incapable of translating idioms. Familiarity with the culture of the source language may also be needed here.

Missing Words

Finding the equivalent of a word in another language is not always possible. This presents a difficult challenge, as it is important for a translator to maintain the meaning and intent of the original text—this is also important for interpreters. Try using Google Translate to translate a unique word from your native tongue and see what comes out. In addition to missing words, there are also words with multiple meanings, and it is crucial for translators to be very careful when translating these words in a professional capacity.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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