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4 Common Mistakes Translators Should Avoid

Translator Mistakes
4 Common Mistakes Translators Should Avoid
on June, 26 2017

Translation is one of the most complex jobs, and it’s usually underrated. Translator mistakes are easy to make. It isn’t merely changing words from one language to another, after all. It’s transferring knowledge from the cultural context of one language to another.

This high-level complexity is the reason we come across weird and hilarious translations and frequent translator mistakes. Such sloppy translations result into major embarrassments for clients.

Related Post: These Hilarious Subtitling Errors Are Too Good to Be Missed!


Translator mistakes are not just limited to the lack of contextual knowledge, but also to the attitude and behavior of the translator; especially the new professional who doesn't have first-hand experience of the nuances and complexity of the job.

Below are the four top translator mistakes that many professionals make and how to avoid them:

1. Relying Too Much on Previous Experience


Many new translators have some work experience, like writing or teaching, which is related to language but not translation. They depend largely on their existing knowledge and prior experience, and this can cause major translator mistakes. Hence, when they see a word or phrase during the translation process that they do not fully understand, they usually rely on their memory to translate.

Even minor translator mistakes in understanding of the context leads to a major change in the meaning of the output. The changed meanings could prove disastrous for clients.

Therefore, unlike other jobs, even small errors in the meaning or context can’t be accepted in the translation industry. When in doubt, you must cross check with your seniors or on the internet to avoid this pitfall.

Related Post: 7 Important Skills Every Translator Should Have


2. Being Ignorant About Latest Developments

Words and phrases evolve. New terms are coined, and their applications change. An Android used to be a humanoid robot for everyone a decade ago. But now for the majority, it’s an operating system.

This is how meanings evolve over time, and their applications vary according to the industry or the sector where they are used.

Many translators are pressed for time. They have a lot of work to complete and deadlines to meet, which leads to translator mistakes, as they are left with very limited time to track the latest developments.

The best way to avoid such translator mistakes is to keep yourself updated with the most recent trends. And, if you can’t do this, then make sure that you cross check whenever you come across unusual words.

3. Comparisons with The Past Cause Translator Mistakes

The Past

There’s a human psychological tendency to paint a rosy picture of the past and feel nostalgic about it. We usually think positively about everything related to the past and compare the current situation to it, thinking it was so much better back then.

This perception affects present performance and can cause translator mistakes. In the case of professionals such as translators, they tend to think that the clients are too demanding as compared to before, or that the money is lower now than it was in the past.

These thoughts manifest in the form of translator mistakes in the work they do. Consequently, they focus less on work and more on the comparison. They are less mindful of the current situation which impacts the quality of their work.

You must avoid any comparison, be it with others or your own past. Embrace the change and enhance your skill set to meet emerging challenges. Use technology to improve efficiency and provide best-in-class services.  

Related Post: Translator Facts: Everything You Need To Know About a Career in Translation


4. Been There Done That Attitude

This is an offshoot of comparing with the past, albeit with a complacent attitude.

While working on a translation project, many translators take things lightly and think they have worked on harder projects in the past than the current one. They also overtly rely on their experience in deriving the meanings of the words and sentences rather than analyzing them critically.

This affects their work and leads to translator mistakes. An attitude such as, “I’ve done it in the past so many times so it can’t go wrong this time either” creates more problems than one could think.

While it's good to utilize your experience to your advantage, never let overconfidence affect the quality of work. Your aim should be to innovate continuously to improve the quality of work and speed of delivery.

The above four translator mistakes constitute most of the reasons even experienced translators make mistakes. The key is to focus on the moment by being mindful and getting rid of the past baggage while working.

Author Bio

Adela Belin is a private educator and a writer at Writers Per Hour. She shares her teaching experience with colleagues, students, and writers. Feel free to contact Adela on G+.

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