Common English to Russian Translation Errors. Part 1

October 14th, 2013, Roman Mironov this article, I begin a series of posts describing errors typical of translations from English into Russian. These posts might be especially useful to translators just starting in this profession. I also hope that some of the errors will trigger discussions that might lead to improving translations that I suggest.

This article describes four cases of word-for-word translations.


Designed” usually means the following:

предназначено,“ not “спроектировано” or “сконструировано

It is more of an auxiliary word that makes a sentence sound better and thus does not lend itself to a literal translation. The best translation is usually the one that omits it altogether.


The projector is designed for use in a normal workshop environment.

INCORRECT: Конструкция проектора предусматривает его использование в условиях обычного цеха.

CORRECT: Проектор предназначен для использования в условиях обычного цеха.

To be a function of something

This is another phrase prone to literal translation that makes no sense whatsoever in the Russian language. Its general meaning is “to be a consequence/result of something, to depend on something,” but actual translation depends on the context.


Laptop productivity is largely a function of battery life.

INCORRECT: Эффективность использования ноутбука является функцией времени работы от батареи.

CORRECT: Эффективность использования ноутбука во многом определяется временем работы от батареи.


In American English, “government” refers to the larger system by which a state or the entire country is organized, whereas the literal Russian translation “правительство” usually refers to what in American English is called “the administration.” Therefore, a literal translation “правительство” is often too narrow and sounds awkward. A broader translation that reflects a larger system of governing a country is “государственные органы” or “государственный аппарат.


The fact that those markets are not new to us, that we have been there for 100, 150, 200 years, means that we know the government … we know the culture.

INCORRECT: Мы имеем огромное преимущество в этой области — для нас эти рынки совсем не новы, мы работаем там уже 100, 150 или 200 лет, знаем правительство, знаем культуру.

CORRECT: Мы имеем огромное преимущество в этой области — для нас эти рынки совсем не новы, мы работаем там уже 100, 150, 200 лет, знакомы с особенностями государственного аппарата, знаем культуру.

By the same token, “government official” should usually be translated as “государственный служащий”or “публичное должностное лицо,” not “правительственный чиновник.”

Note, though, that in British English, “government” means the same thing as “the administration” in American English, i.e., it is the same as the Russian or German.


The literal translation “сообщество” does not work very well, when it refers to a group of people living in a particular location. A better translation is “общество” or “местное население.”


We serve the communities where we work and live.

INCORRECT: Мы всячески помогаем сообществам, в которых живем и работаем.

CORRECT: Мы всячески помогаем населению мест, где живут и трудятся наши сотрудники.

Do you agree that the above suggestions are universal? Or can you provide contexts where they do not apply?

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  1. Shkoda

    Thank you, как всегда познавательно. Сюда бы еще про facilities вписать.

    • Впишем, статей будет много. Кстати, в следующей буду придираться к Microsoft:)

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