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Errors that Make Translators Pull Their Hair Out

disappointed_translatorOne of the greatest frustrations for any professional translator is taking the beating for someone else’s errors. The “beating” usually comes in the form of negative feedback from a client. Let’s look at some of the errors that may drive a translator crazy.

Someone Tampered with the Translation

  1. This someone can be an editor at a translation agency who wanted to improve translation in good faith, but actually made things worse. When it comes to translation, everything needs to be checked twice, even the results of checking.
  2. This can also be an end client’s reviewer—an employee who knows the target language. It’s an industry practice to get the changes made by such reviewer checked by an original translator since the reviewer is normally not a linguist and tends to make errors that take a pro to fix. For example, a common problem is making the translation inconsistent by changing only a few occurrences of a term or a phrase instead of changing all of them globally. But this best practice is neglected just as often as it’s followed. Some folks are so angry with this type of errors that they even prefer to protect themselves by prohibiting clients to make any changes altogether.
  3. A translator often works on a bilingual file using a CAT program and can’t see the final layout. The resulting translated file may require a certain degree of typesetting. When the layout is ready, it is important to have it checked, ideally by the original translator. If the file is delivered to an end client unchecked, the chances are some layout blunders will remain unnoticed and this will have a negative impact on how the end client evaluates the translation overall, even though the translation quality is high.

Problems in the Source Text that Cause Translation Errors

  1. Because the source text just as the translation is written by humans, it isn’t always perfect. Translators may spend countless minutes on trying to figure out what the author originally meant since the author just dropped a hint instead of explaining his/her point in detail. For instance, it’s not uncommon for an author to write one thing, but actually mean something completely different. In a recent project, we translated “password recovery” as “restoring a password you lost.” But the client’s reviewer told us it actually meant “password check-out.” I think the chances of hitting a bullseye in such cases are next to nothing.
  2. Another problem is working on a text written by a person who isn’t a native speaker of the target language. An example that many translators can identify with are literal translations into English, which might be difficult to decipher. It’s brutally hard for a translator to get the message across when the message is unclear to him/her in the first place. There is also a higher risk of inconsistency involved in translating what was originally a translation—not only the translator has to ensure consistency of his/her own work, but he/she is also tasked with finding potential discrepancies in the source text. For example, we had a “lock wire” and a “retaining wire” in a recent translation project, both meaning the same thing.

Did anything on this list ever make you want to go on a rampage right away?

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.