Translation Fails: 5 Reasons Why Translation Mistakes Happen

If you are a keen reader of online blogs and articles, you may have stumbled upon phrases or words that seem “wrongly translated”. If this is the case, you are not the only one to come across such mistakes. Translation errors are quite common, and the internet is filled with instances of translation fails and mistakes. While some of these mistakes may cost quite a lot of money to companies, others can cause irreparable damage to human life.

But what exactly are the reasons behind these translation mistakes? if you have encountered such translation errors, have you paused to wonder why they happen in the first place? Let us find out some of the reasons behind translation failures.

Reasons for Translation Fails

1. Lack of Information

The most common reason for mistakes occurring in translation is a lack of information. This information may be due to a failure to communicate proper information about source content. A lack of information about the source language and the requirements for translation causes mistakes in translation.

When a new translation is assigned to a professional linguist, it is important to also provide some assistance material. This may include the original source file, a translation brief, instructions about translation (style guides, tone of voice, etc.), visual references, and project deadlines. When this information is not supplied to the translator on time, he has no choice but to “work in the dark” without guidance. Consequently, mistakes show up in the final translation.

Take the example of an error occurring during translation from Italian to English. A sign reading “don’t bother the ducks” in Italian, was mistranslated to “don’t molest the ducks”, as the Italian molestere (to bother) was wrongly translated to molest in English. A company delivering professional tourism translation services may be able to fix this error in time.

2. Lack of translation context

When undertaking the complex task of translation, linguists need to be provided with the proper context and intended meaning of the message. A failure to recognize the proper context ultimately leads to translation errors.

Expecting translators to decode the intended purpose and context of a message without proper guidance is foolish. In the best-case scenario, they may flood the client company’s email box with questions asking for clarity. In the worst case, they may wrongly apply the terminology in a way that inflicts serious brand damage.

It is important for client companies to monitor the style with which a translation is expressed by a translator. The tone that a translator uses has a huge impact on the resonance and effectiveness of the content. A formal tone applied to engaging content can be as damaging as applying a casual attitude to a serious topic.

3. Application of wrong translation resources

In any translation process, clean content and thoughtful guidance are the ultimate keys to success. But if translation errors still occur despite these efforts, it may mean that wrong translation resources are at play.

One reason for translation errors is using machine translation instead of human translation. Although there are plenty of use cases where machine translation has provided more accurate results, these tools always prioritize efficiency over quality. In order to deliver professional and accurate translation, a human touch is still the best option for companies.

Another common error concerns the review process as even experienced translators do not arrive at the exact right answer on their first attempt. This is the reason why companies should match the translator’s expertise with the intended quality of translation. It is also important to measure quality continuously throughout the translation process in order to ensure no errors occur.

4. Tight and strict deadlines

Another common issue that leads to translation failure is tight deadlines. This is because client companies often want translations done in a short time, especially those seeking business translation services.These translation deadlines put a lot of pressure on the translator even before the project actually started.

Speed and quality are two important elements that a client company wants from a translation agency. As tight deadlines are often a part and parcel of this translation industry, translation companies accept projects regardless of the timeframe. This may cause irreparable damage as translators may skip important information during translation, leading to errors.

Even though translators may be accustomed to working fast, sometimes it may be too much for even the most qualified translators. Time constraints can cause damage to translations, and it is not fair to put the blame on the linguists for that.

5. Mismatch of skills

Finally, another reason why translation errors occur is due to a mismatch of skills. The same linguist may be great at translating a topic that falls under the area of his expertise. He may be terrible at translating content that is out of his expertise. For example, a linguist who is adept at translating marketing material may totally fail to translate financial reports. Sometimes, the translator may also accept projects that lie outside the domain of his specialty, just to accept a project. This mismatch of skills may cause serious translation errors and mistakes.

Key Takeaway

Translation errors are a common phenomenon in the world today. However, there are particular reasons why translation mistakes occur. It is fair to say that it is not always the fault of the translator, but the client company may be at fault too. A failure to properly communicate the whole information and a lack of research into market insights may be the reasons why these mistakes happen. It is, therefore, critical to have proper planning before assigning the translation project to translators.

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