5 reasons why being bilingual doesn’t magic you into a translator

It’s a common misconception that bilingual people are all capable translators.  Based on the terrible translations that pop up occasionally – from advertising campaigns to user instructions for your TV – this is evidently not the case.

Bilingualism is not the only prerequisite for being a good translator

  • Professional translators have an exceptional command of the target language. Orthographic and grammatical mistakes appear less frequently in professionally translated texts.
  • Translators are also writers; their job is to create texts that read well in their native language, sounding fluent and natural.
  • Bilingual people should only translate into their native language, unless the text will not be used for external communications. Text translated by a non-native speaker will sound ‘translated’ 99% of the time. Qualified translators know this and won’t attempt something out of their skill set.
  • Translation is a skill that takes time to develop. Professional translators usually have post-graduate qualifications, and many have years of translation experience as well, which your bilingual employee will not have.
  • Translators are proficient users of translation software, which enables them to do the job quickly and more efficiently than someone outside the industry.

A professional translator is a bridge between the source language and the target language; they can convey the message of the original text whilst employing appropriate style and terminology to produce content in their native language. A bilingual person may speak two languages fluently, however may not be good at moving information between the two, especially in writing.