7 Common Misconceptions About Translation

1. Machine translation (e.g. Google translate) is a great way to translate a website.


Google’s translation engine actually learns from content published on the web, so the more websites that are translated this way, the worse the quality of translation produced eventually becomes. Computers may be good at translating individual words and simple sentences that are repeated frequently online, however they will never be able to understand context. Only a human can understand a language and the subtleties within it.

2. Translation is easy and shouldn’t cost as much as it does.

Translators are skilled professionals and are as knowledgeable and experienced in their specialist field as solicitors or medical professionals. When you commission a translation, you are paying for that expertise at a rate that reflects the time and investment the translator has put into developing their skills, and the ongoing effort to maintain them.

You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to perform an operation on you, so why ask someone who isn’t trained in translation to localise your website?

3. Anyone who can speak a foreign language can translate.


Not at all. Most of our staff are linguists and graduated with language degrees; but this in itself does not qualify them to translate. Translators must have an expert understanding and command of both their mother tongue and a foreign language. They need to be naturally skilled at putting sentences together that sound natural in another language. On top of this, they also need to have an in-depth understanding of specialist areas such as marketing, law or medicine.

4. You don’t have to be a native speaker to translate into a language.

In our experience, you do – sorry. Although lots of people who are fluent in a second language can make a passable attempt at translating into it from their own language, you can always tell if a non-native speaker has produced a text, because there’s something not quite right about it.

5. Proofreading is a waste of money.

The common misconception is that the work of a good translator shouldn’t need to be proofread or edited, but proofreading is essential to ensure a high quality piece. The fresh eyes of the proof-reader will ensure the text meets your brief, and they will painstakingly trawl through the text searching for errors or inconsistencies so you can rest assured the final piece will be immaculate. They will also check that the translation makes sense, and matches exactly what was in the source text.

6. Translation is the same as interpretation.

Although both translation and interpretation involves translation between languages, they are completely different tasks and as such require different skills. A translator will work with a source text, usually in their second language and translate this in to their native language, with the help of resources such as a dictionary. An interpreter on the other hand has to translate instantly, on the spot, between two parties. This means they have to translate in both directions, for example French>English, English<French.

7. A good translator should be fast.

Translation is not a quick process; it is not a case of replacing each individual word with the correct translation, but understanding the whole text and then re-writing it in another language. In fact, translating a text will probably take as long as it took for the original to be written. The average translator will be able to translate somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 words a day.

Do you want to know more about professional translation? We can help.