Best Ways to Get Lost in Translation


How to Make Your Project Go Off Track

lost in translation, translation buyer in a hurry There are a lot of ways a project can get lost in translation. Frequently, with the "help" from those translation buyers who are ignorant of the basic rules of the translation market. Before you dive into a business relationship with the wrong translation supplier, understand your target. Knowing who is selling and how the process works lets you escape many traps.

Language service suppliers around the world are increasingly engaged in efforts to educate translation buyers. In particular, you can read some useful tips on the pages of this website.

You think you don’t need tips of this kind? OK. Let’s look at things in a different light.

So your company has an eye on markets abroad. You’ve already produced texts for translation and are ready to start a translation project.

Here are 8 best ways for your translation project to go off track. By following them to a tee you will significantly improve your chances of getting lost in translation.

1. Choose a translation supplier who bids low rates. Do not take into account the risk of ending up with an unusable translation which can cost your company a fortune in lost business. Ignore information that crafting quality translations takes time, skills and knowledge which should be paid accordingly.

2. Even more naïve idea is to use free online translation for official documents or any materials intended to persuade or sell. And in no case have this machine translation output post-edited by professional translators. Let this raw unedited output confuse your prospective clients, tarnish your company’s image and become an object of derision.

3. Don’t be wary of translation service providers who claim to have expertise in any and all subject matters and translate into and from almost any language. Choose them to learn at your own expense that these claims often do not square with reality.

4. Set a tight deadline. Give your translators as less time for translation as possible. How much time did your staff spent producing originals? A couple of months? Ask a translation company to translate them in a couple of days and wait in the vain hope a miracle will occur and you will receive a quality translation.

5. Do not answer your translators’ questions promptly. Do not answer them at all. And don’t provide any input: neither glossaries nor reference materials. Don’t brief your translation suppliers. Wash your hands of the whole process and delegate everything to the supplier. Most likely, you’ll suffer a flop with the resulting translation.

6. Put a lot of text on your diagrams, pictograms, maps, and other images. Localization of images and visuals with a lot of text will make your translation bill higher.

7. Ambiguities in your text - not to mention idioms, cultural-bound clichés, figurative language, metaphors, oxymoron and other figures of speech - amplify the chances of being lost in translation.

8. Do not request quality control: a) no editing by a second translator, who is a native speaker of a language into which the text is translated, to check for grammar, punctuation and style; and b) no proofreading of the final typeset translation by a native speaker. The resulting translation contaminated by translation errors and typesetting glitches will, at best, make your foreign clients/partners laugh their heads off while reading your document and, at worst, will put them off your company and products.

lost in translation, translation buyer at a loss


To make translation buyer experience less frustrating, translation professionals need to educate their clients. It takes time and effort. But it is worth it because translation buyer ignorance adversely affects both parties – those who buy and those who sell translation services. If you are a professional translator and have an interesting story or useful tip to help translation buyers not get lost in translation, please let us know.

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Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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