Translation Errors, Problems They Cause, and How to Avoid These Problems

The worst thing you can do to ruin your business or relations with foreign partners is to take a "do-it-yourself" approach to translation and interpreting.

    The historical figure of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent is also known as "Suleiman the Law Maker" in the Arabic world. They say that at the opening of a Turkish exhibition in Paris a zealous presenter referred to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent as "the love maker." His broken English was so bad that he couldn't tell "the love maker" from "the law maker."

By using services of professional translators, you'll avoid gross translation errors. But minor errors do happen. They include unidiomatic translations, stylistic clumsiness, misprints, errors caused by mistakes in the source text.

How to avoid translation errors and problems they cause

  • It goes without saying that translation and interpreting should be performed by someone qualified who knows the foreign language AND culture.

  • You should regard hiring a translator or interpreter as an investment in your business. Pay well to get good results. Pay peanuts and you'll get monkeys.

  • You should give the translator enough time for translation, research, editing, and proofreading. If you assign the desperately urgent work, the translator can start mixing things up.

  • Be responsive and timely with your answers to the translator's questions regarding unclear terms and phrasing and other inconsistencies in the source text. Give detailed instructions. Provide reference material, previous translations, translation memories and glossaries that are specific to the translation the translator is expected to carry out.

  • When a translation is so important that an error in it could in any way cause harm to somebody, such translation must be reviewed by expert reviewers. For example, translations of binding legal documents that are supposed to hold up in court have to be reviewed by a professional lawyer who knows laws of the country where court proceedings will take place. All important medical translations have to be reviewed by a medical professional specialized in that area.

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