As the world we live in becomes increasingly global in nature, the business of translation is more valuable than ever before. As a freelance French translator myself, I know clear communications are necessary for governments, businesses, and individuals to function effectively and successfully. Translation, as a business, necessarily deals with complicated languages’ nuances and phrasing, making it potentially more at risk for issues and problems than other, more mundane business types. Dealing effectively with any translation problems that may arise is best done by understanding the various issues that can go awry. Here we will explore some of the most common translation problems encountered by translators today.
Many specific languages have several different dialects within the same language. Often regional in nature, each dialect may offer varying degrees of differences for similar words or phrases, ranging from slightly to totally different. Translation training may center on the standard or correct dialect without adequately preparing the translator for the differences in morphology, pronunciation, and vocabulary present in other dialects of the same language.
Translation problems also frequently arise due to cultural differences in the usage of certain words and terms. What may be perfectly acceptable usage in one area may mean something completely different in others, causing translation issues. To some extent, most languages are filled with metaphors, similes, idioms, and other terms that provide color and description. These nuances may be confusing in translation when they have more than one meaning. Seeking to discover the intended meaning in these cases may require the successful translator to seek additional details to ensure a correct final translation.
As people of any language speak, it is common for the same phrasing to have different intended meanings. For instance, when giving a speech to an audience, a simple phrase could mean something different than the same words spoken among friends. This translation problem is an example of pragmatic differences, which may be affected by time, setting, relationship, intended audience, and many other factors.
Borrowed words can also cause a lot of problems in translation. Scholars of the English language understand that many English words are actually borrowed from Latin, French, Greek, and other languages. Correctly transcribing these borrowed words can be confusing if the translator is not well versed in the transcribed language. Finally, the written word may not accurately reflect the same meaning as the spoken word. One word can be said in many ways, such as in anger or sarcasm, but these differences in discourse may be difficult to discern and reflect in transcribing the written version. Becoming a scholar of the languages you translate can be the best way to consistently provide the highest quality translations and meet your business goals.