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5 Myths of translation and the translation industry

The translation industry has been around ever since man felt the need to communicate with someone from a different culture and therefore needed an intermediary to do so. It would be surprising if no myths had developed over the years.

Today, we talk about the top 5 myths in the translation industry and why they are just what they are – myths.


Myth #1 – Someone who speaks a foreign language is qualified to be a translator

It is a popularly held belief that once someone can speak a foreign language, they have all it takes to make it as a translator. While this is not entirely wrong, we can authoritatively say that it is not entirely correct either.

Speaking a foreign language is subjective and not indicative of the level of proficiency in such a language. It is one thing to understand everyday language usage, and it is another to understand the in-depth messages (idioms, nuances, proverbs, culture, etc.) language brings with it.


Myth #2 – Human translators will soon be replaced by machine translation

This is probably one that you have come across multiple times. We call BS!

Google Translate can be argued to be the best translation tool right now, and it does not even return perfect documents.

A machine can only be taught to translate words, not the context. That is why there will always be need for human translators for more accurate or nuanced results.


Myth #3 – Since most people can read English, translating your website is not necessary.

The first fundamental flaw in that myth is with the part laying claim to ‘most people.’ English is only spoken by about 1.5 billion of 7.5 billion people in the world, and only about 360 million of these are native English speakers.

Furthermore, communicating with someone in their native language has a stronger marketing effect on them than when you use a second language. You don’t want your brand message to go to their head; you want it to stay in their hearts.


Myth #4 – You don’t always need a professional translator

Pepsi, Coca-Cola, KFC and other big brands have already suffered the effects of bad translations. By effects we mean not just loss of market share, but also millions of dollars wasted in correcting a translation problem which could have been solved by getting a professional translator in the first place.

Need we say more about why you should get only the qualified, top-notch, professional translators?


Myth #5 – A translator can always be an interpreter

This could not be more wrong.

While there are some individuals who can handle both, these roles are totally independent of one another. A translator is billed with working with the written text while an interpreter works with speech – often in real time.

With translation, all important messages in the text need to be dissected and conveyed into the target language. Interpreters have to work much faster than translators, but they can also afford to be a little less accurate in order for the conversation to flow (although interpreters in the political arena might disagree…).

To summarize, the skillsets needed to excel at both tasks are as different as can be.

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