The translation field is extremely competitive but there are a few things you can do to give you an edge over other translators. By knowing what mistakes to look for, you can skip ahead of the curve. Here are some common translation mistakes you should avoid making.
Not Creating A Glossary or Translation Memory ™ Database as You Go
Translating something for a client that is using terminology for a specific niche? Make sure you’re creating a glossary of words for yourself.
Perhaps you had to create a name for something that has no translation or will be using vocabulary specifically related to the topic at hand. Language evolves, technology evolves, and somewhere there is a crossroads where both meet, and we have to look up or make up terms. Some apps might keep a database while with other text you may have to do it by hand. Consider the terms “spoken word” which is a style of sharing poetry that was popularized in the USA. Depending on what language you are translating to, “spoken word” may not be as familiar to certain audiences at it is to another, therefore having various terms for it in the glossary depending on the region you’re translating to is what makes better sense.
Accepting Documents Not in Your Area of Specialization
Not wanting to turn a job is a true struggle, however butchering your brand due to taking a job you are not qualified for can have long-term repercussions.
Developing a niche is a necessity and depending on the market for this niche you might want to either expand on specializing in one or two other niches. That being said, extending yourself to write about a topic you are unfamiliar or not fully comfortable with could be detrimental. If you do a poor or mediocre job, then the client might not give you future jobs, might not refer you to someone else, or worse yet might speak negatively about your labor. It might seem like you’re hurting yourself by not taking a job, but building a brand takes work and that means knowing when to work to your strengths and not accept a project you can’t do.
Using Incorrect Tone and Style
Being a good translator also means being a good writer but knowing how to transmit a “voice” takes humility and nuance.
Knowing how to use the correct tone and style requires to first lose our opinion of how we think it “should” sound. The key is in figuring out why a text has taken the tone it has, and essentially answering that same question in the target language. Is the tone pragmatic and to the point because it’s trying to explain something? Does the tone use old or new language? What is the writing style trying to convey? By understanding the tone and style of the writing at its root, the translator can convey it as close as possible in the target language.
Assuming Numbers Are Just Numbers, No Matter the Language
Math might be a universal language, but that doesn’t mean numbers are.
Think of North American movies where military or police communicate by using numerical codes. An American audience might have watched enough Hollywood to know what this means, but a Uruguayan or Indonesian audience might not understand the reference. Other ways that numbers can be confusing is in prices, dates, times, measurements. Things that may not need to be cleared up in one language might totally need to have a unit of measurement in another, a date might need to be written out or in another order. Translation isn’t limited to words.
What are some ways you have learned to avoid mistakes?