Myths about Translation and Translators

Often it appears that as translators we have to educate our clients to debunk the myths that seem to keep on circulating year after year. We can face an uphill battle from misinformed clients who have misconceptions about business translators and the translation profession. Here are some of the most common myths which you can maybe use to help your clients understand what you do as a translator.

Myth 1. Translators are just people who can speak two or more languages.
One of the most prolific myths circulating outside the translation industry. Just because someone knows two languages doesn’t mean that a person can translate with those languages. Translation is so much more.

Myth 2. Translators can translate any subject matter as long as the material is in a language they know.
Good translators usually specialise in only a few related areas. This allows them to keep up-to-date on changes in the vocabulary of their industry and keep them abreast of current trends. Inexperienced translators will often say they can translate anything thrown at them, but this is seldom true in the business world.

Myth 3. Translators can produce any translation with little or no turn-around time.
Clients often believe that for someone with language skills translation is a simple task that can be accomplished quickly. A good translator will educate the client and let them know that translators need sufficient time to produce a quality product. A quality translation requires three steps to get the best possible result and should not be rushed.

Myth 4. Translating is as easy in both directions.
Whilst there are translators that can do a good job translating in both directions, this is not as common as you would think. Translators usually have dominant languages and it is in the best interest of both the translator and client for the translator to translate into their dominant language.

Myth 5. A native speaker is always a better translator than a non-native one.
Translation requires discipline, study, and continual practice. Simply being a native speaker of a language does not ensure or guarantee that that person will be able to translate adequately.

Myth 6. Only translators who are members of a professional translation organisation can translate well.
There are many translators that do an excellent job without ever being members of any organisation. These organisations are not governing bodies over the worldwide translation industry and personally I’d say that a list of satisfied clients and references is a far better indication of a translator’s competency.

Myth 7. Translators can also interpret.
Translation is not interpretation and interpretation is not translation. They are not synonymous. Translation is written material; interpretation is speaking. These are two very different skill sets.

Now that we’ve debunked some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding translation, lets hope our clients can begin to place a value on the work we do.

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