Translation myths demystified

5 Common Translation Myths Demystified

We like to think we’re a pretty enigmatic bunch here at Linguistica International, shrouded in a cool air of mystery; but in reality, it’s all a bit of farce. You see, there’s no room for mystery when you spend much of your time completing certified translations, sworn translations and notarised translations, where every detail has to be precise and exact. We bring this down to earth approach to every area of our work, and love to demystify the myths our clients have about our services.

Here are five of the most widely held translation myths…

1. Translation is a small, niche market

Au contraire! The business of translation, interpreting and localisation generates £25billion a year (source: Common Sense Advisory). What’s more, this market is growing and widening. Whilst translation in continental Europe was once dominated by the French, Italian, German and Spanish languages, now the EU has to communicate its messages to 24 different countries.

Then there’s the Asian market. Once upon a time it was only Japanese, Chinese and Korean translations we were asked to perform, but now once neglected languages like Vietnamese and Indonesian really matter as more Asian countries become commercial heavyweights.

Even colossal multinationals like Microsoft now deem it profitable to localise their software packages into tiny languages like Maya and Luxembourgish.

2. Machine translation is reducing demand for human translators

Did you read our last blog on Google Translate vs. Human Translators? If you missed it, basically automated translation software has a long way to go.

Far from replacing humans, machine translation is actually increasing demand for human translation. How? Well, automated translation is serving as an awareness campaign, showing decision makers that translating large volumes of information using machine translation is just not feasible, unless of course you’re happy with an end product littered with mistakes.

Technology certainly does have a part to play in the translation industry, but it’s more effective at coordinating our work with clients and allowing us to produce a more efficient, streamlined service.

3. Anyone who’s bilingual can work as a translator

Just as the ability to write in English does not make you a professional writer, the ability to speak two languages does not make you a professional translator. We have some of the strictest selection criteria in the industry. All of our mother-tongue translators hold excellent language qualifications with at least five years’ experience in professional translation and interpreting work.

Successful applicants must also be subject experts with professional experience of their chosen field of specialisation. More people who are perfectly fluent in two languages will fail professional translation and interpreting exams than pass, simply because the standards are so high.

4. Most translators translate books

It is a commonly thought that most translators spend their time translating books, whilst most interpreters work for the EU or the United Nations. It’s simply that these are the two most visible examples of translation services in action. In reality, the largest commercial translation sectors are software, manufacturing, healthcare, legal and financial services.

5. Translators and interpreters speak ‘dozens’ of languages

It is a misconception that translators and interpreters speak 4 or 5 languages. In reality, to keep the quality at a premium, most translators only work in two languages, and many only work in one direction, from one language into another but not in reverse.

As with any professional skill, it is always best to specialise. The average English person uses about 5,000 words on a regular basis, whilst those who are well educated will use up to 10,000. The professions with particularly wide vocabularies, such as lawyers and doctors, can use in excess of 20,000 words.

Translators and interpreters working in these specialised fields have to be able to use advanced technical terms and vocabulary in two languages, which is close to 40,000 words. For this reason, none of our translators work in more than two languages.

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Do you have any translation myths you’d like us to debunk? We love to hear from our readers, so send us your translation misconceptions on Facebook or Twitter.

Google Translate vs human translator

Google Translate vs. Human Translator – Which is Best for your Business?

There seems to be no end to the lengths some of America’s richest firms will go in their pursuit of technological advancement. We’re still a long way from inventing a machine with the intelligence to rival that of a human being, but the likes of Google and Amazon are certainly giving it a good go. From Google we have the driverless car, which functions well in early tests but also raises a lot of ethical questions. And from Amazon we have the commercial delivery drone, which frankly just seems a bit ridiculous.

For now, we have the automated translation tool from Google, called Google Translate, which has recently been re-released with a number of enhancements, including the ability to translate both audio and textual content from one language into another. Google translate can be downloaded onto a smartphone, tablet or desktop, so it’s extremely accessible and cost effective, which is all wonderful. But is it actually any good?

The test

As a team of professional translators, we were intrigued to see just how good the new Google Translate really is. We didn’t have  long to wait as a fellow translation took up the challenge, and this is what they did.

To test how Google’s application measured up against a human, they matched the tool against one of their top Spanish translators. The key to the test was to determine whether Google Translate could detect the nuances that exist in language communication, which have such a dramatic impact on the interpretation and final translation.

The test focused on several key elements which are vital to producing an accurate translation, including comprehension, grammar and cultural idioms.

The results

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google Translate easily beat its flesh and bone equivalent for speed. But this was never a test of speed. Below are the two English translations produced by Google Translate and the human translator:

Google translate

National Council Bee

Beekeeping has become an activity of great relevance. Lets get high demand in foreign market and provides services such as pollination in crops of commercial interest.

Human translator

National Beekeeping Council

Beekeeping has become an enterprise of great importance, as it allows for creating high demand products in foreign markets and provides services such as the pollination of crops that have commercial interest.

The good news is that we’re still in a job! Despite a number of overhauls since its initial release in 2001, Google Translate is still making many of the same mistakes. In this example the translation is overly literal, the syntax is fractured and the word choice and grammar usage is poor.

What does this mean for you and your business?

There’s no doubt that Google Translate certainly has its place. As a quick translation tool it can serve a multitude of purposes, such as:

• Translating menus and road signs when travelling abroad
• Helping you get the gist or understanding of a topic
• Conversations with overseas relatives and friends
• Skimming non-English websites

However, there are also plenty of occasions when only a professional translator will do:

• Business documents
• Financial medical or legal materials
• Advertising and any public facing-content
• Whenever you need a 100 percent accurate translation

At Linguistica International, our mother tongue translators understand the cultural idioms and nuances that are indicative of how a particular word is used. We understand that a literal translation rarely provides the most accurate translation, and are firm believers that there’s still no substitution for human intelligence – at least for now.

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What do you think? Could you ever be usurped by a robot? Perhaps you’re a spam bot with something interesting to say? Either way, we always love to hear from our readers, so please share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.