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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