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The top 5 problems every translator has had to face head on

The top 5 problems every translator has had to face head on [Photo: iStock/DusanManic]
in Language Connect

Every translation job is different. Every industry has its different quirks, needs and little rules to look out for, and every client and language has those little differences entrenched in them that make them either easier or more difficult to deal with than the last. 
 
Essentially, no matter who you are and what clients you work with, you will be facing unique, new challenges every day of your working life. But here, we take a look at a few that are perhaps not so different and unique; the sort of thing that everyone in any translation sector will have come across at some point in their career. We explore the top five most common problems every translator would have faced at one time or another. 
 
Humour
 
The internet may well be global, and companies and people are following suit more and more every day as a result. But that doesn't mean that everything is, and some things, in fact, present far more of a challenge than others when it comes to translating. For example, humour is not a universal concept. What is funny to people in one culture may leave those from another feeling cold or even offended, which presents a challenge for any translator. Trying to make something that is funny in one language come across as funny in another takes a lot of skill and confidence, and only the very best translators will have the ability to pull it off well. 
 
Language structure
 
Probably the most common problem that anyone working in any translation field will have; language structure is the bane of their lives. When you are moving from one origin language to a vastly different, or even not so different, target language, it can be difficult to not just translate the words. The problem, of course, is that this can create a rather jumbled result at the other end, and leave you with something, that while readable, will not really instil any confidence in any potential customer, business partner or another reader. It's always important to know not just the language, but also how and why things are worded in certain ways. 
 
Missing words
 
Not everything translates. For anyone looking to have documentation translated into a target language, that can be a scary prospect, but it's the straight up truth. While the majority of languages will have words and phrases for most things, there are always certain words and phrases that are just either totally different or missing entirely from target languages. This causes myriad problems for translators, who have to find a workaround for that German word that just doesn't have an English equivalent. It may not make translation impossible, but it does for certain make it a more challenging prospect, and further shows the need for someone working on any documents to be a highly skilled and experienced prospect indeed. 
 
Multiple meanings
 
English and Japanese are probably two of the most complex languages that exist on the planet, and although they are from very different ends of the spectrum in terms of alphabet, spoken language and geography, the two suffer from one very similar problem that can create a real headache for any translator anywhere in the world. Words in each of these languages can often have a double meaning. For example, in English, scales can either mean a part of a fish or a kitchen utensil, where in Japan, simply writing the kanji is not enough, because things can be written one way and said differently. Both of these are common issues in their languages, and each needs an expert at hand at all times to find effective and accurate workarounds. 
 
Cultures
 
In some dialects, the written language is not confusing enough, so cultural differences also tend to come into the mix to make things just that little bit harder for the translator to deal with. This is most common when dealing with any content in Arabic, where the cultural differences in spoken terms have leaked over repeatedly into regional variants of the written Arabic language, meaning that anyone who is looking to translate it needs to make sure they are taking time to not only start translating, but also working out who the original speaker was, where specifically they come from culturally, and then the same again for the speaker of the target language.

 



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