5 Common Translation Mistakes

By Translator Thoughts
In Translation Techniques
Jan 6th, 2014

5 Common Blunders Novice Translators Often Make!

5 Common Translation Mistakes

Translation is a technical task that requires hands-on skills. As a translator, you must possess strong command over syntax, phraseology and etymology of words to effectively translate them into their true meaning. However, this is not always the case if you are beginning your career as a translator. So, what are the 5 most common translation mistakes?

Novice translators struggle with correct translation of words because they still need to get confident with some important rules of translation. As they have just entered into translation industry, they have to learn things the hard way. It takes time to translate non-native language into a native version and vice versa.

On the other hand, translators also have to deal with client-related issues, for example miscommunication, non-compliance and failure to market themselves. As they are beginners, they make certain errors that are more impulsive in nature.


  1. 1.      Doing Translation Verbatim

Many novice translators make the mistake of translating script word for word. As a translator, you need to interpret a script into other language in the same style as it is intended. There are different syntactic rules for different languages which you must understand before doing the translation. You have to understand the use of subject and object of different languages. For instance, you cannot justify a translation of English into Arabic as both have different syntaxes.

Use a dictionary whenever you have to translate a script because it helps you understand the proper use of words. You can also get it reviewed by a native speaker o to make sure that the style of script is correct.


  1. 2.      Exaggerating the Meaning of Words

Beginner translators tend to overdo translation task as a result of inexperience. As they are stepping into this profession, they want to give their best. However, this is not appreciated when you are a professional translator. To effectively translate a script, it is important to not exaggerate it with technical words or complex sentences.

You first need to understand requirements of your client and then do the translation accordingly. Understand what his specifications are and what he expects from you. Ask him about where he would use the script. If it is for personal use, keep it simple. But if it is required for publishing purpose, you need to follow the guidelines or standards of the publisher.


  1. 3.      Using Wrong Words

Beginner translators oftentimes use vocabularies in wrong context. There are certain words which cannot be translated into other language. For example, there is no equivalent for the word “Holy Grail” in other languages. Similarly, you cannot translate the word “Netilat Yadayim Shacharit” into any other language. Since these words are associated with cultural and religious process, you cannot interpret them in context of other religions.

Similarly, a translator may find it difficult to differentiate between masculine and feminine nouns. A language may treat a word as “masculine” which might mean opposite sex in other language. For example, the word “moon” is masculine in English while the same is feminine in Spanish. Get yourself familiarized with these subtleties of words to become an effective translator.


  1. 4.      Lacking the Communication Skills

Novice translators could sometimes be poor communicators. They overlook the importance of effective communication and therefore end up in poor translation. As in any business, communication is a bridge between you and customer. To establish good understanding with a client, it is important to engage with him in two-way communication. You need to interact with a client at every level of translation process. With a strong communication channel, you can lower any misunderstanding with a client which will result in better translation.


  1. 5.      Not Translating In An Appropriate Style

Beginner translators might not fully understand the aspects of styling in a script. Due to unfamiliarity with target language, they interpret a document without knowing its appropriate style. This changes the essence of a script and, ultimately, purges its very soul. To convey real meaning of a topic, it is important to translate a document in the right tone. For example, a script of a legal document will sound totally different from a script of a movie. To excel as a translator, you need to work hard on this aspect of translation.


About Writer: Martin Berk is an enthusiastic writer and blogger who is currently associated with Essay Boutique, a leading educational consultancy service in UK, where his goal is to help students with their educational problems. Along with it, he is also a major contributor to more similar academic consulting services.

Sign up and receive weekly tips to get started in translation

Sign up and receive free weekly tips

No spam, we promise.

About "" Has 25 Posts

TranslatorThoughts is a blog about Translation, Interpreting, Languages and Freelancing. Featuring articles from a variety of authors, interviews, tips and much more. If you want to contribute, write an email at contact@translatorThoughts.com

9 Responses to “5 Common Translation Mistakes”

  1. […] II — La tradition orale Machine Translation: Chess Analogy The New, Delightful Use of Because 5 Common Translation Mistakes Mitigate Risk, Win New Clients Chantal Wright & her authors Teaching is the New Selling […]

  2. n. rosado says:

    El Santo Grial is the Holy Grail in Spanish

    • Hi there,
      yes you’re right, maybe we didn’t take the best example of untranslatable word, as “The Holy Grail” actually does have translation in other languages 🙂
      (in Italian it is “Il Santo Gral”)
      There are indeed better example of untranslatable words, such as culture-specific terms.
      I can think of many English terms that are now used worldwide without being translated such as Marketing, Computer or even food related terms such as Crêpe or Muffins…
      Some of them get translated with some funny attempts, some of them get simply “adopted” as they are.

      • a. guy says:

        As an example of untranslatable word you probably can take such a collocation as: “housemaid’s knee”
        It’s is quite impossible to translate it in Russian:D

      • j says:

        I was thinking of “The Holy Grail” as a figure of speech. “It was the holy grail of such and such. Kinda like “the mother lode”. Meaning that very important thing you’ve been searching for.

        • Hey there, thanks for your comment. I think you’re right and the author of the article (this is a guest post) was referring to the word as a figure of speech, so my answer to the previous comment is actually missing the point (quite embarrassing ehm… 🙂

      • Traductrice says:

        “Crêpe” is a French word, originating from Latin. . . It is used in English without being translated.

  3. lashend says:

    I’m a few years late to the party – a new reader on the lookout for good self-training materials – and I don’t see that anyone else has challenged this point: The moon is masculine in English? To the best of my knowledge, English hasn’t used gendered nouns since the 13th Century. Have I missed something?

    • Hello, and thanks for stopping by 🙂 You’re right that a gender system was used in old English and it’s not in use anymore. However, some residual use of the gender system can still be found in modern English. I’m taking this from Wikipedia: “Modern English retains features relating to natural gender, namely the use of certain nouns and pronouns (such as he and she) to refer specifically to persons or animals of one or other genders”

      But you’re right, it’s not something used commonly 🙂

Leave a Reply to a. guy Cancel reply