Avoiding Mistranslations and Ensuring Quality

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation Techniques
Sep 15th, 2014

Shopping for Translation Services: On Avoiding Mistranslations and Ensuring Quality

In many countries, the translation industry has long been an unregulated field. Much of this industry now operates primarily in online environments, and the dangers posed by unprofessional and unskilled translators are very real. In recent years, properly qualified translators have been fighting an uphill battle, setting up various regulatory bodies, such as the International Federation of Translators (IFT), the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), and the American Translators Association (ATA). These organizations now offer a means to verify that a translator meets the professional standards set by and agreed upon by the industry at large.

Another way to emphasize the importance of hiring qualified professionals has been the sharing of mistranslation examples with the general public. Instances of these errors abound worldwide, and some professional translation agencies, such as Day Translations, are now sharing online their translators’ personal experiences with mistranslations. Some of them are truly hilarious, while others are more serious and negative in their repercussions.

Mistranslations affect both small businesses and big, international companies. Most multinational corporations understand the importance of hiring good translation companies or of maintaining in-house translation departments. Approximately 25 out of the 55 major pharmaceutical companies which are part of Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) Association operate their own translation departments.[1] However, many important multinationals, such as the British banking and financial services company HSBC, have been negatively impacted by translation mistakes, which resulted in very costly fixing and rebranding efforts.

Mistranslations are not only caused by unskilled professionals who produce sub-standard work. Mistranslations are also often generated by individuals who decide that the text they need translated is not long or important enough to be submitted for professional translation. They might choose to do the translation themselves, especially if that translation is into English, one of the languages with the greatest number of foreign language speakers. It is very important to highlight that knowing a second language does not automatically make you an able translator, as there various subtleties, techniques, and methods that only professionals know. Most translation agencies are more than willing to translate short phrases made up of only three or four words. Keep in mind that a mistranslation can often cause greater damage than offering no translation at all.

To avoid mistranslations altogether, simply hire a professional to complete the translation for you. There is an abundance (at least, for the more prominent languages) of professional and highly-trained translators who can easily offer a solution to your linguistic needs. Checking a translation agency’s background and credentials is an important part of the selection process, just as it is in decisions made about any other service or product.


[1] http://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CC4QFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.groupetraduction.ca%2Fdocuments%2FArticle-ATAChronicle-proof1_001.doc&ei=gPUMVOPBDs-OyASNxIDYDQ&usg=AFQjCNGrUVqF0-DuQHoovh7uhg4KGaO7Gw&sig2=awG8xCzI1b7bZjJ-zIL6xw


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About "" Has 116 Posts

Since an early age I have been passionate about languages. I hold a Master's degree in Translation and Interpreting, and I have worked as a freelance translator for several years. I specialize in Marketing, Digital Marketing, Web and Social Media. I love blogging and I also run the blog www.italiasocialmedia.com

2 Responses to “Avoiding Mistranslations and Ensuring Quality”

  1. Beatrice Hendon says:

    This post is very helpful for a beginner like me. Glad you’ve shared it.

    • Hi Beatrice,
      I’m glad to hear that, we try to provide the most informative content and I’m very happy to read that it was helpful.
      Is there anything in particular you’d like to read about?

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