The Three Worst Translation Techniques

By Chiara Grassilli
In Translation
Jul 20th, 2015

The Three Worst Translation Techniques in Translation


In order to create a perfect translation, several factors must be taken into account. A truly skilled translator will always put a lot of effort in his work. We have presented in previous articles different translation techniques, but it is time to highlight what a translator must always avoid:

Literal translation

This is the worst mistake you can do and it shows a lack of professionalism. If an employer will notice such error, your chances of getting hired again are really low. Also, your reputation can be affected, as you can get bad reviews etc.  It is true that when it comes to languages as Chinese or Japanese, your chances of making this type of mistake are really high due to the complexity of the language. For instance, idioms in these languages can contain weird associations of words that sometimes are difficult to understand even by the native speakers. However, this should not be an excuse for a professional translator. Working, practicing and reading are a must in this job.

Sign up and receive weekly tips to get started in translation

Sign up and receive free weekly tips

No spam, we promise.


Blindness to cultural differences

It is important for a translator to know a lot of details about the culture he is studying. Without cultural exposure, translation can be very difficult and it can also create uncomfortable situations. For example, if you translate a commercial, you must take into consideration that some phrases might be unaccepted in certain countries. In this case, you must adapt and try to balance the situation. You can use a strategy that involves replacing a culture-specific item or expression with a target-language item which does not have the same propositional meaning but is likely to have a similar impact on the target reader . You also must consider the fact that some words have multiple meanings and sometimes, if used in the wrong context, they can become an insult.

Three worst translation techniques

Too much confidence

Sometimes, believing too much in your capability of doing everything perfectly can be harmful.  Some people, out of commodity, avoid to ask for a second opinion or to proofread their work carefully. You can imagine that in a huge project, you will probably slip a few mistakes in terms of spelling, grammar and even punctuation. This is why translators should always make time to verify their work several times.  It is always better to ask a friend to read it for you, because after you’ve worked a lot on a translation, you will most likely be unable to see what you’ve done wrong all by yourself.  Even if it takes more time, being precautious is better for you and your reputation among employers.

To conclude, there are things that must be avoided when it comes to translation. Throughout your career, you will notice how important is to avoid these mistakes. It will save you from a lot of criticism.

Sign up and receive weekly tips to get started in translation

Sign up and receive free weekly tips

No spam, we promise.

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

7 Responses to “The Three Worst Translation Techniques”

  1. Alex says:

    Throughout your career, you will notice how important is TOO avoid these mistakes. 😉

  2. Hey Alex, well spotted!
    It feels good to know that my readers are reading so carefully 🙂

  3. Regarding the last one – sometimes you’re staring at a text for so long that you get into a “bubble” and can’t notice mistakes right in front of you – or you start obsessing over a sentence so much that the words lose all meaning! Getting another person to proofread it, or at least “stepping away” from the text for a while, is always beneficial. 😀

    • Hi Natalie,
      I couldn’t agree more..I’ve been in that bubble you talk about and couldn’t notice the most simple typos.
      A good tip I can give is to let the translation “rest” for a while, and come back a few hours later. With fresh eyes you’ll notice things you didn’t notice before. Another tip to spot typos is to read the text the other way around, from the end to the beginning: in this way you read the actual words, and spot typos you couldn’t see before.
      Good luck with your career Natalie!

Leave a Reply