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5 misconceptions about professional translation

Published on 03/12/2019

The world of professional translation is not well known to the general public. Most often, professional translators work discreetly and their names rarely appear in the headline of an article or next to the name of the authors of a book.

This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why, today, false beliefs about this profession still circulate. Here are the 5 preconceived beliefs about professional translation and why they are false.

1. A professional translator is simply a bilingual person

Unfortunately, professional translation is not very regulated, which means that anyone can call themselves a translator.

However, it is not enough to speak a language fluently to be able to do quality translations. In the same way that we are not all writers, even though we all know how to write.

Professional translation is a profession that requires manyskills, and not only a broad knowledge of the two languages, but also of the culture that encompasses them, the specific jargon, etc.

2. Professional translation is an easy profession

Once again, a totally false belief about the translator's profession. Beyond the words themselves, it is necessary to get to the point of translating the exact meaning of the sentences. And contrary to popular belief, it's not an easy exercise.

A professional and quality translation requires time. It is quite common for a professional translator to spend several hours on a sentence doing research in order to find the perfect translation.

3. It is translated word for word

It is one of the worst beliefs people have about translation and it is precisely what basic machine translators do. The translation should be done taking into account the subject(s) covered by the text, as well as the context of the sentence or paragraph.

Once the translation is finished, the translator often revises and modifies the text several times to obtain a perfect and faithful result to the original. A simple word-for-word translation without a re-reading will surely lead to many errors that can harm the understanding of the text itself.

4. Translation and interpreting is the same profession

Although both are related to the practice of a foreign language and its translation, they are two completely different professions.

The translator focuses exclusively on the translation of written texts, while the interpreter works with oral translations. For example, when a foreign person is interviewed on television and a voice translates what he or she says live, it is an interpreter.

Although they both have to have knowledge of at least two languages (including their mother tongue), they have completely different skills.

5. Automatic translation is detrimental to professional translation

We might think that fast, cheap, sometimes even free, machine translation can be detrimental to the field of professional translation. The recent technological progress made in this field, especially thanks to the development of artificial intelligence, certainly reinforces this mistaken belief.

This is another mistaken belief since professional translation and machine translation do not respond at all to the same needs. Automatic translation, when it is, let's say, of an acceptable quality, is useful for translating short sentences in our dailylife, such as for communicating with foreigners during a trip.

On the other hand, professional translation is indispensable for all other areas: work, commercial, IT, etc.

As you may have noticed, we must keep in mind that despite the preconceived beliefs and the stones that sometimes appear along the way, professional translation is a profession that still has a bright future aheadof it.

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José Gambín's picture
José Gambín

José Gambín holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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