5 translation errors that we must avoid at all costs!

Published on 31/03/2020

Even the most talented of all specialist translators are not spared from making a translation error sometime. Of course, they are usually detected and corrected during the examination. However, it is necessary to be able to identify them clearly as some may be more subtle than others.

The 5 translation errors listed here are the ones we usually find most often. Not identifying or correcting them can have annoying consequences that can even change the meaning of the text.

Índice de contenidos

Index of contents

Index du contenu


  1. Contrasts
  2. False senses
  3. Solecisms
  4. Barbarisms
  5. Omission

1. Contrasts


Inconsense is probably the most serious mistake that can be made in a translation. It consists of giving the wrong meaning to a sentence or, even worse, to the whole paragraph. Obviously this error can change the original sense of the text or even make it intelligible.

This translation error often occurs among beginner translators because specialized translators are more cautious about this, and have more training and better skills in order to convey the original meaning of the text.

2. False senses

False senses

The false sense, unlike the counter sense, only affects one word in the text. It consists of confusing the meaning of one word with another. Apart from false friends, it can happen that a translator confuses words with similar phonetics. It is more often the case in terms of the source language as translators are usually native speakers of their target language.

3. Solecisms


Solecism is not "simply" an error of syntax, but consists of constructing a sentence whose syntactic structure does not exist in the target language. If such a structure exists in the source language, the translator may fall into the trap of reproducing it in the target language, which is a serious error.

In Spanish, for example, the following mistake is often made: "I told her to be ready at eight." We should be even more cautious in cases where the grammatical and syntactic structure of the source language is very different from that of the target language, such as Spanish and German.

4. Barbarisms


Barbarism is a vocabulary error that consists of deforming a word, inverting, adding or subtracting letters, or making an erroneous analogy with another word. This translation error can even occur in the translator's mother tongue .

In Spanish, among the most frequent barbarisms we find for example "inaguración" instead of "inauguración", "adición" instead of "adicción".

5. Omission


Sometimes omission is a resource that the translator uses knowingly. However, at other times, it is a mistake that is made unconsciously. It simply consists of not translating certain words or certain expressions, sometimes for comfort, sometimes because of the difficulty of translating them correctly, sometimes out of carelessness.

This is often the case when translating from English into Spanish, German or French. As more and more English words are becoming part of other languages, some translators tend not to translate certain English words and thus introduce unnecessary Anglicisms into their translations. In this link you can find the most frequent anglicisms.

Naturally, a professional quality translation cannot contain any spelling or grammatical mistakes and must respect the initial meaning of the text while adapting to the target audience.

Identifying them

It would be a pity if any of the five errors mentioned above were to be found in a translation. By knowing and identifying them, it will be easier to avoid them from the beginning or to correct them quickly if they arise.

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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