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Written by Steven Bussey
on October 01, 2019

In a recent survey conducted by USForex, 72% of small businesses have plans to grow their international customer base, so the need for experienced interpreters and translators is understandably on the rise. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the employment of interpreters and translators is projected to grow 19% from 2018 to 2028. Companies continue to seek out quality translation and localization consultants to support them with the challenges of translation.

Skilled translators not only require bilingual skills, but they must also possess the ability to interpret and transcribe a message beyond word-to-word direct translation. Understanding even the most simple linguistic nuances is critical to conveying the intended meaning to a target audience. Professional translators require an extensive understanding of both grammar and culture, and like any other profession, there are challenges --even for experts. 

Let's take a look at five of the most common challenges of translation.

  • Language structure

There are approximately 7,100 world languages spoken today in communities around the world, not to mention the abundance of dialects within each language. Languages are complex, and each one contains its own unique structure. For example, the English language is considered an SVO language--when sentences contain a subject, verb, and an object (i.e. She rides a bike.). That's not the case in some other languages, however. Though Indoeuropean languages follow the SOV model, typically following a sequence of the subject first, object stated second, and then the verb is stated last, lots of languages don’t. As a result, translators must add, remove, and reposition words to communicate the intended message in the native language successfully. This creates unforeseen challenges when animations or effects in videos are associated with specific words or phrases, which may be in a completely different part of a sentence when adapted in another language.

  • Understanding cultural sensitivities

Every society is full of a diverse system of political, social, and spiritual attitudes and beliefs. Languages are meant to convey these thoughts, ideas, pieces of information, and emotions. It's important to exercise sensitivity to how a translation can affect someone from a different cultural background. One company that created quite the international marketing blunder is Coors Brewing Company. When launching their "Turn it Loose" campaign in Spain, the international beermonger forgot to ensure the translation would resonate with the target audience. When translated into Spanish, the slogan used was a common expression interpreted as "suffer from diarrhea." Naturally, the beer didn't sell too well!

  • Missing terms

It can be quite a conundrum for a translator when they come across terms for specific objects or actions that do not have an exact match in another language. Consider the word "caliente" in Spanish. The Spanish word means “hot” in terms of temperature. In the English language, there isn't a word to distinguish between food that is hot temperature-wise from food that is spicy-hot; however, in Spanish, the word "picante" is the word for food which is hot in terms of spice. When one language uses a particular word to describe a situation or experience, finding an alternate expression in another language can be quite a challenge for the translator.

  • Multiple-meaning words

Many words have multiple pronunciations or meanings, making them tricky words to translate into other languages. Many homonyms, words that sound the same but differ in meaning, such as right (correct) and (direction) right, can be troublesome to translate. Homophones, words pronounced the same as another word but differs in both meaning and spelling, present their own set of hazards. For example, buy (purchase) and (next to) by, could be problematic. Heteronyms, words spelled the same, pronounced differently and have different meanings, may prove to be the most difficult of all; for example, tear (in the eye) and (rip) tear.

  • Lack of industry expertise

Another struggle professional translators can run into is an insufficient knowledge or experience of a particular industry to produce an accurate translation. Working with legal, marketing, or healthcare documents are all very different tasks and require specific skill sets. For instance, when working with legal documents, translators must be extremely precise in the translation from one language to another. Since each country has its own legal system and laws, it would be crucial for the translator to possess additional legal expertise. Even the most experienced translator can feel lost if they don't have a firm grasp of the correct industry vocabulary or standard industry procedures.

Go with Andovar

Translators have a critical job, choosing the right words to depict the proper message in another language. Issues may arise, but by recognizing and understanding these common challenges, it is possible to achieve a more efficient and precise translation. Here at Andovar, we are ready to discuss your company’s objectives and share our translation and website localization best-practices with you. Our linguists have a wide range of experiences across a vast array of subject areas.

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