Common myths and misconceptions about translation - Multilingual Connections

Linguist Spotlight: Common myths and misconceptions about translation

Common Myths and Misconceptions about Translation
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Translation is an invisible force that drives communication around the world. And while it is prevalent in almost any industry, translation can be confusing if you’re not directly involved in the process. What goes into translating a website from one language to another? How do translators ensure that translation is accurate? Without direct exposure to the translation, most people don’t know an answer to these questions. That’s why this craft is full of myths and misconceptions. In this blog, we’ve asked some of our top linguists to share and debunk common myths they hear about translation.

Who are our linguists? 

Valeska

Valeska works with law enforcement projects and translates between Spanish and English. She has a very strong technical background which comes from rendering services in the Americas, Asia and Europe while she was working for a multinational mining corporation.

Claudia

Claudia also works with law enforcement projects translating and transcribing Spanish – English and although she has worked with Multilingual Connections for under a year, she has already become one of our top linguists.

Augustina

Agustina works on translation, editing and post-editing projects in Spanish & English. She specializes in legal and economic texts and recently discovered her passion and creative side through the localization of video games..

David

David has been working with Multilingual Connections for over 4 years and mainly works with Law Enforcement transcription and translation.

Common myths and misconceptions about translation

Myth #1: Being bilingual qualifies someone as a translator

Valeska

Valeska: “Something I have observed is that there is this misconception that simply being bilingual qualifies someone as a translator and, while this may very well be the first step for anyone thinking about becoming a translator, being one implies much more. This is a myth because when choosing it as a profession, a translator invests time in training, acquiring experience, and honing their skills. This takes, as stated, time but also commitment and a thirst for knowledge, as researching a specific topic or selecting the best terminology to be used is needed in order to produce quality work while still ensuring nuance or tone are preserved in the final product.”


Myth #2: Translation is a simple word-by-word rendering of text

Claudia

Claudia: “The most common misconception about translation is that it’s easy, that it’s just a matter of translating word by word literally. People don’t realize that there’s more to it – that there are cultural differences and different ways of expressing and saying things across the Spanish-speaking world. And this needs to be conveyed in your translation. Translation and localization go hand in hand.”


Myth #3: Translation is monotonous and boring

Augustina

Agustina: “A common myth I’ve often heard is that being a translator is a very monotonous and boring job. You end up in front of a computer every single day. I personally believe this is a myth, and I was able to prove the contrary to myself. When I started working as a translator, I was always a bit afraid of my job getting monotonous or even not liking what I was doing. However, my career has shown me that there is a lot of room for reinventing yourself as a linguist. It is a matter of how far you want to go, but there is plenty of flexibility, and I love the way I can combine this with the lifestyle I have.”


Myth #4: Dialects don’t make a big difference in translation

David

David: “A myth that comes to mind was the one that I believed myself before I started the job – that a speaker of a certain tongue can translate it effectively regardless of whether the variation he or she speaks or masters is the same as the one required. To be more specific, after a while on the job I realized how we, Mexicans, speak in our day-to-day life in a way that would be nearly impossible to understand to a Spanish speaker from another country. This became especially evident after having worked on projects in which the speakers were expressing themselves freely and therefore using common expressions, slang and localisms without any limitations.” 


Myths and misconceptions are common if you’re not familiar with the craft firsthand. Translation as a profession requires constant learning and research, and all of us are constantly learning about the best practices and gaining more understanding of the industry.

When you started working as a translator was there something you didn’t expect?

Valeska: “There are certain intricacies to subtitle translation which I was not expecting when I first started with this kind of work. It is not only about space and/or time restrictions. Audiovisual translators require creative synthesis skills, among many others. This is one of the aspects a lot of people always complain about when reading subtitles! In part, however, it is because they are unfamiliar with what the technical considerations are. Specializing in this kind of work is both challenging and exciting, which is something I welcomed since I am always interested in expanding my skills.

Translation fascinates me because it is so important since translators act as a link between those who otherwise would be unable to understand each other. If you think about any invention, (but not limited merely to scientific knowledge,) sharing such information has been possible throughout history because of translations and this has played a key role in the advancement of humanity. This also applies today, with events happening around the world being shared in every language and almost instantly, thanks to translation. I am fond of a quote by Gabriel García Márquez, as he once said, “A good translation is always a re-creation in another language” because it recognizes the mission of the translator in echoing the effect the writer intended on his target audience when originally creating his own work.”

Claudia: “When I first started working as a translator, I was surprised by how time-consuming it is to get it right. I was also surprised by how much I learn about different subjects while translating – things I would normally not learn about. 

I love being able to help get the message across and closing the gap between cultures. It’s fascinating to know that you’re helping others understand so many things that can get lost in translation.”

Agustina: “I was especially surprised about how much I love and enjoy my everyday job. I always think I am an incredibly lucky person because of this. What I am particularly fascinated about the translation world is the fact that one, as a linguist, ends up with a wide variety of knowledge from many different areas. I find this extremely rewarding and I value this a lot when I think of my career. Also, my career reminds me every single day of the amazing things we can achieve through words, and how powerful the role of a translator is for society at large.”

David: “I certainly didn’t imagine the translation industry to be such a large one, but now that I am in the field, I can see the importance of it and understand why. Aside from that, translation in general has made me realize how fascinating it is that a language can shape so much of an individual’s personality and thought structure. Oftentimes you will come across phrases in one language which just can not be translated faithfully into another, and if you consider words to be the building blocks of thoughts, then I suppose if you can’t say it, you can’t really think of it…”


At Multilingual Connections, we work with hundreds of talented and experienced linguists across the globe who are experts at translation, transcription, desktop publishing, and more. Our linguists are more than vendors. While we’re constantly onboarding new professional linguists to our team, we value long-term partnerships over transactions. 

Valeska: “I have been working with Multilingual Connections for 12 years now, which means that I’ve not only seen this great company grow, be reinvented, had its name changed, but also it has given me a brilliant opportunity to collaborate with such amazing people.”

Stay tuned for more updates from Multilingual Connections, and if you have a translation project in mind, let us know!

Are you a linguist looking to join our team? Apply here


Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!