9 Common Misconceptions About Language Services

Language service providers often face many misconceptions about translation & interpreting professions

Misconception #1:
Anyone who is bilingual can translate.

  • Truth: Simply being fluent in another language doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will be a good translator or interpreter. One must also understand the culture, dialect and the material being translated. The only true way to determine if someone will be a good translator or interpreter is if they have studied and trained, and even better, are certified.

Misconception #2:
Translation is just the literal swapping of words from one language to another.

  • Truth: Translation is more of a linguistic activity than a simple exchange. Translation projects require a person who thoroughly understands the subject matter being translated, is a good writer, and has experience in crafting the idea of the original in the target language. Translators translate ideas not words.

Misconception #3:
Knowing one dialect is good enough.

  • Truth: There are many dialects of certain languages. For example, there are more than 25 different varieties of Spanish alone. Using the incorrect version of a certain word can be very embarrassing, if not rather offensive or costly. See this example.

Misconception #4:
You don’t need a translator and an editor.

  • Truth: In order to reduce errors, a project should be touched by a translator who converts the text from language A into language B, and then examined by an editor who reviews it to make sure it is correct. Even more professionals may be required if you need an in-context review for a website or software.

“Translators translate ideas not words.”

Misconception #5:
You can get accurate translations online for free with tools such as Google Translate.

  • Truth: While those tools can come in handy for figuring out a single word here and there, one should proceed with extreme caution if they even consider using them for lengthy texts and business level communications. Accurate translations require contextual understanding, as well as an understanding of the various dialects, cultural nuances, and local terminology.

Note: even translating one word via an electronic tool can go awry such as when translating the Spanish word “Bombilla” into English. In Bolivia and Chile, it means “straw.” However, electronic translations simply translate it to “light bulb.”

Misconception #6:
If you can translate, you can interpret.

  • Truth: Translation and interpreting are not the same thing. Translating, which involves written language, is a more detail-oriented task that requires an in-depth examination of the text so the translation will stay true to the source document. Interpreting, which involves spoken language, requires an on-the-fly relaying of information. If you were to ask a translator to interpret for you, they would most likely get very nervous, as they are not trained to interpret or communicate quickly without their typical tools such as dictionaries and other research resources.

Misconception #7:
Interpreters must be on location.

  • Truth: Sometimes an interpreter is needed to be on location, but often you only need over the phone interpretation (OPI). We use sophisticated technology to connect you and the person you need to communicate with on the phone with a qualified interpreter in a matter of seconds. This service is available on demand 24/7/365 and is much more cost efficient than having an interpreter on site, when one really isn’t needed.

Misconception #8:
Using an interpretation or translation service is too expensive.

  • Truth: We often get asked, “How much does a good translation cost?” The answer is simple: “A lot less than a bad one.” Paying a professional translator or interpreter may seem like an unnecessary expense to someone who thinks they can get the same quality of work from any untrained bilingual person. As noted above, this isn’t the case, and some of the services you may need aren’t that expensive anyway. For example, if you use an OPI, you only pay for the minutes you use. As also noted above, translations done poorly can go awry quickly. Think about how costly it could be if you hired a non-trained translator or interpreter who ended up messing up an important business contract or incorrectly interpreted medical information that threatened someone’s well-being. In the end, you are better off working with a professional who specializes in translation and interpretation.

Misconception #9:
Language services done by a $5 service are just fine.

  • Truth: Be wary of cut-rate language services. Inaccurate translations and interpretations can end up costing your organization thousands or more – or can even be harmful to someone’s health. Translations that are “close enough” just aren’t.

Languages evolve and can become quite complex. It’s vital to trust your content to trained professionals who are passionate about language and your business.