Five Common Translator Traps

Posted on June 7, 2016 By


Here are five traps to avoid if you are to make your translations linguistically accurate, culturally appropriate and, ultimately, effective in building your Clients’ businesses.

With more and more companies doing business in multiple countries and needing to reach geographically varied audiences, there has never been a better time to become a freelance business translator. However, there is more to translation than just changing the words to a second language.

1. Not keeping up with the latest buzzwords and vernacular

Effective freelance translators must keep up-to-date with how businesses speak, what the latest business buzzwords mean, and what terms specific industries (e.g., finance) use. You might decide not to use these actual words in the final translation, but knowing them and what they mean will make your translation more accurate. On the other side of the coin, being familiar with the vernacular used by the target readers, and incorporating them into the text when appropriate, can make your message sound fresh and relevant.

2. Not doing enough research

Every Client is different; every job is different. With every new assignment, successful translators strive to know as much as there is to know about the company: offerings, overall campaign and target audience. This ensures that the final result will make a meaningful and relevant contribution to the Client’s overall communication effort. 

3. Not considering the brand personality when translating

Effective translation goes beyond literal translation and incorporates the tone and image of the brand that the piece is selling. This is why research is important: it enables you to understand what the brand stands for and to get a feel for its personality. Ask yourself who the brand would be if it were a person. If you’re selling a luxury hotel, imagine who it might be as a person. Is it a Hollywood celebrity? If you’re selling an automobile, would the brand image be that of a famous sports star? Learn about the brand, find out who it would be if it were personified, and think about this person’s voice and tone when you translate.

4. Neglecting other work channels

There are numerous communication channels available to Clients who want to engage with their audiences. These used to just be traditional advertising activities through press, television, radio and direct mail. These days, companies can reach their audiences via live events, through their websites, e-mail marketing, and, of course, social media.

Other than traditional advertising channels, which are expensive and tend to target broad rather than clearly delineated audiences, there is no reason why you should not be able to use the same channels to promote your best product: yourself. Show off your translating flair on your website, social media pages or video blog.

5. Going beyond your specialisation

Translating is a field of specialisation, not just of languages, but of subject matter. There are, no doubt, those who can write across a number of fields most competently; but many of us have our own specialisations, such as finance, food, travel or health. Taking on jobs in areas outside your speciality will only bring down your credibility. On the other hand, knowing what you are good at and capitalising on your strengths will in due course build your expertise, your authority and your business.

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