By Sofía Araya Calvo - English-Spanish Translation Student

Translating is not as simple as moving one word from one language to the other, nor being bilingual gives the person all the skills to become a successful translator. To a beginner, this task might seem simple, but one can always run the risk of committing many mistakes and not being aware of these. Therefore, common risks in translation such as formatting errors, word choice, and failing to adhere to clients’ expectations can be mitigated by informing oneself on common formats and styles, keeping a glossary for each text translated, and maintaining a close work relationship with the client.

Texts for translation come in many different forms and formats, so it is important to be familiar with the popular styles and formats in the case of academic texts or the particular characteristics found in different types of texts. Depending on the nature of the text, the translator must know which format to adhere to. If one is translating a literary text, the translator must use the MLA format in most cases, and if one is translating a technical text, one must use APA for these cases. Thus, knowing which type of text one has to translate is essential to avoid making mistakes not only because of the format but also because of the different sets of skills one must-have. As explained in the article Literary Translation vs. Technical Translation, “technical translators write, speak and understand at a technical level and literary translators write, speak and truly understand underlying tones” (Expresso Translations, 2019, para. 2). This means that the translator must study the text closely to maintain the correct meaning of it. In other words, the translator must be aware of the text to be translated in order to avoid format and stylistic errors.

Translators tend to work with texts from many different fields, so it is of no surprise that one can run into new words or terms which are extremely technical; therefore, it is key for translators to keep a glossary based on the prior investigation about the topic. Many new translators run into the mistake of not keeping or using a glossary, which then leads to issues with consistency and accuracy. In the article The Importance of a Glossary, Carolyn Storey explains how “by utilizing[sic] a glossary, you ensure your translations remain consistent and your content is translated to the highest quality and accuracy. In the case of a technical translation, it is unacceptable for keywords[sic] and phrases to be translated differently each time” (n.d., para. 1). If the translation is a group project, glossaries also help all the members of the group to remain constant in their word choice. Therefore, keeping and constantly checking a glossary is imperative for a translator, no matter the difficulty of a text or the number of people working on the same project.

Since translators work for clients, it is imperative for them to keep a close conversation about the expectations from the work with clients, as some translations require further or lesser work depending on the final purpose of the translated text. One must remember that the translations are at the request of the client and one cannot present the final product without revising it with the client beforehand. Clients have different expectations for a text like a target audience or style. In her article, Erika Barker explains that “you need to communicate with your client to gather important information for the translation job in hand: finding out why he wants the translation done, who it is intended for, is there a house style, does he know of target language competitors who sell the same product/service etc.” (n.d., para. 7). Translators might make the mistake of not communicating with the client properly and submitting their work without meeting the expectations of their employer. Thus, constantly communicating with the client and editing is very important to avoid making mistakes in the translation.

In conclusion, translators can lower the probability of falling into risky practices by being up to date with text formats and characteristics, constantly educating themselves on new vocabulary, and being attentive to their clients’ needs. Keeping track of all of these factors will improve the skills of the translator and the quality of the finished product. One must make the effort to follow these good practices in order to mitigate risks in translation.

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  • Baker, E. (n.d.). Communicating with clients. Iolante. -translation/working-from-home-business-skills/client-communication/
  • Expresso Translation. (2019, June 19). Literary Translation vs. Technical Translation.
  • Storey, C. (n.d.). The Importance of a Glossary. The Big Word.