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Busting 3 of the Most Common Myths about Document Translation Services

document translations myths

Last updated on June 5th, 2023 at 03:43 pm

document translations common myths

Debunking Some of the Most Popular Document Translation Myths!

You have paper documents and files in your computer of business documents along with a website that all need professional translation.  Bring on machine translation! – Right?  Machine translation has evolved so rapidly that many people cannot help but ponder the true significance of the role of a professional human translator.  Additionally, the presence of individuals who are proficient in languages other than English has brought about a preference for using these individuals for translation work, over professional translation services.

These developments come naturally as a result of our desire for a fair balance of speedy and budget-friendly translation services.  While machine translation has indeed become more ‘intelligent’, and multiple language speakers are helpful in providing a rough meaning of some types of content-  there are limits to what both options provide.

With this in mind, we present to you – and bust!- three of the most common myths people have relating to document translations.


Myth #1- Bilingual People are natural translators.

This seems to be one of the most popular go-to solutions for every time a translation is needed.  If you need Spanish to English translation, you might just happen to have a Spanish speaking colleague or friend who could be good candidates.  But the truth is being bilingual does not guarantee that someone has the skills to take the ideas expressed in a piece of content and convey those ideas in a second language in a way that is faithful to the original message, grammatically and syntactically correct.  These critical skills are what separate the professional translator, a linguist, from a bilingual person.

Most professional translators have developed their skills through education and training in not only the languages they translate for but also a specialty field.  Commonly requested translation services including legal translation, medical translation, and marketing translation, each requires a specific skill set to guarantee a quality translation that suits the needs of the client.  Legal translation, for instance, requires the expertise of a legal translator who has in-depth knowledge of legal systems of different regions. On the other hand, marketing and advertising translation demand the skills of a translator who can flawlessly adapt the marketing content to both the target language and cultural elements specific to the target audience.  Both sets of skills are different, and can only be acquired through years of education and professional training.


Myth #2- Machine Translation produces immediate, good quality results.

The main selling point of machine translation is that it produces consistent content.  Machine translated content is a good solution for companies that require a large volume translated quickly at a budget-friendly price.  When programmed properly with specialized terminology from a specific industry, machines work effectively for high volume document translation work for content that is meant to be used internally.

What machine translation does not offer is the ability to infuse the right tone, style, and cultural context – all three elements are necessary to render an accurate and meaningful translation. It’s impossible to program a machine to recognize that some words carry vastly different meanings in different cultures.  Nor can a machine be programmed to deliver marketing translation of content that carries a specific tone that is emotionally engaging.   Without the review and updates of a human translator, called post editing, a machine cannot produce content that is ready to be published and shared with the target audience.  For as much as machine translation has evolved, its quality is still skewed towards literal translation. The translated content of an automatic translation should always be reviewed to see if it is of acceptable quality for its intended use.


Myth #3 Document Translations is an Easy, Straightforward Process.

A common ‘initial’ misconception among clients is that the act of submitting a document for translation is all that’s required on their part for a well-translated document to be produced in return.

The first step in the document translation process is finding the right translator for the job, and that in itself is not easy.  Consider what we’ve learned in the first two myths, a professional translator is much more than simply a bilingual person-  the latter of which can be found pretty easily.  The best place to find the most qualified translator for your needs is through a professional translation company, where only the most skilled translators in specific areas of expertise are hired, vetted and guided.

When requesting document translation services, you’ll probably be asked questions that you’d never considered before.  For instance, you might already have a good idea of who your audience is but you may be asked to be even more specific in describing the target audience.  You might find yourself answering questions such as –

  • Where is your audience from? If your document translations are meant for French audiences, the translation company will want to know the specific region of French speakers you are targeting.  Canadian French, France French, for instance, differ in the usage of idioms, words, grammar, and expressions.
  • What’s your desired time frame? The average translation capacity of a human translator is around 2500 words a day.  If you need to have a high volume of documents translated and expedited within a faster time frame, then the translation company may need to work with more than one translator to achieve your request in time with quality.
  • Do you have previous translations? This question also ties to the existence of glossary and style guides to aid translation.
  • How much formatting is necessary? For documents that consist mainly of text, formatting is an easy process.  When graphics, graphs, and tables are involved, the formatting process becomes more complicated.  Making the translation process more complex is the impact of text expansion.  When translating from one language to another, the number of target words might exceed the source word count and the length of the translated words vary.  The aspect of formatting is especially critical for marketing, like in brochures and presentations, as well as any other content that must be presentable to the public. A reliable marketing translation process involves receiving the source files and devoting time to layout adjustments or multilingual desk to publishing after the translation is completed- as in the case of InDesign files.


Conquer the Challenges of Document Translation through a Professional Translation Company!

When your translated documents are meant for global audiences or for critical processes like responding to a proposal, the best way to ensure that they are well received is through a professional translation service.  While there are other instances in which a machine translation can offer the type of translation you need, a machine cannot understand many of the complexities that a professional human translator would.  And a bilingual person might be proficient in the languages you need but lack the skills and training of professional translators who are capable of delivering well formatted, accurate and properly localized content.

As a professional translation company, JR Language hires only professional, skilled and experienced translators to make sure your translated content resonates with your target markets.  Your content and your translated content represent your company!

Flora Yu
Flora Yu
Flora was born and raised in New York to parents from Hong Kong and Taiwan. She has a degree in Accounting. She is fluent in Mandarin, and contributes a unique perspective as someone who was raised in 2 different cultures. She finds humor and opportunities to learn as she constantly searches for the balance between the East and West.