6 Myths About the Translation and Interpretation Industry

Last Updated March 9, 2021

There are myths out there regarding all areas of business. The translation and interpretation industry is no exception.

People are generally not aware of the ins and outs of professions they are not involved with. Sometimes, these misunderstandings result in a loss of work, and erode confidence in those performing the tasks in question.

That includes the language service provider (LSP) industry.

Effective translation and interpretation services are vital, and we are here to bust some of the most common myths about translation and interpretation—including myths about translators and interpreters themselves.

Myth #1: Language service providers only provide translation and interpretation

Translation involves interpreting a text in its source language and rendering it into the target language while preserving the original meaning.

Translation seems simple and quaint, but it’s big business too. The language service provider (LSP) industry worldwide generates approximately $40 billion USD a year. Still, it’s a rapidly growing industry.

That’s because it’s not just about translation.

A good LSP will also offer translation as well as localization for the following:

More recently, LSPs are offering data solutions to help companies improve their AI-powered solutions. For example, collecting speech data to help voice assistants better understand additional languages and accents.

Myth #2: Anyone who knows a foreign language can be a translator/interpreter

This is maybe the most common myth, and a damaging one at that.

It’s related to the belief that a native speaker of a given language will a better choice than a person who translates or interprets by profession.

But people are often not aware of how demanding this profession is. Knowledge of two languages isn’t enough to work as a translator or interpreter.

It takes sacrifice, preparation, and a wealth of general and sector-specific knowledge and skills.

Translators and interpreters must not only perfect at least two languages, but also need strong editing skills, have above-average knowledge of grammar, punctuation, and spelling, and know the rules governing the use of a given language.

Myth #3: Translation and interpretation can be done by the same person

Typically, a person who wants to work in the LSP industry focuses on either translation or interpretation and develops their expertise accordingly.

Translation converts the written word from one language to another, whereas interpretation shares the meaning of the spoken word in real time.

A translator requires excellent reading and writing skills, not to mention comprehension. An interpreter, on the other hand, requires excellent listening and public speaking skills, as well as a good memory.

Myth #4: Any translator can work on every topic

An experienced translator who is not familiar with the specific issues covered in a text should not attempt to translate it.

Expertise and experience are essential in translation, so industry specialization is common within the field.

When choosing a translator to render a specialized piece of text related to marketing, medicine, law, IT, technology, or finance, you should take into consideration their experience in each area.

Working with a person who has the right substantive knowledge will exponentially improve the quality of the work.

Myth #5: It makes no difference to the translator/interpreter whether they work from or into a given language

Translating or interpreting English into another language is quite different than working with the foreign language and reproducing to English.

In other words, translating or interpreting English to German is much different than vice versa.

Again, translation is more than just moving words from one language to another. It requires the ability to understand the text and present it in the target language while also conveying the proper tone and understanding the author’s voice and their intended audience.

Additionally, not every word or term has a direct translation in all languages, and some words that seem similar on both might not have the same meaning.

If you’re fluent in two languages, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can translate both into the other.

Myth #6: Machine translation will replace human translation

The digitization process affects nearly all professions, including the translation industry.

Given significant developments in machine translation, questions have been raised regarding whether people will be needed for this task moving forward.

Google Translate is a primary example; anyone can visit the site and easily translate a word or phrase from one language to another.

In reality, we do not need to pit machine and human translation against the other. Each has its uses.

Machine translation is useful for translating large quantities in a timely manner and when it’s okay for the quality to be good enough. For example, translating large e-commerce product catalogs or million-page product documentation such as an online help center.

Human translation, on the other hand, is needed when nuance and messaging is important. But it’s costlier and more time consuming.

As a result, many language service providers are pivoting to hybrid models where humans review machine-translated text.

The translator’s experience and gained knowledge in specific areas of expertise can be combined with the efficiencies of machine translation to create an entire translation solution that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Rely on a Professional Translation Service

It’s not enough for translators or even machines to simply know a foreign language and the grammatical complexities thereof.

Translators bring experience and expertise that enable them able to work with documents from all industries and understand the complexities and nuance of the target language.

To learn more about what experienced translators can do for your business, check out Summa Linguae’s translation services.

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