Putting Those Translation Myths to Rest

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Translation Myths


The translation industry is often misunderstood. Some assume it’s a niche market, while others consider it a sector in which anyone can succeed.


It’s time to put those widely held misconceptions to rest. Here are seven translation myths that you probably thought were true…


Myth #1 – Translation is a Limited Market

Think the translation market is small? Think again. The global market for outsourced translation and interpreting services is expected to surpass $43.08 Billion in 2017, according to an independent study by market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research).


In fact, the demand for language services is growing at an annual rate of 6.97%. More organizations want their products and services available in more languages, to help them reach global markets and improve the overall performance of their businesses.


Although there are many translation freelancers working independently from home, it’s wrong to assume that all of them are lone rangers. In fact, a lot of them work for professional companies. There are over 30,000 small translation agencies around the world, handling millions of projects for a wide range of industries.


Myth #2 – Only Books Get Translated

If you imagine books represent the bulk of translated material, it’s time for an update. This was certainly the case in the past, before the internet existed. Today, however, almost every business functions online. Since it’s a global space, companies which want to market themselves to new customers worldwide, must offer multilingual websites, increasing the demand for translation services. Literary content nowadays represents only a very small portion of the market; the largest segments are software, health care, manufacturing, and legal and financial services.


Myth #3 – Anyone can be a Translator

Need something translated? Don’t ask a friend! Just because someone is bilingual, it doesn’t mean they can accurately translate a text. They might be able to speak two languages, but that doesn’t make them a professional translator. Most professional translators are highly educated individuals with degrees or training in translation, linguistics or a related field.


In fact, in the U.S., translators are certified by the American Translators Association, according to their writing skills, creativity and awareness of both context and the importance of localization. In other words, not everyone can be a translator. Avoid taking shortcuts and reach out to an expert when you need to adapt meaning from one language and culture to another.


Myth #4 – Translators and Interpreters are the Same

Believing that translators and interpreters do the same job is another common misconception. In fact, their responsibilities are very different. Although translation and interpretation are closely related disciplines, they are actually performed by different people. Translators convert written texts while interpreters translate spoken material, often in real time.


Translators must be skilled in writing, as well as proficient in using computer-assisted translation tools and terminology management software. Interpreters, on the other hand, must have excellent skills in note-taking and spontaneously memorizing and recalling terminology and phrases.


Myth #5 – Translators Work in Several Languages

“How many languages do you speak”? This is a question many translators are asked on a daily basis. Believe it or not, these individuals are not usually hyperpolyglots (someone who master or becomes fluent in many different languages). Translators typically master only two languages and work in just one direction – from one language to another – and rarely in reverse.


Myth #6 – Technology is Replacing Human Translators

New technology is indeed performing much of the work done by humans in recent years. In fact, the Guardian reported that robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021. Despite this worrying trend, the translation industry does not appear to be greatly affected by technological advances. In fact, machine translation, especially the free tools found online, is increasing the demand for human translation. Not only are these systems likely to produce inaccurate results, large volumes of translations usually come at a cost. This encourages users to turn to professional human linguists who guarantee 100% quality and accurate results.


Myth #7 – All You Need is a Translator

Wrong! Just as professional writers rely on editors and proofreaders, so do translators. Agencies usually employ a team of editors and proofreaders to review and check all translated content. This ensures accuracy in spelling, word usage, grammar, punctuation and formatting. A second set of eyes guarantees that your work will be delivered in an accurate, logical and polished form.
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