Another Perspective: A Translation is Not


In modern times, there is a wealth of knowledge available to most of us, therefore, people easily comprehend various concepts. Translation is also one of those well-versed concepts. Most of the people might have heard or dealt with this term many times in their life. If we simply ask you the question “What is translation?”, then most probably you will not have any difficulty in defining the concept. However, if we ask you to clarify or explain what does translation not encompass, would that task be easily effortless? Maybe? Maybe not? There are a lot of factors that set translation services apart as a distinctive concept, as opposed to an ordinary one. These are the potential factors that can change the casual perception of the word “Translation” in the minds of various individuals. 


In this blog, we would like to present another perspective on how you can look at translation. 

Translation is not a small, niche market 

If you ask a person to describe how they see a translator — most people will think of an individual who does the translation, it is someone who performs only several projects a year. But the reality is different. Today several branches of translation occupy the market. The largest segment of the market belongs to written translation, followed by on-site interpreting and software localization. 


Professional translation agencies provide the vast majority of these translation services. Currently, more than 26,000 translation agencies are operating globally. These companies coordinate translation projects in multiple languages simultaneously, often involving multiple file types, processes, and technology tools.


Across the globe, there are hundreds of thousands of language professionals working in the field of translation and interpretation. Some translators and interpreters work directly with clients, whereas the majority of others work as freelancers who receive projects through various companies. 

Translation is not just the exchange of words

Translation is an intricate process that goes far beyond the mere conversion of words from one language to another. If it was a simple task, computers would have excelled at it. The translating process involves sentences, stories, ideas, images, and cultures. Professional translators act as cultural mediators while performing their roles. They capture the accurate meaning, and intent of the source text and convey it precisely to the target culture. 

Translation is not a need that will fade away  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that in 2020, there were around 83,000 jobs for interpreters and translators in the United States alone. Experts believe that this job market has grown by 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, higher than the average of 14 percent for all professions. Globally, the market has a compound annual growth rate of 12.17 percent. 

Professional Translation is not obligatory - a serious myth 

Again, another myth about the translation industry is that a non-translator who knows the target language and source language can complete any project. 


However, please consider how much of a mess you could get into if you got a non-translator friend to translate an article for your company’s blog. That friend could make a large number of mistakes. It may happen because a friend is not a specialist in this field. Your company will end up paying a huge amount of time and money for those mistakes. Consider working with people who specialize in certain fields of translation because they will get you the results you need.

Translation is not that easy 


Translation seems to be a straightforward process but it can be very challenging sometimes. Having to concentrate on two different texts at the same time is mentally exhausting because a translator is flowing between two languages and mind frames. A translator must first read and register source information and then summarize it and present it accurately in the target language. This requires having excellent linguistic knowledge and appreciating the subtleties in the language such as phrases, metaphors, tone, and intention. Providing a quality translation, therefore, means experience and saving the time needed for a craft.


Furthermore, translation demands more than just linguistic accuracy; it requires deep knowledge of cultural, historical, and contextual aspects of both the source and the target language. 


Moreover, the most important hurdle that translators tackle during the process is the ambiguity that lies within the language. Words and phrases do have multiple meanings within the same languages, therefore selecting the right words while maintaining the original meaning is a difficult task for translators. Profound skills and dedication are required to professionally translate a document. 

A translation is not good if the source content is bad


A large percentage of “translation errors” occur due to source text which may be poor in style or unclear. Think of a paint job: you can only do so much to hide the scratches and flaws underneath it. 


When there are several ways a recipient can understand a sentence, the translator has to make an educated guess about what the original author intended. 


Usually, translators cannot even clarify the source text. They may not get a chance to find out what the intention was behind an ambiguous term. They rely on their research skills and professional experience to figure out the intended meaning, but this is not desirable and can lead to a translation that does not measure up — but not necessarily due to any fault on the translator’s part.

A translation translated by one agency and checked by another is not a good way to keep quality in check


Many buyers of translations think they are savvy by paying one agency to translate their content and paying a separate agency to check their work for errors. However, pitting one provider against another does not keep quality in check.


There are reasons which prove this approach is a recipe for failure. First, the focus of the reviewing party becomes “error detection”. To prove they are doing a good job, they will often flag as many “errors” as they can find, even if in fact, many of the changes they are suggesting are preferential. Some providers might hope that if they catch enough mistakes, they will get a reward for the translation work, which is more highly paid than the quality control work.


Second, the customer ends up spending a lot of time mediating between the two parties, and many “errors” boil down to one person’s opinion versus another’s. Third, the entire focus of the process becomes combative instead of collaborative.

A translation is not better after quality control; it is better after quality improvement


For a high-quality translation, the focus should not be on quality control (checking for mistakes). It should rather be on quality improvement, which means producing a better translation from the start.


Would you like to bring home a printer and then have to return it a week later due to manufacturer’s defects? Alternatively, would you prefer a great printer from the beginning?




There are many ways to ensure a good translation from the beginning, but chief among them is providing the translators and editors with the resources so they can understand as much context as possible to uncover the true goal of the communication.


Translation teams who possess glossaries, style guides, support materials, and contextual information can produce a translation of much higher quality than those who are just handed a text with no background. 

Also, read What is the Influence of the Augmented Reality on Translation?