ULG’s Language Solutions Blog

Is Translation Ever Perfect?

Translation is never perfect. Each language is unique in its syntax, cultural elements, and phrases. It is difficult to replicate the original meaning in one language when translating to another. Text in which word placement and flow matters, like music lyrics, poems, and books, are especially difficult to translate faithfully. Idioms, such as “it’s raining cats and dogs,” can be exceedingly difficult to translate, as word-for-word translations often make no sense in another language.

Human translators are individuals.

Many people think that translation is simply taking a word from one language and replacing it with the same word in another language. Although this is true to an extent, it is much more nuanced than that. Translators have individual opinions about how a text should be translated. Often, words and phrases can be translated differently and still convey the same meaning, leaving word choice to the discretion of the translator.

Machines aren’t perfect, either.

Machine translation is most definitely not free from error. Machines can’t match the human understanding of cultural elements, phrases, and syntax. Human translators are much more reliable when it comes to making a translation seem natural in the target language.

Perfection may not be attainable, but accuracy is necessary.

Of course, ensuring that a translation is accurate and conveys the intended message is always the top priority in any translation. This is even more important when what’s being translated is essential information such as a prescription label, medical pamphlet, or instructions on how to operate a medical tool. In these cases, accuracy is critical.

Although translation will never be 100% perfect, there are ways to ensure that it’s as near-perfect as possible. Editing is essential. The more humans that read and edit the document, the better. Reading the piece aloud to identify major and minor errors like spelling and grammar is another helpful step. If machine translation is used, always make sure that a human looks it over to ensure that phrasing and word choice make sense in the selected language.

United Language Group employs linguists in more than 200 languages. We’re experienced at providing accurate translation and localization services for global enterprises, including those in the healthcare and life sciences industries. For more insights on ensuring accurate translation for your global markets, browse our blog!

 

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