Problem # 1: Structure of the Language

The structure of sentences in English and other languages may be different. For example, in English the adjective is placed before the noun, but in French the adjective comes after the noun. In Arabic and some other languages, the subject pronoun is part of the verb, and that determines the subject gender and the voice of the sentence. Language is complex, vast, and ever-evolving. The translator has to know the exact structure in each language, and use the appropriate structure, and they have to ensure that the translation is performed without changing the meaning as well.



Make use of grammar checkers, translation memory tools and other techniques to ensure that you have maintained the structure in the target language without changing the meaning or sense of the source document.


Problem #2: Culture

Often, colloquialism is woven into formal language, making the translator’s task very difficult indeed. The larger the region where the language is spoken, the more the dialects there are likely to be, and the more colloquial words you are likely to find – except in technical documents translations, legal document translations, or translations of medical transcripts. The culture practised by the speakers of each language may also be vastly different; for example, the British are famous for their dry, biting sarcasm, which is their brand of humor. However, this kind of sarcasm may not be appreciated in not just a country speaking a different language, but even another country where they speak English. Then the problem arises as to how to translate accurately without hurting sentiments or angering the target audience.



Scan the internet to learn the most popular colloquialisms used in that language, and familiarise yourself with the most commonly used dialects. This can give you a fair idea when you need to translate. Soak in the culture as much as you can through movies, TV shows, magazines and books in that language. Movies and TV shows will be especially helpful in recognizing local culture and dialects.

Problem #3: Words with several meanings

There are several words in the English language that have different meanings based on the way they are used in the sentence. Words are sometimes spelled alike and pronounced alike, but have different meanings, like break (a plate) or take a coffee break. Words that have the same spellings but different pronunciations like to lead a conference, or a lead pencil. There are also words that have different spelling but have the same pronunciation, like break and brake, grate and great, and so on. There are hundreds of such words in English, and also idioms, metaphors, similes and so on.


The translator has to be very vigilant, and carefully read the source text to fully grasp the meaning. Only after that should they begin the work of translation; otherwise, it can lead to embarrassing

Problem #4: Technical Knowledge

Translators are first and foremost, linguists; though they do have good knowledge of certain subjects, they are usually not the top experts in the field. In fact it’s very rare that you find a say, doctor, who is also an expert linguist. Translators usually specialise in certain niches, and gain subject matter expertise. But sometimes that may not be enough; some documents may be full of technical jargon, or talk about specific procedures or activities in detail. This can pose a problem for translators.


If the matter is very technical you may need a lot of time – more than usual, to complete the task. You could contact the client for some pointers if you’re stuck, or consult a local expert you know well, and ask them for help. You would also need to read up and educate yourself to gain deeper knowledge, or to keep in step with the new developments happening in that field.


Problem #5: Limited Time

Most clients need the translated work quickly; they have no time to lose. If it is a straightforward document, then you may be able to finish it within the deadline. But when it is a technical or legal document full of technical terms or if there is a lot of dialect and colloquialism involved, it could take longer.


Use as many technologies as you can – translation memory software, computer aided translation software and more, to speed up the process as much as possible. Other than that, the only thing you could do is put in a request for more time, right at the outset.

© 2004 - 2015 Avrasiya Translation Center
Online consultant
Offers and complaints