How to avoid translation mistakes

How to avoid translation mistakes

Making translation mistakes can be costly for your business. It can lead to misunderstandings with customers, lost sales, and even lawsuits. Even with no other negative consequences, translation mistakes lead to a lot of wasted time and money. That’s why it is important to take steps to avoid translation mistakes as much as possible.

In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common translation mistakes and how you can avoid them. We’ll look at the common types of translation errors that are made, and why you should avoid using automated translation tools like Google Translate. We’ll also take a look at the benefits of using a professional translator, and suggest some things you can do to reduce the chances of making translation mistakes.

Don't use machine translation software - it often produces inaccurate translations

What do you get if you ask Google Translate to translate the English term ‘paper jam’ into Spanish? A tasty cellulose based-spread for your toast, apparently. That’s right, Google translates this term as “mermelada de papel”, literally a jam made from paper. While companies like Google continue to work hard to improve the quality of their translations, they still cannot compete with humans at this time.

Make sure you have a good understanding of the language you're translating into

To really provide a top-quality translation you should be fluent in both the language you are translating from and the language you are translating to. If this is not possible, then you should be strongest/fluent in the target language. This is because it is often easier to read a language you are unfamiliar with than to write it. The benefit to this approach is that if you have difficulties with the source language it is easier to see these as they occur and you can access high-quality resources online to overcome misunderstandings.

As for translating from your native language into a language you are not fluent in, this is simply ill-advised, it’s near impossible not to make at least some oversights. Translation errors will at best make your work look second-rate and at worst could end in legal action. If you do complete your own translation in this way, be sure to hire a localization service to review the translation before publishing.

The benefits of using a professional translator

When it comes to translation, you really do get what you pay for. A translation carried out by a professional translator will be of a much higher quality than one completed by a machine translation software or someone without the relevant experience.


To really provide a top-quality translation you should be fluent in both the language you are translating from and the language you are translating to.

A good translation is not just about getting the meaning of the words right, but also ensuring that the tone and feel are right for your message. A good translator is not just fluent in both languages, they should be someone who has at least a general understanding of the subject matter and the relevant industry and technical terms. In addition, professionals will be much more adept at translating idioms from one language into one with the equivalent meaning in the target language.

How to find the right translator for your project

When you are looking to hire a translation service, it is important that you find one with relevant experience in your industry. To do this, you can search for translation agencies that specialize in your particular field or look for individual translators who have experience translating for companies in your industry.

While it can be very tempting to hire a private translator or maybe to use a company staff member who speaks both languages you cannot be sure of what you are getting. We are all experts in our own fields, you wouldn’t hire a translator to design a new product or develop your website, so don’t hire a web developer or an engineer to be your translator.

The best way to get the right translator for your task and to avoid translation mistakes is to hire a large company. Circle Translations are industry-leading experts, with entire teams of translation professionals covering various technical and business areas of knowledge. They can find the right translator(s) for your project and they offer a variety of packages that include proofreading and revisions for your peace of mind.


Tips for working with a translator successfully

When working with a translation service or an individual translator, there are some things you can do to ensure that your project runs smoothly and that the translation is of the highest quality.

  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your translation. Do you need a literal translation or something more interpretive?
  • Make sure you provide the translation service or translator with as much context as possible. The more they understand about your company, product, and target audience, the better they will be able to translate your message.
  • If you have any industry-specific terms or jargon, make sure you provide a glossary of terms for the translator to use.
  • Allow time for revisions. A translation is not a one-and-done task, you should expect to review the translation and make changes as needed.
  • Be prepared to pay for a high-quality translation. A good translation is not cheap, but it is worth it.

A good translation is not just about getting the meaning of the words right, but also ensuring that the tone and feel are right for your message.

Proofreading your translations – is it really enough?

Many companies undervalue professional proofreaders, no matter how good your translator is there’s a chance they made their own mistakes. Plus, while a translator may have a general understanding of the topic, an expert at translation will struggle to maintain expertise in other fields.

The best proofreader is a native speaker in the target language and ideally someone with professional experience in the topic that your content is about. Whether or not a proofreader is worth the additional cost really depends on your content, sales material, or website copy that will be used for commercial ventures or will exist for a long time should have no expense spared. On the other hand, certain low-level and low traffic pages of a website or the back pages of a report can probably be skipped if budget is a concern.


By following these tips, you can avoid translation mistakes and ensure that your message is conveyed accurately and effectively to your target audience. If you need help with a translation or localization task, contact Circle Translations for an obligation-free discussion about how our high-quality service can help your business.