Translation: Not for Amateurs

notforamateurs_2Many of us think that translation is easy. You just need to be bilingual or just have taken some classes. It won’t be perfect, but you can get the idea, right? Not necessarily, as you’ll see in the following examples.

You’re invited to a wedding in Romania and the wedding invitation says to wear a “costume,” which is clear, right? You need to head over to the party store and rent the fanciest Dracula costume you can find. It’s the big day and you arrive just in time for the ceremony, but it looks like you’re the only one who got the memo about arriving in costume. If the bride and groom had been kind enough to have their invitations translated, then your invitation would have read, “black tie welcome.” (In Romanian, the word for suit is, “costum”).

Take this French sentence: Le magasin dans la librarie a publié un avertissement pour les fabriques de glace. Don’t go throwing it into an online translation tool just yet; try to translate it on your own. The magazine in the library had an ad for glass fabrics. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Now, go ahead, paste the sentence into an online translation tool. In case you don’t have one handy, the sentence reads: A store inside the bookstore posted a warning for ice plants. Let’s not forget the importance of context.

It’s easy to become overconfident, but there’s no replacement for someone who not only is bilingual but is also trained in translation. They know these false friend traps and how to steer away. How bewildering would it be to receive information from financial advisors abroad that say, “How do you plan to exceed your concurrences?” when in fact they meant competition (in German, “Konkurrenz” means competition).

There’s certainly a lot of value in using a translator, it can save you and your company embarrassment, miscommunication and most importantly, money.


JLS Language Corporation offers high-quality translation services in Silicon Valley and beyond. We help bridge communication gaps in our diverse world, working in multiple languages and for many different industries, including medical, technical, and legal. JLS services include translation, interpreting, and website or software localization. Our Quality Management System is certified to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.

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