Myths - Andrea Dahlberg Translations > Übersetzungen

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Common Misconceptions about Translation and/or Freelancing

Myth: Anyone who has acquired a basic command of a foreign language during two years of school lessons, has a great-grandmother from a foreign country and/or is in possession of a dictionary, can translate.
While basic knowledge of a language might suffice to grasp the general content, transferring any given text from one language to another usually is much more than a word-by-word translation. Translating idioms, collocations, knowing which of the five translations listed in the dictionary is to be used in a particular context, recognizing innuendos and allusions to cultural aspects, movies, books or TV ads, being familiar with trade-specific terms – all this is also required to provide a good translation.

Myth: A good translator can translate anything.
"If you don’t understand it, don’t translate it." This is a basic principle I always apply when considering whether or not to accept a new project.  While I can certainly understand manuals for consumer electronics like microwave ovens, detailed maintenance manuals for industrial machinery are beyond my capabilities. The same principle applies for specialized medical texts and for legal texts. These require a sound knowledge of the legal systems in both, the source country and the target country.

Myth: A professional writer needed 2 weeks of work to complete a 40-page manual /whitepaper / PPT presentation. This document can be translated into another language in half a business day without compromising the quality.
While the content is already predetermined when translating a text as opposed to writing it from scratch, the time required for phrasing, finding the right words, adapting the formatting, proofreading, and adding the final polish, is approximately the same for the writing process and for the translation. In addition, the final editing brings the best results when it is done "at a safe distance" (a few hours or even a good night’s sleep) from the source text. This prevents the translation from sounding translated.

To be continued...

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