Four Obstacles in Business Translation and How I Overcame Them

I find translating for businesses to be extremely rewarding – I have the opportunity to help my clients reach new markets for their services. But it’s also very challenging work.

“Lost in Translation” is not just a movie. It’s a problem that translators regularly face. Some things just don’t make sense when you simply substitute a word in one language for its counterpart word in the source text.

Here are the four biggest obstacles I’ve faced in translation, and how I overcame them.

One – Idioms

An idiom is a common expression in a language that doesn’t literally mean what the words say. Think of “time flies” or “speaking off the cuff.” What I typically try to do in my translations is to understand what the author is trying to express in his/her own language – the basic, underlying meaning – and then substitute an English-language expression that conveys the same underlying concept. If a German says Daumen drücken!, it would not make sense to an English-speaker if I simply translated it to Thumbs pressed! The phrase is a wish for luck. In English, we might say Fingers crossed! to wish someone luck, so I would use that phrase in my translation, instead.

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