An Age of Mythconception

By Atlas LS

At a hotel in Acapulco, Mexico, visiting American tourists were frightened off when they encountered a sign reading, “The manager has personally passed all the water served here.”(source) While the posted wording was a literal translation from Spanish, it overlooked how most English speakers understand the phrase “to pass water”.

In today’s globalizing environment, speakers of different languages are more likely to meet. These close encounters are bolstering the need for professionally trained translators. From tourists on an exotic getaway to businesses brokering lucrative international deals, translators play a crucial role. Despite the increasing need for quality translations, many common myths and misconceptions continue to shroud this field in mystery. Collectively entitled “mythconceptions” by this author, these daily misunderstandings can lead to unintended consequences.


Mythconceptions 1: Translators are experts in every field

Individuals who contract a translator’s services often assume he or she will be able to expertly translate in any field. However, those who are proficient in translation often have mastery in a select number of fields. If, for example, a translator was trained in medical translation, they may not be the best option for working on an engineering assignment.

Mythconception 2: Translation and interpretation are synonymous

In everyday English, translation and interpretation are treated as synonyms. However, each term occupies a different space. Translation refers to work done with written texts while interpretation involves spoken dialogue.

Mythconception 3: Computer automated translation renders human services obsolete

While computer-based translation tools are improving daily, they will never replace human translators. Each language is encoded with subtleties and nuances that digital translation tools have difficulty comprehending. Human translators, however, possess the knowledge and tools to accurately convey those subtle shades.

Burying mythconceptions

Professional translators provide a pivotal service. While their role is widely celebrated, it is often misunderstood. Only when a translation misstep occurs do individuals and businesses realize the need for competently trained professionals. For example, during the halcyon days of the USSR, Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev stated that his empire would outlive the United States. Unfortunately, English translations rendered his quote as, “We will bury you.” For most English speakers this phrase has belligerent connotations, characterizing the Soviets as trigger happy thugs.

Not all translation mistakes will cause a nuclear exchange, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a fallout. Atlas Language Services can help you avoid these mythconceptions. Contact us if you are looking for quality conference translation services.