Errors in Translation: Find Out How They Happen and Fix the Issue

To err is human – and translators are no exception to this rule. Quality conformance is probably one of the most challenging aspects of providing translation services. In order to maintain high quality and reduce translation errors of work submitted, certain systems need to be put in place.

Types of translation errors

Grammar and syntax errors

Grammar and syntax of each language tend to be unique. While translating, translators are expected to keep in mind differences in spelling, subject-object-verb agreement, and sentence construction. Sometimes regional differences can change the way that syntax and grammar operate. For example- although the English is spoken both, in the UK as well as the US, the English of both countries have multiple differences in their grammar and syntax.

Most times translators make these mistakes purely because they will not have in-depth knowledge about the specific language’s grammar and syntax.


Not translating a sentence properly amounts to mistranslation. This can happen due to oversight or lack of knowledge on part of the translator. Local differences need to be considered while translating. Using a word, say ‘tram’ for ‘train’ when the country in question does not have a tram service will be both misleading and will compromise the quality of the translated work.

Mistranslations are often a result of ignorance on part of the translator. Lack of research is another reason for a high error-rate.

Inconsistent translation

Improper use of tone, incorrect use of slangs & jargon and wrong placement of words are what lead to inconsistency in the translated material. If the work being translated is technical in nature, then the tone and words used should be professional and formal. Informal language and tone do not have any place in the material.

Inexperienced or poor translators may switch between tones used, leading to errors while reading. All this might also happen if the translator is careless in his writing and proofing.

Localization of language

Certain words do not have an equivalent in another language. For example, the Japanese use the word “Yūgen” which means “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering”. This does not have an equivalent word in English. Not accounting for these differences can lead to translators using wrong words in the wrong places. This can lead to multiple errors and detract from the quality of the translated piece.

Ways to reduce translation errors

Pay attention to the nuances of the language

Learning and understanding the minute grammatical and syntax differences between languages will help translators avoid simple spelling & grammar errors. Additionally, avoiding literal translations will help preserve the integrity of the work.

Do thorough research

Reading books, listening to audio files, perusing grammar books and even observing body language will help translators understand what words and sentences mean. This will help translators get a better picture about the way language is used in a particular country and it will help reduce errors due to mistranslation and misuse of words.

Proper proofing

Reading and re-reading the material will help translators spot mistakes in spelling & grammar and identify any inconsistency in the translation. Translators should also add end-notes post-translation to help readers understand what a word means or why it has been used. This will improve overall quality.

Installing translation quality assurance tools

Quality tools such as spellchecker and CAT tools can help identify errors at a much faster rate. These tools will help translators identify which parts of the translated piece are below the level of acceptance. Additionally, having a dedicated team of quality assurance professionals will help ensure there is a four-eye check of the final translated material.

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