top of page
law books,computer and scales of justice on desk in lawyer office and city view

Professional Translation vs Automatic Translation

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

We all know the importance of communication, which is part of human nature. The first social gatherings had already realized the existence of diversified groups that adopted different habits and languages. Since then, translation has been the means found by different peoples to relate. Hence the relationship that is established between translation and globalization: it brings people closer, because it promotes communication.

It turns out that a lot of people think that translation is a natural thing, something that anyone who knows two languages can do. That’s not true. There are countless people fluent in more than one language and not all are able to transmit – clearly and accurately – the original message. Of this there are many mistakes, such as the couple who filled their data for the airfare with their nicknames on the field that asked for their surname:

“Princesona” and “Amorzão” were the names the couple above used to fill out the nicknames fields in the act of buying airline tickets. In fact, “nickname” means “surname” in Portuguese of Portugal. – Source: G1

Then you might be thinking, “Oh, but this was an isolated case and this couple was very careless.” There are several other examples like that, less comical and more tragic, of how an inappropriate translation can impair communication.

It is worth remembering the disastrous campaign made by HSBC in the year 2009, which generated extra expenses to the company, when it had to redo one of its advertisements that said “Assume Nothing” (a term that in Portuguese brings an idea of “Do Not Worry” , “Do not assume anything beforehand”) but that has been disseminated in several countries as “Do Nothing” (which in English means “don´t do anything in the sense of not working, for nothing). When it comes to translations, it’s like they say, "the cheap is expensive".

Translating is not only about opening a dictionary (or a translating software) and exchanging words from one language to another.

Each language derives from a culture, based on the customs of the people; that is the importance of a professional translator‘s work. The translator decodes thoughts, seeking to convey to the receiver the idea of the message and not just the words. Although useful when seeking a general translation, the online translation resources can leave much to be desired, because they do not take into account the author's thought and the context.

For example, many words spoken in Portuguese cannot be faithfully translated into English, since the origin of the languages is different, the way to express thought is different and the structure of sentences changes according to the rules of each language. There are also regional variations, which make speakers of the same language express themselves in different ways.

Due to the availability of translation tools, it is necessary to be extra careful to avoid making mistakes. It is extremely important when looking for a translator for a project to focus on the qualifications of the professional. A wrong or inappropriate translation may not only interfere with the message you want to convey to the public; it could ruin the entire production.

Sonia Cunha-Goldner has over 20 years of experience in the area of translation. You can get to know more about my translation services clicking here, or get a quote for your project!



bottom of page