What are challenges that translators face? These highly-skilled people are adept at taking your message and translating it to be read and used by a different audience. Like any professional, they are great at what they do but they still face obstacles related to their work. In this entry, we will discuss one difficulty translator’s face: translating culturally specific references.
This inherent challenge of translation is how to handle an idea that makes sense in the source language but doesn’t have the same impact in other languages. This is especially tricky in the marketing field but it affects texts intended for other industries as well. For example, describing a piece of equipment as “baseball-sized” may work in countries familiar with the game but translators will struggle with how to properly explain the size to someone who doesn’t recognize the reference. Would it be better to give the physical dimensions of the equipment? Would the translator prefer to swap out the reference to something that is similar in size to a baseball? There is no definite answer to those questions. Indeed, translators themselves don’t always come to a consensus about which is the best method.
If you are writing a source text and don’t want the translator making these decisions, you should avoid using such culturally-specific terminology. Try to write in a way that finds common ground with a diverse audience. Certified Translators will be able take your message and more readily translate it without difficulty. Making your source text clear ensures that your translation will be a “success” rather than just a “home run!”