Translation Problems and Solutions

April 10, 2018

Just as in every field, there are several Translation Problems and Solutions in the translation industry; some are faced by the translators, and some by the clients.  – some may not solve the problem in its entirety, but can definitely mitigate the issue. So let’s take a look at them. Checkout some  of the Common Translation Mistakes.

Problems and Challenges faced by Translators

Problem # 1: Structure of the Language

structure of the language

The structure of sentences in English and other languages may be different.  

The culture practised by the speakers of each language may also be vastly different. In many languages, certain terms may be completely absent… These are some of the most common translation problems and solutions that translators face on their daily basis. 

For example, in English the adjective is placed before the noun, but in French the adjective comes after the noun. In Arabic and some other languages, the subject pronoun is part of the verb, and that determines the subject gender and the voice of the sentence. Confusing? It can get so! Language is complex, vast, and ever-evolving. The translator has to know the exact structure in each language, and use the appropriate structure, and they have to ensure that the translation is performed without changing the meaning as well. 


Gain expertise only in a couple of languages that you are already well-versed with. Make use of grammar checkers, translation memory tools and other techniques to ensure that you have maintained the structure in the target language without changing the meaning or sense of the source document.

Problem #2: Culture

Often, colloquialism is woven into formal language, making the translator’s task very difficult indeed. The larger the region where the language is spoken, the more the dialects there are likely to be, and the more colloquial words you are likely to find – except in technical documents translations, legal document translations, or translations of medical transcripts. The culture practised by the speakers of each language may also be vastly different; for example, the British are famous for their dry, biting sarcasm, which is their brand of humor. However, this kind of sarcasm may not be appreciated in not just a country speaking a different language, but even another country where they speak English. Then the problem arises as to how to translate accurately without hurting sentiments or angering the target audience. Read Tips For Translating Legal Documents.


Scan the internet to learn the most popular colloquialisms used in that language, and familiarise yourself with the most commonly used dialects. This can give you a fair idea when you need to translate. Soak in the culture as much as you can through movies, TV shows, magazines and books in that language. Movies and TV shows will be especially helpful in recognizing local culture and dialects.

Problem #3: Compound words


A combination of two or three nouns and adjectives make compound words. They could be closed of three forms – closed form, like notebook; hyphenated like long-distance, or open form like fighter pilot. Some compound words are pretty straightforward, and mean exactly what they say – like afternoon; some mean only half of the term, like say bellboy, and some mean nothing of their original words – for example deadline. In such cases, it can get very tricky for the translator.


Any translator needs to choose their niche. You should not try to be jack of all trades; select one or two subjects, and become expert in them. Familiarize yourself with the compound words most commonly used in your subject area, and learn the translations. Use translation memory and other software to make your job easier.

Problem #4: Verbs made up of two words

In English there are several verbs that are made up of two words – usually, a combination of a verb and a preposition. For example: break up, break down, break into, break in, break off, break apart, break away; these all mean different things, though the common verb is break. Here the preposition which follows immediately after gives it a completely different meaning. It is highly unlikely that translating the two words into the target language will give you the same meaning!


Think of finding an appropriate word in the target language for the phrase or the verb in its entirety rather than attempting a literal translation.

Problem#5: Missing terms

In many languages, certain terms may be completely absent – this has also to do with culture, as those objects may not be used by the people, or those actions or activities may not be permitted or simply not performed. This is a potentially difficult situation for the translator. Let’s suppose the term child adoption has no related word in another language, because such a thing just doesn’t take place in that area!


In such cases it is best to confer with the client and then come to a decision as to the best course to take. They may suggest retaining the word of the source document, or they may suggest a new term themselves, or may even ask you to come up with a newly coined term that gets as close to the actual meaning as possible.

Problem #6: Words with several meanings

There are several words in the English language that have different meanings based on the way they are used in the sentence. Words are sometimes spelled alike and pronounced alike, but have different meanings, like break (a plate) or take a coffee break. Words that have the same spellings but different pronunciations like to lead a conference, or a lead pencil. There are also words that have different spelling but have the same pronunciation,  like break and brake, grate and great, and so on. There are hundreds of such words in English, and also idioms, metaphors, similes and so on. However, those words may be different in other languages.


The translator has to be very vigilant, and carefully read the source text to fully grasp the meaning. Only after that should they begin the work of translation; otherwise, it can lead to embarrassing Translation problems.

Problem #7: Technical Knowledge

Translators are first and foremost, linguists; though they do have good knowledge of certain subjects, they are usually not the top experts in the field. In fact it’s very rare that you find a say, doctor, who is also an expert linguist. Translators usually specialise in certain niches, and gain subject matter expertise. But sometimes that may not be enough; some documents may be full of technical jargon, or talk about specific procedures or activities in detail. This can pose a problem for translators.


If the matter is very technical you may need a lot of time – more than usual, to complete the task. You could contact the client for some pointers if you’re stuck, or consult a local expert you know well, and ask them for help. You would also need to read up and educate yourself to gain deeper knowledge, or to keep in step with the new developments happening in that field.

Problem #8: Limited Time

Most clients need the translated work quickly; they have no time to lose. If it is a straightforward document, then you may be able to finish it within the deadline. But when it is a technical or legal document full of technical terms or if there is a lot of dialect and colloquialism involved, it could take longer. This can be very stressful for you as a translator, when your client is breathing down your back to get the translated documents.


Use as many technologies as you can – translation memory software, computer aided translation software and more, to speed up the process as much as possible. Other than that, the only thing you could do is put in a request for more time, right at the outset.

Problem #9: Personal Challenges

All the challenges we discussed above are linguistic challenges. Apart from those, a translator faces several other challenges in their line of work. These include but are not limited to: proper internet access, competition from other translators, competition from machine translation, and the dilemma of pricing your services appropriately.

There is no one size fits all translation solution for these problems. Each one will need to figure out how to get around these problems and do your best.

Dilemmas faced by Those who need Translations

Quality Vs Expense

The biggest challenge for people is to strike a balance between cost and quality. It is especially important in the case of translations of technical or medical manuals, or legal documents. You can barely afford to have any mistakes or near mistakes in such documents, as it could lead to misinterpretation by the readers and wrong usage – and that could result in damage to the equipment, or harm to the user; which could in turn have even further ramifications, like loss of reputation for the manufacturer, legal hassles and so on. Ergo,  you want a very precise translation. This could lead to a serious translation problems and solutions must be found cautiously.However, the persons with expertise in such translations may be busy professionals who are much sought after, and they may charge high rates for these documents. In certain cases, the person or company in need of the translation may not have a very high budget for the same. This is a classic dilemma faced by the customer.


There is no easy answer to this problem! Here are some things you can try, though: Do a comprehensive search online, and shortlist a few providers. Get quotes from all of them and compare rates, experience and previous customer reviews. Strike a balance between the two, and come to a decision. Another things you could do is to use the same provider for all your translation work, so that you have more bargaining power.

15 Comments. Leave new

Angelina Matthews
April 26, 2018 7:59 am

Amazing Article..!!!
Thank you for sharing these solutions, Because i am also faced these problems but i don’t resolve them.

Charlie Bavister
May 9, 2018 6:55 am

Your details are very good. we got new knowledge from your site. Template also very good, color matching is well. I will keep visiting your site often. This is a great article thanks for sharing this information.

Charlie Bavister
May 18, 2018 7:06 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts…!!!


It works really well for me


It works quite well for me


5 stars for you guys, very informative


Thank you so much for sharing these informative solutions with us. Problem#2 & Problem#6 are the main and most common challenges that a translator faces while translating documents.


I would also like to thank you for sharing this informative content with us. You got me and all of us the most common solution to the problems like “Culture” & “Word with several meanings”, that really helped a lot.


I would like to thank you for sharing this amazing article with us. The whole content was informative as you gave the solutions to the most common problems that are faced.

Aberto Carlos
January 23, 2019 2:57 pm

I would thank you for sharing this article with us. Firstly I would say that whole content is informative, but the points that were different from other articles was “Compound Words” & “Personal Challenges”, these got me the information about the problems faced by the translators.


Thanks for sharing this article with us. The whole content was informative as you gave the solutions, it is very helpful for those who can face the same problem.

Pak Mega Place (
July 24, 2019 11:49 am

Thanks, good article 🙂


[…] Translation of any kind of document is a complex, technical job that demands skill, precision and of course, excellent command of written language in at least 2 languages. These are the translation problems   […]


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