The List of Mistakes in Translations

The main task of translation is to convey the meaning of the source text correctly: not only understanding, but sometimes even subsequent actions depend on the result obtained. So, after reading the story in which the mistake is made, we probably will not even notice it, and if we notice, it will not affect our perception of the work in any way. An absolutely different situation develops if the mistake is admitted in the text as non-fiction. It is terrible to imagine the consequences if the translator misunderstood something in the technical, medical or legal text — such a mistake may affect the functioning of the device, the outcome of an important transaction or even a person’s life. Mistakes can be different, but there are several categories of typical errors.

The easiest way to present mistake is from the point of view of the section of the language to which this mistake belongs. Thus, mistakes can be divided into grammatical, lexical and punctuation ones. And if the last group is easy to notice (even if the translators themselves did not notice the missing comma, then most likely the editor will notice it), then the first two groups can seriously damage the understanding of the text. Let’s consider them in more detail.

If you consider grammatical mistakes, then, most often, there is a problem of word order, related to availability of articles and introductory constructions. In Russian there are no such methods of actualization.

Another mistake related to grammar is the abundance in English and other languages of subordinate clauses and verbal participles. If you leave these structures when translating to Russian, the text will be cumbersome and difficult to comprehend. In any case, it is far from always necessary to adhere to the structure of the original text — often when translating, it is necessary to transform the original sentence (break it, or, on the contrary, combine two short ones, etc.).

There are also mistakes that are more related to the translator’s inattention: misuse of cases and control, unconscious rhyming of words. In general, the main task of a translator is to make the text sound in Russian.

The next subgroup of translation mistakes is more numerous. Incorrect use of the value of the translated word is the most insidious type of mistake. In technical and legal translations, such a mistake can lead to distortion or loss of meaning, so many translators use resources with specialized vocabulary to avoid these mistakes, where you can test yourself and reduce the risk of incorrect translation. Also in non-fiction literature, expressions with already fixed standard translation play an enormous role — why you should translate what was translated before you? The main thing in these cases is to remember that such a «standard» differs in each sphere.

In literary texts, such mistakes are even more common, because in addition to the meaning itself, a translator must also pay attention to the stylistic side of the translated word. It is also very important to pay attention to the false friends of the translator, which in some cases can make laugh, and in some — cause confusion. The main rule of the translator is «always check the values» because even the most familiar word may not be as simple as it seems at first glance.

This is not all the mistakes that are made in translation, but with careful approach to each text, such mistakes are easy to avoid.

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