Are you struggling with these translation challenges?

November 12, 2015
Are you struggling with these translation challenges?

Language can be a funny thing and even the most experienced translator can sometimes run into problems. Here are some of the most common translation challenges, along with tips to help you overcome them. 


An idiom is defined as “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.” Some examples in English include “over the moon,” which means to be very happy, and “at the drop of a hat,” which means instantly.

Idioms and expressions can be tricky for translators who aren’t completely fluent in the language of the source document. Attempting to establish the meaning of an idiom based on the words alone can quickly become a drain on time and lead to frustration. It’s therefore always a good idea to have a book (or website) of idioms and expressions to hand to ensure that these can be dealt with swiftly and with certainty. 


Motivation can sometimes be tough if you are a freelance translator who works alone for the majority of the time. While translation can be an exciting and interesting career choice, there are also times when a long, repetitive translation can result in a serious lack of enthusiasm. 

On days like these, turn to social media and connect with your fellow translators as a source of inspiration. You could also try listening to music to re-energise your spirits, so that you have the will to plough on with the work until the job is complete. 

Missing words

Another linguistic challenge is found in words that exist in one language, but not in another. “Saudade” in Portuguese and Galician describes “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves,” with the sense that the object or person in question may never return. There is no direct translation in English and somehow “longing” doesn’t quite cover the deep nuances of “saudade.”

There are many examples of words that have no direct translation in languages around the globe and they can often present problems for translators. Be sure to use reliable sources on the internet to quickly help you overcome such challenges. 


Humour means different things in different countries, so translating a witty marketing slogan from one language to another can be a difficult task. Just because it’s funny in the original document, doesn’t mean that a direct translation will make it funny in the target language. 

Having a deep understanding of both languages and cultures can help you to find workaround solutions in these instances. 

Final thoughts

Which translation challenges have you struggled with recently? How did you overcome them? Tell all in the comments! 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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