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Common business document translation mistakes, and how you can avoid them in 2022

No matter what language you're working with, business document translation can be tricky. There are a lot of little mistakes that can slip through the cracks if you're not careful, and these can lead to big problems down the road. Depending on the language, certain words or phrases might have a completely different meaning. If not done correctly, a faulty translation can easily cost a company money or even worse, get them into legal trouble.

For a successful translation, the translator requires excellent knowledge and understanding of the  two languages in question. The translator needs to be able to recognise idioms and underlying meanings and be able to comprehend the culture of each language. Translation is not only the conversion of a text from one language to another but also having the skill to do the correct grammatical arrangement of words in sentences for each language. When it comes to translating business documents the translators must also have sufficient knowledge of the terminology used in the specific field.

Trying to cut costs in this regard, and doing it in haste will cost you dearly in the long run. Cutting corners with important business document translations are not an option.

In this blog post, we'll go over some of the most common business document translation mistakes, and how you can avoid them.


1. Not having proper knowledge of the language

As mentioned, having sufficient knowledge, and understanding of the two languages in which a document is supposed to be translated is the most important aspect of translating a document.

As a translator, it is essential to have a high level of language proficiency to accurately convey the message from the original text. Although most people think that simply being bilingual is enough, there is a lot more to it than that. To be a successful translator, you need to be able to understand all the nuances and subtleties of both languages involved. One also needs to have excellent writing and editing skills, so that proper revision and polishing of the translations can be done.

A translator needs to be confident in their language skills and understand the culture of both the source and target languages. Only then will the person be able to deliver quality translations that accurately reflect the original meaning.

2. Not translating the entire document

  • Leaving out sections

An important aspect of translating business-related text is that everything has to be translated. Meaning all words, concept, and ideas. The content in a text is there for a reason. Omitting anything could alter the intended message completely.    

Items like the table of contents, indexes and footnotes also count as text that needs to be translated. This guides the reader to a specific segment within the text and also contribute to the overall understanding of the content.  

  • Ignoring “untranslatable” words or native colloquial sayings

There are a few words in every language that is challenging to translate. Sometimes, they have no direct equivalent in English (or any other language). Other times, they have multiple translations, but each has a slightly different meaning. And then there are the native colloquial sayings that simply don't make sense when translated literally.
There are a few words in every language that is challenging to translate. Sometimes, they have no direct equivalent in English (or any other language). Other times, they have multiple translations, but each has a slightly different meaning. And then there are the native colloquial sayings that simply don't make sense when translated literally.
This also includes things like catchy taglines, slang, or common sayings. This is especially difficult to translate because what works successfully in one language and culture might not work at all in another.

The reluctance to translate difficult words or expressions from other languages removes some of the messages if not all of them. This unwillingness not only deprives the audience of important nuances but can also lead to misunderstandings. The best would be to ask a native speaker to read the text and make sure that the correct message is carried across.

  • Not translating numbers

Yes, numbers also require translation. Think of temperatures, distances, and weights that in some circumstances need conversion to the most used system of the target audience. It should always be considered whether the country uses the imperial or metric system.

Statistics, tables, and figures could be misunderstood should they not be translated. Also, don’t forget about the time and date. Either the 24-hour system or AM and PM indications are made use of. Important to note is that some countries separate numbers with dots and others use commas. Any situation where numbers that specifically indicate sums of money are involved should be translated with accuracy.

It's important to consider your audience when translating or converting numbers in a business document. You want them to fully grasp what is being said and avoid costly mistakes.

3. Not creating a glossary or translation memory (TM) database as you go

Creating a glossary of translated terms in a specific translated text can help you in the long run. This is something the translator can do on top of the translation work. Make a list of frequently used words, unusual text, and more difficult phrases. This will simplify the process for the future and ensure consistency throughout your business documents.

4. Using a translator who doesn't have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter

You won’t let a heart doctor work on your liver. Just as you can’t ask a translator that specialises in legal matters to translate a technical or medical text. Each type of translation also has its own tone and style. The wise choice would be to go to someone with the level of expertise that you require.  

When using a translator for a project, it is important to be aware of not only the translator's language knowledge but also the level of knowledge in the subject matter. A translator with insufficient knowledge of the subject matter can lead to inaccurate translations that may not reflect the original intent of the text. In some cases, this can even result in potential legal issues if the translations are used in official documentation or proceedings.
It is therefore imperative to select a translator who has a good understanding of the topic at hand.

5. The translation doesn’t match your intended message

Another common business document translation mistake is that some can struggle to convey the intended message clearly. You must see the text as a whole and not just translate it word for word. There cannot be any confusion in the communication. Translating the document word for word would distort the message and make it lose its significance.

Clarity is a basic principle of translation, and it is the most important characteristic to keep in mind when translating from one language to another. For a translator to convey the meaning of the original text as accurately as possible, they must take care not to add or remove anything that wasn't present in the original.


Translation is a complex task full of language nuances and underlying tones and messages to carry across. This makes this task seem impossible to accomplish without making mistakes. However, this is where trained professionals with years of experience come in. Professional translators take the necessary precautions and have the knowledge and skill to accurately perform these translations.

Translation jobs can sometimes require a team of professionals that not only include the translator, but also a proofreader, subject specialist, and linguist. Here are a few ways how to avoid translation mistakes and make sure translations come out correctly.

  • Proofreading

The last thing you want to do is cause confusion or frustration in a reader with mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Proofreading can help ensure that these errors don't happen and help create a professional-looking product that readers will easily read and understand. This is also a great way to evaluate translated content.

  • Ensure the source material is correct

Before translation starts the source material must be checked for typos, grammatical errors, or other mistakes. If not, these errors can easily carry over to the target text by accident. Make sure that the source text is sufficient before the process starts to avoid unnecessary work.

  • Don’t use machine translation

When it comes to important material such as business documents do not even consider machine translation (MT). Yes, MT has significantly developed over the last few years, but when it comes to text of an important nature one just cannot take unnecessary risks. Machine translation simply cannot capture the tone, style, cultural and contextual subtleties as a human can.  

  • Hire professional translators

Professional translators are the way to go to avoid business document translation mistakes. Their expertise, deeper understanding, experience, resources, and knowledge cannot be compared to a machine translator. Professionals will be able to brief you on the process and help you understand what is necessary. They will also have a team to assist to provide the best product.


Don’t sacrifice quality for price or speed. One significant error in a document can damage the image of your business. Making business document translation mistakes can affect the accuracy and efficiency of the message being conveyed.  

Get knowledgeable and professional translators to do the job. Our translation services can help you find qualified individuals who will translate your business documents correctly and without error.

To learn more about our services, contact us today!


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