Sorry for the delay…

Finally, here comes the second in the Horrors of Proofreading series: Top 10 into English translation errors. Some will need more extensive explanation (phew – number 10!), others are a lot more self-explanatory. As for the delay? Put simply, I needed a bit of time to pluck up the courage!

It is a nightmare to cut this post down to only ten. I know I will be cutting out some major blunders, but perhaps this will merely leave more room for other bloggers to fill in the gaps. As before: do let me know if you write your own post on the topic so I can add a link at the bottom.

Let’s get started…

1. When translating, word order matters.

The example above is a classic Germglish sentence structure. The main trouble here is that it’s not technically wrong – I mean, you can say it like that – it’s just it does not really flow as well as it should. In German source texts, you find a lot of sentences structured like that. In English translations, such word order can become distracting. It is better to turn things around, in most cases. <- See my point? Yucky English. You get similar issues with adverbs, verbs, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, subjects, objects and so on all being in the wrong place in translations from all languages. Each combination seems to have its particular quirks.

Hint: Become familiar with the quirks, the things to look out for in your combination. Remember that some flexibility is allowed and even preferred – but too many broken clauses or syntax errors can become an unwelcome distraction.

2. „¿¿Punctuation problem’s??“

This one you see quite often, particularly in cases where someone has forgotten to switch the language over to English. If you don’t switch these things over you can get some bizarre punctuation happening through none of your own fault. Further, punctuation rules can vary a lot even between ostensibly similar languages. For example, in English we might write “i.e.” and the more savvy Germans might write remember that “d. h.” correctly has a space in it and think the same applies in English. It doesn’t. Similarly, the Dutch may assume that we, too, require an apostrophe to indicate any plural’s…

Hint: There’s no shame in googling the grammatical points, it’s what we all do. Regarding the other problems that may result from the wrong input language, remember that you can switch the input language via your operating system as well as through your word processing software (they may work independently of one another so watch out). You can also manually select text and mark it as the desired language.

3. 100.000.100,00 USD

Numbers. This drives me a bit mad. It especially used to drive me mad in the days when I attempted to work with Trados. Numbers were excluded from the word count, yet my clients would expect me to localise all the numbers to the proper format for free. I eventually wised up to that one. Worse, however, is when translators forget to localise these digits… and sometimes in important places, like their own CVs or websites. In cases of doubt – like financial reports for international perusal and the tables are unlocalised – you can either choose one or the other, or the international standard: 100 000 000.00 USD (although usually hopefully you won’t need the rather messy looking decimal).

A related error that really would have its own point were I not restricting myself to the top ten, would be the scarily frequent confusion between million, billion and trillion, especially when abbreviated in the source. Hello lawsuit!

Hint: Just learn it and check for it. And don’t use crappy CAT tools that don’t let you edit numbers or exclude them from the word count.

4. An Abk. may still need translating…

Not all abbreviations need translating but a lot most certainly do. It’s quite disappointing when I find a translation with abbreviations and acronyms for which English terms exist left untranslated. Really, we all should be aware of common abbreviations in our source language. If you’re not, get up to speed. There are books and dictionaries available. For the less common, don’t skip on the research: look it up and ask the client if you are still not sure. It may indeed be the case that you do not need to translate it, but you won’t know until you’ve checked out the meaning.

Hint: Find some relevant resources on abbreviations in your source language. Ask colleagues. Ask the client. Finally, remember – you’re a translator. Do your job and don’t leave terms you were too lazy to translate untranslated in the hope nobody will notice. Someone will!

5. I have the snout full

Idioms. That would be a direct translation of, “Ich habe die Schnauze voll”, meaning, “I’m fed up” or similar. Most translators pick up the really obvious ones, but then there are other idioms like the above, which may be comprehensible, just not very usual or proper English.

Hint: There are some great resources available online for this sort of challenge, but again, they’ll vary depending on your source language. It’s sometimes possible to get so stuck into the source that we forget what sounds natural, so it may be an idea to consult (other) monolingual native speakers of your target language. Failing all else, you can post a terminology question. It’s always fun to post a question like this that may not have a strictly correct answer on KudoZ or other terminology forums and watch colleagues tear each other to shreds. Popcorn at the ready!

6. Consistency, consistency, consistency

There are often a variety of ways to translate a given term. You may also decide to change your mind on which is your preferred term half-way through the translation. It’s something clients look out for and check up on, so it is important to have strategies in place to ensure consistency.

Hint: There are as many ways to ensure consistency as there are ways of translating the German word “doch” into English. You can use built-in features in your CAT tool, a glossary, concordance searches, a separate glossary, creation and checking against a “banned words” list”, and many more methods besides. This is a major issue in the industry and something there are indubitably entire articles and webinar sessions dedicated to, written and presented by far better experts than me. Everyone has their personal preferred strategies. Of course, another preferred strategy is simply to specialise, so a lot of those terms end up in your mind and you don’t need to refer to some scribbled piece of paper or glossary to start with.

7. The researcher: he is clever, so it must be his pronoun

There is a school of thought that the pronoun in “The researcher must hand in his proposal by the 1st.” must always be translated as “he”. Well, you can do this. You can also expect your daughter to give up her dream of academia. You can also get torn apart by those who believe in gender equality. There is an informative post on Oxford Dictionaries Online where you’ll find the approach I advocate: use “he or she” if you must, but if able, use “they”. We can turn things into the passive, too. Such ideas were discussed recently on KudoZ.

Why advocate “they”? As the Oxford Dictionaries article states, “they” can also be used for an singular unknown party. Admittedly, “he or she” sounds more usual and can/must be used if the client insists on it.

Some feminists advocate “she”. I advocate the absence of gender for reasons no less political. I do not advocate “she” because I am not a “feminist”, at least, not at the exclusion of the rights of others. For the same reason, I advocate the use of “they” because “he or she” preserves the significance of gender, prompting questions like “Why not she or he?” or “Doesn’t ‘or’ add confusion?”. It also forces those without a rigid gender identity to make a mental choice, if not an actual one. Yes, I am a CIS-female (female in mind, law and biology), but I feel for those for whom the situation is not so clear-cut.

Hint: In case the above arguments were not clear enough: the function of he was only ever grammatical and was never used to define the person’s gender in the first place. Words can be used to oppress just as much as they can to liberate.

8. Acting up

I expect this one annoys the lawyers even more than it does me. Sometimes an act will already have a preferred, official translation. If so, use it (unless diabolical). If it doesn’t, try to see how others have translated it and choose the one you think is best (unless diabolical). If everything is diabolical, do it yourself. However, in at least cases two and three and often in case one, you should also include the name of the original act/legislation/code and/or its official abbreviation in brackets after it is referred to, e.g. “English Translation (Source)”. You can do this either throughout or at the first instance only, if not otherwise included in an appendix. I would usually only include it at the first instance, and perhaps again if there is a significant gap between that and where it next appears. The style you choose is not incredibly important as long as both are on there, but your client will most likely have a preference.

The final step, however, is one many seem to miss: adding the country to which it refers. In some cases, the country may be clearly identifiable, in other cases less so. In such cases you may want to say “The German Income Tax Act”, for example, since “Income Tax Act” on its own could refer to a number of countries.

Hint: The reader wants to be able to reference the act, code or directive themselves, if necessary.

9. False friends

This is something we get taught right when we start learning a language, unfortunately the list can never be exhaustive enough. I read a particularly funny example in the Examiners’ Report for the DipTrans where the word “boren” in a Dutch to English translation (drilling, as it was in the context of drilling into a wall) had been translated as “boring”! Similarly, the German word “eventuell” (maybe) is often translated as “eventually”.

Expanding a little, I think this also includes the overuse of certain words or phrases that are more commonly used in the source language. Sometimes they are better (shock, horror!) left out or translated as an alteration in tone without a representative word in the translation. For example, German to English translations sometimes overuse the word “already” because the Germans use the word “schon” a lot.

Hint: If you’re not spotting these sorts of errors, try proofreading the work of a colleague or leaving a couple of days or more before proofreading your own work. You’ll soon see the common mistakes and what you should look out for.

10. Criss-crossing the Atlantic

The most frustrating and also the most common of all into English errors. The Brits have been swamped with American English media and British English seems to have gotten lost. This applies to the differences in grammar and spelling, both well-documented in plenty of places already, making this a larger, all-encompassing problem. Issues include: 8 am (US) vs. 8 a.m. (UK), Mrs. (US) vs. Mrs (UK), high quality translation (US) vs. high-quality translation (UK), check (US) vs. cheque (UK), airplane (US) vs. aeroplane (UK) and coworker (US) vs. co-worker (or colleague) (UK). British English does not always make more sense! But, we are language professionals and my clients should receive a consistent translation in the language (and variant) requested

If your text is for an international audience you should aim for international compatibility. In such cases, I still write in my native British English, but I take care to avoid terms like “knackered” if I can equally say “exhausted”. I similarly expect Americans to “relax” rather than “kick back”. Whilste common usage should still prevail, cross-Atlantic compatibility is still a worthy goal, don’t you think? An American can tolerate the odd British “s” where they would put a “z” or perhaps the odd “different to” rather than “different from”, but the following may help avoid the meaning getting lost in translation:

a) Avoid region-specific vocabulary (or any region-specific frame of reference, for that matter).

b) Avoid alienating speakers of the other variant without good purpose, i.e. if a spelling is acceptable and not jarring in both the UK and US English, then go with that rather than the alternative. I do not write “spelt” when I can write “spelled”, nor do I write “focussed” when I can write “focused”.

c) Do follow the norms of your variant of English! I write “localisation” with an “S”, since to me, a British English translator who offers localiZation services has lost the very meaning of that term. Yes, localiZation may be acceptable in many a British English dictionary and spellchecker. It was even once preferred by the Oxford University Press (but not any longer). However, it is not common usage and will unsteady many Brits who read it. Think of it as the written equivalent of turning on the TV in the UK to find your BBC News presented by in a Texan drawl. It’s unexpected, unfamiliar, foreign and, yes, untrusted. Speak to your readers as they expect to be spoken to and they’ll inevitably more willing to listen. It is a given that the various British style guides recommend -ise, but more interesting is the content of the EU style guide – which recommends -ise, too, as a simpler option than working out where an -ize is NEVER permitted in British English. Similarly, be aware of the differences in how we use compound adjectives (pet peeve: remember to hyphenate in British English!) and other key markers.

d) Avoid the issue entirely in your English copy if you are fully aware it will be viewed by readers from across the globe. For example, don’t use any of those words or spellings mentioned above in a prominent place such as your motto or slogan if you can avoid it. If your identity as Brits or Americans is not an issue, fine, but if you are selling yourselves as, for example, a multi-national LSP and you only have one English website (bad idea to start with), then at least don’t tell your clients to “Kick back while we localize your website”, or “Feeling knackered? We’ll translate whilst you wait”. Both such examples contain one or two obvious “tells” that are better avoided. Another (albeit not catchy, that’s your job!) option such as “Relax while we translate your website” would be more suitable in this respect.

Hint: Take a look at the Wikipedia style style guide regarding national varieties of English or the Wikipedia page on differences between British and American English. Of course, Wikipedia is by no means an authoritative, academic reference, but these are the tips they use to manage multiple variants of English on one of the largest and most-visited websites in the world, making it accessible and comprehensible to all. That’s a lofty goal I think we translators can only applaud.

That was it this time.
As you can imagine, it was nearly impossible to keep this task limited to just ten!
Let me know what else you would have included in the comments below – or write your own post and let me know, so I can link to it!

Enjoyed this post? Found it useful? Share away!

About the Author:

Rose Newell is a British-born, Berlin-based copywriter and translator specialising in high end and high tech. Rose works exclusively with direct clients, mostly located in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. This blog is a labour of love for colleagues, not a sales funnel for paid membership groups, webinars, seminars, courses or coaching services. As one of those who has consistently spoken out against instagurus, readers can trust this blog will never be monetised. Truly successful translators have no need for the pittance generated by such activities.


  1. EP 25/06/2016 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    “I have the snout full!” Love this stuff. Thanks for helping me “get the cow off the ice.”

  2. Thomas 11/08/2014 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Regarding the false friends you mentioned: “boring” is perfectly correct to mean drilling.

    Nonetheless, great post. I read so many of those things on “English” websites of German companies…
    I dream of a world in which every company exclusively hires professional native speakers of the target language, with vast knowledge and expertise in the suject area concerned, to do translations.

    • Rose Newell 13/08/2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

      Not when drilling into a wall! I should have explained the context, sorry. Drilling is the more common verb used to describe what you do with and drill.

      • Thomas 13/08/2014 at 9:40 am - Reply

        Of course, boring has this large-scale, industrial touch to it and is used in machining operations.

  3. James 20/08/2013 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    I have translated “die Schnauze voll haben” as to “have a snoot full”, because my native-English speaking American-born family, who could not speak German, used that expression from time to time. To me it’s a normal English expression, except that it’s informal, so I’d be careful where I used it.

    • Rose Newell 20/08/2013 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      Never heart of having a snoot full as being fed up. It certainly doesn’t exist in UK English.

    • Steve 20/08/2013 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      Did they use it to mean the same thing? This American-English speaker understands “having a snoot full” as being drunk.

      • Rose Newell 24/08/2013 at 10:03 am - Reply

        Yeah, this is what I mean. Snoot full means drunk – but the German “ich habe die Schnauze voll” means I’m fed up, or better, “I’ve had it up to my nose”, or even better and less literally translated, “I’ve had it up to my ears”.

        • James 24/08/2013 at 12:27 pm - Reply

          My family used the expression “to have a snootful” to mean both to be drunk, but also to be fed up with something, but more often to mean the latter. Actually, I think “to have a snootful” meant to be drunk, and “to have had a snootful” meant to be fed up. “I’ve had a snootful of all that lip you’re giving me!”

          The use of that expression to mean “fed up” was the reason I immediately understood the German expression “die Nase voll haben” the first time I heard it.

          If you google the exact phrase, you’ll find a few examples of this usage among the references to drunkenness.

          • James 24/08/2013 at 12:30 pm

            I’ve just googled the exact phrase “have had a snootful”, and lo and behold the majority of hits on the first few pages showed it being used to mean someone was fed up with something.

          • Rose Newell 28/08/2013 at 2:46 pm

            So it does! All in the US. It doesn’t exist in UK English, though. I guess the original came over along with a few other things (e.g. Kindergarten) into US English. According to, it means “sternhagelvoll sein”.

  4. John Robinson 31/07/2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Is #1 really considered odd? The order seems perfectly fine to me.

    • Rose Newell 02/08/2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply

      It’s okay occasionally, but sometimes you get a whole page of sentences like that… Which really breaks the flow and sounds unnatural. It’s usually associated with similar errors, too.

  5. […] The Horrors of Proofreading continues: From full snouts, to criss-crossing the Atlantic, to chauvinistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual understanding commentary.  […]

  6. Stefan Mikulin 28/05/2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Hi Rose,

    Liked this article. I think it also worth mentioning that some problems arise in the proofreading process when non-native speakers of the TL are involved. Unfortunately, I spend a great deal of my time highlighting some of the issues above AFTER I have completed my translation and received strangely negative feedback from the proofreader (almost always in PL>EN) because they are not native English speakers. Often, the “revised” version is much longer than my TT, the syntax and grammar have been completely changed and synonyms have been inserted to “correct” my “mistakes” – infuriating to say the least. I once had a non-native EN project manager being told by an non-native EN proofreader that I had mistranslated “aktualny” (this could also easily be “actuel” or any other variant in other languages) because I had used “current” instead of “actual”.It took 3 hours and several other proofreaders before the PM finally believed me.

    • Rose Newell 07/08/2013 at 2:39 pm - Reply

      Sorry just noticed this.
      Hahaha. Get a German to English translator to back you up – because we have the same issue! Or Marta Stelmaszak, I know she’d know the difference!

  7. […] Agency-Driven Deadlines A brief list of misused English terminology in EU publications (pdf) The Horrors of Proofreading: Top 10 into English translation errors Medical Translation and Interpreting: Saving Money, Saving Lives Android developer shares his […]

  8. Doris Ganser 08/02/2013 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Nice precise article! Even though it means expanding by one point: Don’t translate obvious source language errors simply because they are in the original. Consult or footnote! The following source errors concern primarily translations from English to other languages (US was signatory to metrification agreement of 1979 or so): Incorrect: no space before units of measurement in English, especially not before degree sign when it stands for degrees temperature (no space before degree sign means degrees of angle); lower case “l” for liter. Worse than 10.000 in English is the transfer to English of the apostrophy in Swiss documents: 10’ooo or similar.

    • Rose Newell 24/07/2013 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Just reading that again… a couple of months later. I recently translated some already approved financial statements – and yes, there were numbers and terms on there that didn’t make sense. I checked with the client, and they were aware of the mistakes made but couldn’t alter the German original. So the solution was to translate them correctly, but include a translator’s note.

  9. Karen Sexton 06/02/2013 at 1:16 pm - Reply

    Very interesting post! Ended up here by chance, but will look forward to reading more!

  10. Maria Karra 01/02/2013 at 6:44 pm - Reply

    I loved this blog post! And the comments.
    Regarding “high quality translation (US) vs. high-quality translation (UK)”, I didn’t know it was a question of US vs UK English. As far as I’m concerned, one is right and the other is wrong. 🙂 Whenever I see that the hyphen is missing, I add it.

    I’ve never heard “different to” (I’d come out in a rash, I’m sure), but I keep hearing “different than”. All the time! It bothers me!

    • Rose Newell 01/02/2013 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      I’ve never heard “different than”!

      As far as I know, the hyphen is optional in US English, since the meaning is clear without it.

      • Grayson Morris 04/07/2013 at 4:47 pm - Reply

        Most US style guides do advocate the use of the hyphen for compound modifiers placed before the noun they modify, unless there can be no confusion whatsoever (and even then, it’s fine to use the hyphen). The major exception is when a -ly adverb is involved, since -ly words can do nothing other than modify the word they follow and no confusion will occur without the hyphen. It’s considered incorrect to hyphenate after an -ly adverb.

        • Rose Newell 05/07/2013 at 11:56 am - Reply

          That’s interesting. I was previously informed the opposite – that it should be omitted in US English if it is already clear.

          RE: -ly, yes – same in UK English.

          • James 20/08/2013 at 12:36 pm

            The general rule in US English is that words have to be hyphenated as compound adjectives before the noun, but that they are not hyphenated when they appear as predicate modifiers.

            In technical texts the editors may have a “no hyphen” policy, because technical texts contain so many compound modifiers that are sometimes so long that the text would be loaded with hyphens that do not enhance clarity.

        • Janet Rubin 05/07/2013 at 12:56 pm - Reply

          I was told the same thing in school in the US – that compound modifiers are hyphenated before a noun (“highly-qualified” comes to mind). Whenever I see exceptions, they are usually in (no reference to present company) blog-style or opinion texts – i.e. not necessarily reviewed by an editor – or they are of British origin.

          • Janet Rubin 05/07/2013 at 12:58 pm

            Haha, I just realized my example is actually an example of what Grayson considers to be in the “exception” category. Nonetheless, that is the type of compound modifier I was taught to hyphenate.

            Still, the “rules” could have changed since I was in school, I suppose the best bet is that if you aren’t given a style guide by the client, pick one out and follow the rules consistently!

          • Rose Newell 24/07/2013 at 11:19 am

            Yeah I wouldn’t hyphenate highly-qualified in UK English either, but I’ve heard from a few Americans that you need to hyphenate in good US English, too.
            In UK English, same as US English, a lot of people aren’t aware of the importance of hyphenation, sadly…

  11. Karena 01/02/2013 at 10:46 am - Reply

    I absolutely have to disagree with the idea that “different to” is British. It isn’t. My mother [Yorkshire, grammar-school educated] squashed this kind of phrase out of us at a very young age, when we were told in no uncertain terms that it was bad grammar. I am also British through and through, grammar-school educated, born here, brought up here and still living here, and I have also told my children from a young age that “different to” is incorrect. It isn’t rational either as a difference is naturally expressed as something which separates rather than draws two things together.

    • Rose Newell 01/02/2013 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      Interesting. I’m also grammar-school educated, but was taught it should be different to. I did a little research, though… and different to is definitely British, although different from is also acceptable in British English… meaning I’ll watch out for that one, check a few more style guides, and will consider making that adjustment in any texts for an international audience.

      Helpful summary:

      • Bronwen Davies 16/05/2013 at 9:32 am - Reply

        Hi Rose
        I went to the site you mention: and found a helpful explanation of why “different from” is more correct. See the comment made by Brian on December 29, 2010 2:13 pm.
        My Dad was also grammar-school educated in the 40s and he was taught that “different from” is the correct option and drums this into us as well 🙂

        • Rose Newell 25/05/2013 at 6:15 pm - Reply

          I was always taught “different to”, but obviously use “different from” in texts for an international audience. I’d find it a bit hard to retrain myself to use “different from”. It’s not more correct, as the link says, they’re equally valid, just “different to” is limited to UK English. “different than” however is an international horror!

  12. Ozaru 01/02/2013 at 1:06 am - Reply

    [-ize] “was even once preferred by the Oxford University Press (but not any longer)” -> As an inveterate fan of Fowler’s (and then Burchfield’s) Modern English Usage, and hence of -ize, this made my heart pound as I clicked through… and found that I think you have misrepresented their view.

    That page says “This website spells these words with the -ize ending, but the main dictionary entries for the verbs show that the -ise spelling is also correct” which to me indicates that they still _prefer_ -ize even while accepting the validity of the alternative.

    To make sure, I then went to and accessed the Pocket Fowler’s Modern English Usage (in case you were unaware of this, you can get free online access just with your local library card). The PFMEU states categorically: “Oxford University Press and other publishing houses (including The Times until recently) prefer -ize;”.

    Given this fact and the advantages when aspiring to create a ‘mid-Atlantic’ text, I think the arguments in favour of -ize are as strong as ever.

    • Rose Newell 01/02/2013 at 10:27 am - Reply

      It used to be the case, but it seems to have recently changed. That’s aside from the fact that the OUP was always the outsider: the BBC, Guardian, Times and many others favour -ise.

  13. Sue Anderson 30/01/2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Rose,

    really enjoying your blog posts, you talk such a lot of good sense! Interesting to read that the use of ‘they’ is deemed acceptable (e.g. to avoid the clumsier ‘he or she’) but I still can’t help cringing every time I see it.


  14. Marie-Hélène Mahy 29/01/2013 at 10:51 pm - Reply

    Completely agree with all of them but have a little question for you. Have you ever been confused about the whole “billion” thing? I remember that translator at work who kept asking the same questions whenever she came across it and I was wondering what you think about it? To me, a billion is 1,000 millions, but it seems like it could be seen differently though it is progressibely becoming obscolete (

    • Kev 30/01/2013 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Hi Marie,

      The ‘traditional’ British Billion (a million million) is effectively obsolete already. All media and businesses use the US billion (a thousand million) as standard). I don’t imagine most people in the UK are even aware that the British Billion ever existed. It’s just one for the numbers and/or language nerds.


  15. Oliver Lawrence 29/01/2013 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Rose, good discussion as ever.

    ‘They’ as a gender-neutral singular pronoun can be used with certain audiences, but not in formal texts or for ‘sticklers’. ‘S/he’ is terrible, not least because it’s unpronounceable. ‘He or she’ becomes clumsy and distracting if used more than a handful of times. Recasting the whole sentence in the plural can be the most elegant approach, unless it creates problems of specificity (i.e. are you referring to a gender-neutral individual or to a group?).

    Also, it’s not just a question of UK vs US in English variants, as Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African and Indian readers, among others, may note. Your approach to ‘internationalisation’ is one I share. Going further, translations into English are often for the consumption of non-natives (such as people from Scandinavia, the Netherlands or other countries where English is widely and well understood) or of translators into ‘rare’ languages. Clarity thus becomes all the more important.

    BTW, are your ‘gotten’ and adverbial ‘likely’ conscious or unconscious nods to Americanisation ;)?

    • Rose Newell 29/01/2013 at 11:33 pm - Reply

      In the article, it was a nod that I forgot to highlight when pasting from Word. In the comments, a shameful unconscious slip. It happens, dude.

      As for likely… Just googled that one. Huh. Good to know. Will correct and remember in the future!

      • Rose Newell 30/01/2013 at 12:16 am - Reply

        Just checked every blog post. Yep, it seems today was the first time I’ve used it in my own writing and it isn’t my translation style (in my mind it sounds too casual used as an adverb).

        Sometimes in my own writing I think of phrases and words I’ve seen in others’ writing and decide to use them in my own… but I forget that a good portion of what I read is American English. Obviously, the German plays a role too, and I know I’ve gone a bit native if I start using too many hyphens (I’ve learned that tends to happen so watch out for it!). That’s how, funnily enough, there tend to be more errors on my blog posts than in my usual writings – I tend to be more creative, whereas my work is usually bound by a particular style and register. Creative isn’t so good if I start criss-crossing the Atlantic, though! Thanks for the sharp eye! Appreciated!

    • Rose Newell 30/01/2013 at 12:19 am - Reply

      (ANOTHER reply!)

      Completely agree re: clarity for non-native speakers. A certain translator I respect highly will shoot me for it, but I have in the past advocated “town hall” rather than “council offices” or similar – people have to know what the building they are seeking does, right?

  16. Kev 29/01/2013 at 6:55 pm - Reply

    Good post. Two things came to mind to share:

    First on the idioms. I work in Wales and have in the past done a lot of bilingual design work. I was once provided with source text to artwork with a completed Welsh translation. Even with my barely cursory knowledge of Welsh I could see something wasn’t right. I got a native Welsh speaking colleague to read over it. It was awful. The highlight of the incompetence for me was the translation of the idiom ‘state of the art’. They gave no consideration to it’s context and simply translated it word for word, resulting in a phrase that roughly meant ‘condition of crafts’. This was left in the exact same place in the sentence, rendering the whole thing meaningless.

    Second on numbers – beware the perils if you are ever localising anything from the Indian subcontinent. I recently heard a piece on More or Less about a report on farmer suicides that was out by a magnitude of 10 because the journalist misunderstood the local number system. Their traditional system which is still prevelant apparently uses thousands, hundreds of thousands and hundreds thereof. So the equivalent of ten million is written as a hundred, hundred thousands. They divide it with commas in those points, so 1,00,00,000 is the correct notation. Easily misread if you don’t pay enough attention.

    • Rose Newell 29/01/2013 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I think literal idioms are the ones that we’ll all spot and will always give a bad translation away – whoever the reader may be. They’re also pretty funny! Condition of crafts! Haha.

  17. […] The Horrors of Proofreading continues: From full snouts, to criss-crossing the Atlantic, to chauvinistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual understanding commentary.  […]

  18. […] The Horrors of Proofreading continues: From full snouts, to criss-crossing the Atlantic, to chauvinistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual understanding commentary.  […]

  19. […] The Horrors of Proofreading continues: From full snouts, to criss-crossing the Atlantic, to chauvinistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual understanding commentary.  […]

  20. […] The Horrors of Proofreading continues: From full snouts, to criss-crossing the Atlantic, to chauvinistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual understanding commentary.  […]

  21. Janet Rubin 29/01/2013 at 8:32 am - Reply

    One thing I can’t agree with – this native speaker of US English cannot stand ANY amount of “different to” – not even “the odd different to”!! 😛

    I hear it constantly here (Down Under) and every time I do, I still feel like someone is clawing their way along on fingernails across an entire room clad with chalkboards. It is just one of those things I will never understand. That, and people being in “*a* serious condition” after an accident. Oh really, which serious condition is that, do tell? 😉

    Just had to get that out, now you may continue. 🙂

    • Janet Rubin 29/01/2013 at 8:38 am - Reply

      Oh, and while I obviously (see above) have nothing against using “they” to represent neutral gender in informal texts, I am nevertheless one of those translators who will use “he or she” or rearrange the sentence entirely rather than use “they” in a text that has even the slightest bit of formality to it. I was taught in school that “they” was not correct (lack of agreement), and even though the literature now tells us this isn’t exactly true, that original training has stuck with me. When I see “they/their” in a more formal text, I tend to cringe.

      • Rose Newell 29/01/2013 at 9:42 am - Reply

        Hmm… yes, it depends a bit on the client and what is desired by them. I do usually go for they, but if it just “looks silly”, I’ll go for he or she. Depends a lot on how the source is written, in terms of whether you can legitimately put they in there. I do think the Oxford guidelines will eventually become the norm, though. I still dislike the “he or she” for the reason stated above – why not “she or he”?

        • Janet Rubin 29/01/2013 at 9:47 am - Reply

          Why not “she or he” – AFAIK the basic answer is tradition, i.e. “he or she” sounds “right”, “she or he” does not.

          Another legitimate form allows for shortening this to “s/he”, so if you decided to use that, I guess you could say you’re compromising on the order. 😉

          • Rose Newell 29/01/2013 at 11:35 am

            Oh, I hate “s/he”. As much as I hate “she” and “she or he”. It was simply a point regarding heirarchy.

            As I said above, I use “he or she” when I must, but in most cases I try to use “they”.

    • Rose Newell 29/01/2013 at 9:44 am - Reply

      Haha. I didn’t realise that was one of the things that bugs Americans. We’re quite used to hearing “different from”. The one American phrase that really pisses me off is “oftentimes”…

      • Janet Rubin 29/01/2013 at 9:49 am - Reply

        I suppose I can’t speak for “Americans” in this regard – after all, I haven’t done a survey. Please feel free to consider this an individual pet peeve until there is sufficient evidence pointing to the contrary. 🙂

  22. Julia 28/01/2013 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your swift reply, Rose. What tipped the balance for me for Trados was that it can (apparently) be used for pdf files whereas MemoQ can’t. It’s so difficult to choose when you hear horror stories on both sides! Really appreciate your advice though 🙂

  23. […] Full snouts, criss-crossing the Atlantic and chauvanistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual commentary. (@Ale_Hierbas Think you got the wrong link!  […]

  24. Hi, Rose,

    Glad the series is to be continued.

    Also, many observations do not necessarily apply to English only. I could tell my tales of similar phallacies (especially idioms, false friends – the German “Akademiker” is notorious in Russian, for instance) from my German to Russian translation experience.

    I am curious about the “he/she” subject. Doesn’t it just sound affected or stilted each time the author uses “she” wherever a reader can expect “him”? I remember a book of over 500 pages, serious financial stuff, futures trading etc., the audience being probably 90% male traders (E-mini etc.). Each time the author had to use a pronoun, it was “she” (“a serious trader would make her analysis like etc.”). Another example, another book – “s/he”, although in this case it was deliberately playful.

    I was wondering about the state of political correctness in my blog post, please have a look at the second picture to get the idea of what I mean.
    I am not sure whether the omittance of the obligatory German “-innen” was deliberate in the English translation.

    I must confess I had to look up CIS.

    What else (you would have included)? I wonder how you deal with all those errors perpetuated in marble and brass in hotels and elsewhere?

    Looking forward to the next sequel,


    • Rose Newell 28/01/2013 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      I don’t translate into German, so won’t pretend to have an informed opinion on -innen. Either way, the difference is nothing like that in English. In English, saying “he” is defining a gender when it does not need to be defined. In German, it’s a grammatical function, with reference to the gender of the noun. Perhaps the German language itself is sexist, but the writer, I do not believe, can be accused of it. It’s just grammar. English works differently, so choosing to write “he” or “she” are very much political choices.

      I find the use of “she” perhaps a nice change to “he”, but equally irritating and potentially offensive, for the reasons as defined above. I’m not really a feminist. I just don’t like inequality. Replacing a patriarchy with a matriarchy is hardly progress. 🙂 I get they are trying to make a political point, but in that action they are more provoking the male reader and reinforcing gender division.

      Oh, the list of possible things to include was massive, so I tried to stick with my pet peeves. I’d have definitely spent more time explaining differences between British and American English – that could have made a post in itself. Compound adjectives are something that really get my gripe. Americans tend to leave them out completely, but in some cases, even they should be using them for clarity. A lot of other things I considered are more general English errors – but there are quite a few blog posts about that for the monolingual market already.

      Please let me know if you decide to do your own post on German to Russian or Russian to German translation errors!


  25. Julia 28/01/2013 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Rose,
    Thanks for another great blog posting. You don’t seem to be a fan of Trados. I’m trying to decide on the best CAT tool to invest in and all my research seemed to point to Trados… but not including figures is a little off-putting! Do you have any advice?
    Thanks, 🙂 Julia

    • Rose Newell 28/01/2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      I use OmegaT at present and have been experimenting with OmegaT+ (great, but is currently in beta and lacking some vital features so will go back to OmegaT for the next project).

      I’m planning to switch to MemoQ at some point, but have not yet got around to it. MemoQ should be compatible with most Trados files.

      You are correct that I am not a fan of Trados. But I’m more a fan of that than, say, Across, which is so rubbish it isn’t worthy of my wrath.

      RE: figures, you can’t do anything about it if your client is paying you based on a Trados analysis. My suggestion is to not work with such agencies. Sure, some good agencies use Trados, although ALL the bad agencies seem to use it. Better agencies seem to be flexible or favouring MemoQ.

  26. […] Full snouts, criss-crossing the Atlantic and chauvanistic pronoun choice: my 10 "favourite" mistakes in into English translations with the usual commentary.  […]

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