Lost In Translation: An Introduction To The Interpretation Of Language

The world of language is filled with many pitfalls and learning curves and it can take years to perfect your style with regards to accent, pronunciation and interpretation. Language is a subjective and relative medium; whilst there are certain rules that each language abides by, there will be many instances where practical knowledge rather than academic knowledge will be a plus.
As with the United Kingdom, every country and every language is adapted depending on where you are, for example the same words are pronounced differently in London than Liverpool. The second most widely spoken language on the planet is Spanish and whilst you will be understood when speaking traditional Spanish, there are many places around the world where the accents will be so diverse, it may be more difficult for you to understand them.

Human Translation

This is where human translation takes centre stage. In the world of business and commerce these days, thousands of companies trade internationally with countries as close as France and Spain or as far as Hong Kong or the Middle East. The fast-paced world of computer technology has allowed for many new translation tools such as Google Translate or many java based programs that you can integrate into your own business.
But do these products work, and can they ever replace human translation? Connoting meaning and emotion through computer-aided programs may perhaps lead to an unintentional coldness when trying to communicate with those of different cultures. However with human translation you can be more sure that your words will be understood as they are intended.


A laymen’s example can be seen on most foreign holidays. Reading from the guidebook is the easy part and saying the word out loud is fairly simple, however using the words you know to communicate how and what you are feeling can be an entirely different experience.
Think back to when you have said a foreign word to a foreigner, more often than not they will repeat the word back to you as it is intended to be said, with the accent and passion that communicates the feeling of the word. This is perhaps the main reason why human translation is the only way to really build meaningful relationships with international businesses or, indeed, friends.

Computer-Aided Translation

There is a lot to be said for computer-aided translation, particularly where written text is concerned. It can bring languages from the furthest corners of the world right into your lap, allowing different cultures to learn about each other through their use of language and also certain cultural colloquialisms. However in the larger world of business and meaningful social communication, human translation is a clear winner as the emotion and feeling of a word can only truly be understood as it is intended when it is spoken to you.


Perhaps the most meaningful translations in history can be seen with the widespread use of religious texts. The original Bible was written in Hebrew and was carefully translated into Greek by a group of monks, however in the 4th Century, Saint Jerome took the heavy task upon himself of translating the Greek version into Latin. It can be argued that due to the subjective nature of the text, religious translations could be misread.
Legendary American author Mark Twain took a sarcastic look at this idea when he famously translated his own work from a French copy into English. He then published both the French and English works together to highlight the odd inaccuracies that can occur when translating literally and word-for-word.

In Summary

Today’s world is now a melting pot of hundreds of different cultures and languages. Technology has allowed us to communicate with the whole planet and it seems a waste not to use this to your advantage. Using human translation to get your words to be understood and felt properly by the listener is a key to building lasting and meaningful relationships both in business and socially.
It is important to integrate with all walks of life to better understand the world you live in and being able to share a conversation with someone, albeit through a translator, is the start of a more understanding and tolerant society.

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Lucy was astounded at how a literal translation from one language to another could be so misleading. For translation services she recommends LanguageNow, a company that work with a team of expert translators across more than 200 different languages.