Challenges with Translation

Challenges with Translation

Translation is the process of translating words from one language to the other. It may sound simple, however, there are many challenges that can make the translation process challenging. All translators must have a strong knowledge of both their source and target language, as well as a deep understanding of culture. There are many challenges that come while translating, even for experienced translators, which can cause confusion and frustration. Below are a few of the major challenges a translator may face:

Language structure

Each language has rules and structure. In English, a basic sentence follows this order: subject, verb, and object. For example, “He eats ice cream.” But not every language follows this same sentence structure. Spanish typically has a subject, then object, then verb. Translators obviously cannot just translate every sentence word for word. They frequently must rearrange, add or remove, source words in order to successfully communicate the meaning.

Multiple meanings

Some words may have different meanings depending on how it is use and where it is placed in a sentence. Homonyms are words which look and sound alike but have a different meaning (ex. pear and pair or tale and tail). Heteronyms have the same spelling but different pronunciation and meaning (ex. Excuse me while I think of an excuse).

Idiomatic expressions

Idiomatic expressions are are peculiar phrases wholes meanings cannot be inferred by the literal definition of the words it contains. In other words, idiomatic expressions are unique figures of speech. Many professional translators have difficulties translating these expressions as many times there is no direct translation that makes sense.


Sarcasm and humor frequently lose its meaning when translated into another language and can cause misunderstanding.

What other challenges have you faced when translating? Comment below and share with us.

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