The Hardest Documents to Translate

It’s a question that is often asked, and for some, the answers are quite surprising. Even in the world of certified and professional translation, there are still documents that gave a translator pause and make them scratch their heads. It is also these documents that help to validate their services, proving why someone should hire a certified translator over one who hasn’t taken the necessary steps to seek certification. Whether it is an odd idiom or a regional slang term, there will always be something that crops up to make the job a challenge, even for the most seasoned of professionals.

Hand Written Copy

These can be the most difficult, as the script may not be the neatest in the world, or clear to the casual reader. These can also be the most critical, as doctor’s prescriptions and courses of treatment are often written by hand. Letters can look similar in a messy handwritten script, and a skipped or even cramped ‘s’ at the end of the word can mean the item is a plural or singular item. You can imagine how important it is for communication in these cases to be accurate. Other documents that could be handwritten are foster care notes on a newborn adoptee, report cards for transferring international students, and invoices for goods to be shipped overseas.

Casual Communications

By casual communication, we mean documents with a great deal of slang. This conundrum is a constant struggle, as slang becomes outdated fairly quickly, with cultural relevance shifting as time passes. What once mean one thing can shift in meaning almost overnight, and finding the appropriate companion word in a different language can be a battle. Words such as ‘cool’ come to mind, where the usages can either refer to the popularity of an item in a positive sense, or a temperature. ‘Fly’ is another, where in 1970s slang it meant ‘hip’, which is a word that can either mean ‘in the know,’ or a part of the body. A translator truly has to be prepared for anything.

Culturally Unique Words

Each cultural language a translator might be working in has its own unique idioms. Yiddish is filled with them, where exact translation simply isn’t possible, and a translator needs to find something close. ‘Schmeckel,’ ‘Goyem,’ and ‘Schlimazl’ come to mind in this case. American Cajun has a long list of such words as well, from ‘Catahoula,’ to ‘roulle.’ Knowing how to translate these is simply a matter of experience, and with a certified translator, it’s one of the benefits of hiring them.