Interpreting and Translating Idioms - Ordentop

Professional translators and interpreters face many challenges in doing their work. Language, localization, culture, and situation can all affect the accuracy of results.

One of the biggest challenges are idioms. We all use idioms every day without even realizing it. But when interpreting or translating from one language to another, idioms can be a serious problem.

Professional translators and interpreters can handle them.

All cultures have their idioms; every language has thousands of them. There are at least 25,000 in English alone! But idioms are so ingrained in the language that we may not recognize them. Perhaps because they don’t attract attention.

Idioms can be difficult for non-native speakers to understand because their meaning is usually symbolic. Every language has expressions that are used without conscious thought but may not be obvious to non-native speakers.

In the United States it may rain cats and dogs, but in Norway it may rain witches, and in the Faroe Islands it may rain whales. These expressions do not always make sense, but native speakers know what they mean.

Sometimes idioms give advice, such as don’t judge a book by its cover. Sometimes they are proverbs that reflect cultural values, like how a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. There are also idioms that are driven by pop culture, such as when you feel like the king of the world!

Communication Problems

Interpreting or translating idioms is a challenge because the uniqueness of the expression can lead to many variations.

Idioms are usually understood by people who speak the same language and belong to the same culture.

However, professional translators and interpreters have the cultural knowledge and understanding to recognize idioms and convey the meaning of expressions. They will not simply gloss over them.

Interpreters have a responsibility to think on their feet and make sure they accurately understand and convey the intended meaning.

Interpreting and Translating Idioms
Interpreting and Translating Idioms