Behind the scenes of translation

Most people don’t really think about how much research work there is behind a translation. When I spend countless hours looking into a word or phrase so that readers will be able to understand, I wonder “will anybody ever notice all this hard work or do they think that we are just like any other bilingual dictionary?”

On my last project, I had to translate a chapter about contraceptive methods, both hormonal and non-hormonal. One of those methods had me thinking and researching for days!! Because we all know when it comes to sex. our linguistic choices can be very creative, no matter where we come from.

My target language is Spanish, one of the languages with most native speakers in the world. Not to mention its diversity considering how many different countries speak it.

So, I go back to my sex phrase. “Withdrawal or pull-out method”. It should be easy, right? I mean, it’s basically plain language. We have all used the phrase at least once in our lives. Do you have any idea how many different phrases Spanish has for this? For example, in Spain they say “marcha atrás” which is literally translated as “reverse”, like the car gear. In Argentina, we say “acabar afuera” = to come outside, absolutely nothing to do with a car. I can’t deny that it was a hilarious research. I even ended up learning how other languages say it. In Denmark (where I live), they say “Stå af i Roskilde”, translated as “getting out in Roskilde”, which is the last train stop before the big capital, Copenhaguen. Creative, right?

So, a translator’s job is something that should definitely not be taken for granted. All that research work I was telling you about is the reason why automatic translators will never be as accurate as human translators. There’s a lot more to it that just “copy-pasting” from a dictionary.
Have you ever encountered a fun research like this? How did you deal with it? Can you think of any other phrase that would be fun looking into? I’d love to hear some stories in the comments section.

Hi there! I’m Ariadna, from

I’m here to share some thoughts and ideas about my job as a translator. I love writing about language, women/feminism, health and wellbeing, among other interesting topics. If you liked what you read above, I invite you to comment and share in your social media. Let’s all learn from each other! Remember: sharing is caring!