The high price of choosing the wrong words

The perils of erroneous translation, and establishing across-the-board standards with an industry norm

There stand me the hairs to the mountains. Thankfully, this literal translation of a German saying on a postcard is just a joke – though in all seriousness, some translations do make your hair stand on end. We’ve all seen examples of unfortunate but generally harmless translation errors, for example when travelling. They often raise a wry smile. But other translation errors are no laughing matter.
An incorrect, incomplete or incomprehensible word in an instruction manual might make a machine malfunction and bring production to a halt, or even lead to physical injury. Likewise, poor translations in medical, financial or legal documents can have grave consequences for corporations and individuals. No less problematic are culturally insensitive marketing translations or an imprecise securities prospectus, which might make customers in the target market reject the product, investors lose confidence, and make businesses go bankrupt. Likewise, ignorance of false friends can cause chaos. For example, the German word “Billion” is actually not a billion, but a trillion in English. And while you might be happy to receive a package labelled “gift” in an English-speaking country, in a German-speaking country you’d be rather worried, as the German word “Gift” mean “poison”.

European norm for the translation industry

It goes without saying that service providers should deliver translations that are terminologically and linguistically impeccable. Sadly, the prevalence of erroneous translations shows that this is often not the case, even if the blame sometimes lies with those commissioning the translations, who take a gamble on computer translation rather than qualified experts.
Objective quality assurance is the key to minimising problematic translation errors and convincing customers of a translation’s quality. To this end, the European Committee for Standardisation established the quality standard EN 15038 for the translation industry in 2006. The norm, which was developed by practising translators, translators’ associations, third-level education institutions and customers, is specially tailored to the translation industry and sets out minimum required standards for companies and practitioners in the field.

  • Quality and project management
    In our case, this means clarifying a few important points with you before we even translate the first word, such as: who is your target group, and what is the tone and style of your corporate language? We provide you with a dedicated contact person throughout the process, and if specific questions arise we’re happy to give you a direct line to your translator. A comprehensive, regularly updated terminology database and internal quality assurance carried out by an expert, native-speaker proofreader are also essential elements of our service.

  • A blend of human expertise and technology
    Language proficiency alone is not enough to ensure the perfect translation of a text that was written by an expert for a specialist audience. Many more skills are required to really translate texts accurately. The translators at Lennon.de Language Services are all either formally qualified translators or possess great experience, as well as having in-depth knowledge of specialist areas. Certified, on-going professional development is part of the job for both our translators and proofreaders. We use the CAT tool SDL Trados to ensure efficiency and consistency in the way we work, and have every necessary measure in place to protect your data.

  • Additional services
    Our team follow and keep a record of clearly defined steps regarding project management and the translation process itself. Concerning project management, these steps include the preparation of administrative, technical and linguistic aspects, while the translation process itself involves translation and initial proofreading by the translator, followed by additional proofreading and terminology checks (two-man principle), then final formatting and delivery.

  • How we work
    We’re always prepared to go the extra step. If you want, we can localise your text, which means adapting it to a specific culture, country or region. We also offer desktop publishing, so that your documents have the perfect look.


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