Idiom Translation a Hard Nut to Crack

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One of the biggest mistakes to make while translating documents isn’t always getting the words wrong or poor grammar or sentence structure, but it can also be the altogether feeling on the conversation.

Brits are well known for being a bit kooky, our language is full of idioms such as ‘piece of cake’, ‘sleep tight’ and ‘let the cat out of the bag’, which when you think about them, are quite nonsensical.

To translate these literally, you’re probably going to come across a little barmy. Imagine giving directions which are relatively simple, before ending on a proclamation of their uncle’s name (which if it isn’t Bob, you are going to seem rather peculiar, and if it is Bob, you are going to appear like a stalker).

Because idioms are rooted deeply in to culture, history and even TV in the case of ‘sick as a parrot’, they can be a nightmare to translate, so instead transcreation rather than translation is often the best step forward. Instead of literally translating the text to something which would most likely bamboozle an international audience, a translator will find the colloquial alternative.

Although transcreation isn’t just a about dealing with colloquial phrases, but more about incorporating the entire feel of a document, a brand or a company, and make sure the same message is conveyed through each nationality it touches, rather than literally translating the words and hoping for the best.

What are some of your favourite bonkers idioms? We’re going with ‘talk the hind legs of a donkey’ but the list goes on and on.