At times, it may seem that people who live afar not only speak a different language but also think differently. It wouldn’t be a mistaken assumption. We underestimate the degree to which culture affects our behavior. It’s not just the language, the words, but the concepts that are behind them. That’s why in certain countries there’s nothing weird with constantly touching strangers. Doing the same in Finland, though, would be met with horror and disgust. Without knowing the cultural context, a mere translation could make a Spaniard feel unwelcome in Japan, where exuberance isn’t that widely popular.
That’s why if you want to understand someone’s intentions accurately, it is not enough to learn the language. You’ll also need to learn about customs and traditions. We all have specific cultural traits that we may feel are universal until we discover that someone can do things differently.
Polish teachers may be horrified by the – the horror – friendly relations between students and teachers in the United States. China’s prioritization of general harmony over the happiness of an individual is viewed by the Western world with disgust, while, the inhabitants of Saudi Arabia cannot believe why would anyone allow women to have so much responsibility.
In this often confusing state of affairs, simultaneous translations can prove to be extremely challenging. Sure, to avoid mistakes, translators need to have an astounding knowledge of the language itself. Still, if they want to be as accurate as possible, they need to wade through all the intricacies of foreign cultures. If you want to learn about famous translation mistakes, check out this infographic, provided by Lighthouse Translations.