Very few languages use as many idioms as English, where they are found quite frequently even in business correspondence. At TSI, we see thousands of documents each year of all sorts of different content. Here are several idiom examples that have come across our desk.
Most experienced professional translators understand these common idioms and know if there are similar expressions in their native language. In addition, we thoroughly review every document intended for translation while looking for these phrases that have the potential to create misunderstandings. The problems arise when clients rely on software to translate their documents. Here is one of my favorites.
I’m pulling your leg.
We know that this means I’m joking with you or that I’m teasing you. The Spanish version of this is: Te estoy tomando el pelo, which translates back into English as “I’m taking your hair.” It’s as far away from the intended meaning in Spanish as I’m pulling your leg is in English.
So how does one avoid confusion or misunderstanding when venturing into the world of idioms?
Know your translator, and if you don't, feel free to reach out. We are always available for a consultation or a quote regardless if your documents contain idioms or not.
Francis Semmens is the founder of TSI and author of all blog posts with a focus on translation for clients and translators alike.