The errors in the image at the bottom of this text are amusing, but at the same time very painful examples of English (translation) errors. If you are a little lucky, people may laugh at these, but these mistakes can cost you sales and confidence. In this blog, I'm going to give you some tips on how to give a good business impression in your English written communication.
Be aware of differences in culture and manners
Dutch is not my native language so I know better than anyone the pitfalls of writing in a foreign language. If you want to write correctly in a foreign language, you must not only have an excellent command of the language, but you must also be aware of the difference in manners and culture. Before you know it, you will have made a blunder.
Native speakers and translation agencies
My main tip is, if possible, always have important texts read by a native speaker or translated by a good translation agency. Just be aware that there is a difference in translators. Some translators stick too closely to the Dutch source text, which makes the texts read very stiffly. In my opinion, a translator should, when necessary, dare to distance himself or herself from the Dutch source text.
Of course, this does depend on the type of text. With some texts it is very important that the translation remains as close as possible to the source text. Think of contracts, manuals or minutes. But with a marketing text, for example, the content is important, but if the text does not read well, the message will not come across well. So choose the translation agency carefully.
Which sentences are written incorrectly?
- I look forward to hearing from you.
- I shall let you know when we will sign the contract.
- We will get the information for you.
- We don't see any issues on the long term.
- No words but deeds.
"I look forward to hearing from you"
As the title of this blog indicated, this is wrong. The sentence should be: I look forward tohearing from you.
Explanation: After a preposition in the middle of a sentence, a verb comes in the -ing form.
"I shall let you know when we sign the contract"
Correct if you do indeed intend to sign the contract. But be careful if you mean to let someone know if you intend to sign the contract at all.
Explanation: If is used to indicate that if a certain condition is met, then there is a certain consequence. It means if, provided, on condition that or or. When use for situations that you are certain will happen. It means when or then.
So be sure not to confuse the two, as this can have business consequences. Before you know it, you may have committed to something that was not intended.
"We will get the information for you."
Correct, but a limited vocabulary always stands out, so try to add some variety to it. From basic verbs like "get," you can also make obtain, gather, collect or acquire. This makes a world of difference in your text. Synonyms.net is a handy site you can use to add variety to your text.
"We don't see any issues on the long term"
Incorrect: The sentence should be: we don't see any issues in the long term.
Explanation: many mistakes are made with prepositions because they cannot be translated literally. Some English prepositions look like Dutch prepositions, but mean something different. Therefore, it is important to look not only at the translation of a preposition, but also at the situation in which it is used.
On this website you will find a handy list of English prepositions.
"No words but deeds"
Incorrect: the sentence should be "Actions speak louder than words.
'translate Dutch literally into English', also known as stone-cold English, often results in very crazy sentence structures such as: "now the monkey comes out of the sleeve" and "behind the clouds shines the sun.
So be careful when translating proverbs, sayings, sayings and expressions. On this site you will find a translation of some sayings.
Online translation tools
Especially in the beginning, Google translate provided a lot of entertainment and although Google translate has improved considerably in recent years, you cannot trust Google translate for error-free business texts. It is not accurate and sentences are translated literally. The Dutch proverb "met stomheid geslagen" is translated as "with beaten muteness," which of course is totally incorrect.
Especially style, nuances and grammatically complicated sentences are not translated well in Google translate. A great advantage of Google translate, however, is that you can quickly get an overall impression of the content of a text, if you do not speak the language at all. For single words, Google translate is otherwise fine to use.
I find Linguee a great godsend when it comes to translating texts. Linguee is a translation tool that combines an editorial dictionary with a search engine that allows you to search through billions of bilingual texts for words and phrases.
You can use Linguee as a dictionary, but Linguee also shows you example sentences in which the words you enter are placed in an existing context. You can then see for yourself which context fits what you want translated. If you translate "stunned" with linguee, you get a whole list of possibilities including: 'genuinely appalled', 'flabbergasted' and 'dumb struck'. All good translations of the proverb.
If you are not 100% sure about an important English text, have it read by a native speaker or have it translated by a good translation agency. You also have online tools for this, but they are not always reliable. I had this blog read by a few Dutch colleagues, so if there are any grammatical errors in it, I'm happy to refer you ;-).