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7 Common Mistakes in Russian Translation

Every language poses its own unique set of challenges when being translated. Russian is no different. But, how do you minimize the risks of an oshibka when translating into Russian?

A translation mistake can ruin a company’s reputation or cost them millions in lost revenue. A professional translator or translation service should be aware of the linguistic challenges Russian translation poses. There are seven common mistakes when translating into Russian.

Let’s deep dive into each mistake so we can prevent them from happening in your content translation.

Mistake 1: Neglecting the Word Endings

One of the most prominent distinctions between English and Russian is that the same Russian word may have thousands, if not hundreds, of variants. This makes it hard to handle the vocabulary using standardized Quality Assurance software. In fact, such processes often lead to confusion and reader dissatisfaction. If you are in charge of vocabulary quality control in a professional Russian translation, keep in mind that the entries in a glossary are just one of several potential word types. Translators can and should modify terms to fit the meaning and context. Forcing a translator to use a word precisely as it appears in the glossary will lead to a colossal error, and the result will leave the reader confused. Russian has six cases or word forms- nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, and prepositional. Every case has a unique ending for each noun's number and gender. Consequently, a noun may have hundreds of different spellings. To make matters worse, these situations allow for a looser sentence structure as opposed to English. There is a strict word order in English (subject + verb + object) that can only be ignored in a few situations. However, this is not the case for Russian. Sentence arrangement is less strict. This means that you can place the words in virtually whatever order you wish without them being grammatically incorrect. This adaptability is a mixed blessing as each noun must have the correct ending, or the whole meaning of the sentence is off. Localization- the act of translating in a way that considers the culture, context, idioms, and grammar of the target language- is standard when translating into Russian. This is because the language is so closely related to context.

Mistake 2: Translating Word for Word; Do Not Break the Sentence Apart!

The order of words in Russian grammar varies greatly from English. While the Russian sentence structure is not as rigid, you should remember that each sentence variation can change the sentence's form, mood, or tone. Translators must not only be experts inboth languages. They must also be creative and adapt sentence structure and word choice to fit the context. Even if changing the order of words does not violate grammar codes, each alteration changes the text’s tone and stresses something new. Simply changing two words can shift the mood and sound. In some instances, dramatic changes, such as flipping the end and beginning of the original text, may be required when translating it into Russian or vice versa. In English to Russian translation, sometimes the sentences must be turned upside down and inside out to sound normal and fluent. The end of the original English sentence could now be the start of the translated Russian sentence.

Mistake 3: Ignoring the Context

Foreign language dictionaries do not contain even a single exact translation of a word, as simple as it might be. What you see in dictionaries is just a "fuzzy match" of words in your language. When you actually substitute English words with Russian words, the context is lost. In English, we refer to one's spouse's mother as "mother-in-law." However, in Russian, the terms "mother of husband" and "mother of wife" are not interchangeable. So, how do you translate the phrase "mother-in-law"? Since you need to know the gender of the person whose mother-in-law is listed, a dictionary won't help much. You'll have to guess if you don't know, and there's a 50% chance you'll be incorrect. Context is crucial in translation, particularly when translating Russian. The Russian language has a small vocabulary, which explains why certain Russian words have different meanings. English has over 1,000,000 words, where Russian has only around 200,000 words. In Russian, there are also masculine and feminine forms of some nouns. For example, a feminine cat is called "кoшка," whereas a masculine cat is called "кот." English to Russian translation demands context and reference for the source text to choose the words accordingly. Therefore, when ordering a translation of your document, make sure to provide enough reference materials to avoid those errors.

Mistake 4: Using Placeholders

If you want a Russian translation of your website or any computer application, chances are you will need to use placeholders in your source text. These are words that will be replaced by variables during runtime. For example:

"[user_name] left the following comment:"

would turn into

"John left the following comment," once the user named "John" accesses the page.

Unfortunately, Russian verbs are as complicated and nuanced as their nouns since they can assume different forms based on the gender and person and whether it's singular or plural. It is no surprise, then, that using placeholders in Russian translation becomes a much more sensitive and error-prone undertaking. The example above, for instance, would not work as well as it does in English.

For this reason, and this applies to most languages, it is always best to avoid using placeholders as much as possible. If this isn't feasible, then always make sure to provide as much context to the translators as you can, preferably including some examples of what the placeholder will be replaced with and what the final sentence should look like. With such complex content requirements, using a professional translator is a must.

Mistake 5: Punctuation

Punctuation rules vary from language to language. If you compare to the English language, Russian punctuation rules may seem quite foreign and what might seem like mistakes are actually perfectly correct.

Here are some examples of the many ways in which the language punctuation rules differ:

1.The English language employs single or double quotation marks (', "), whereas, like other languages, Russian uses chevrons («»). 2.Currency signs are added after amounts rather than before. So, for example, in Russian, the correct would be 10$ rather than $10. 3.Dashes and colons are utilized very differently.

Mistake 6: Not Enough Space

One common issue suffered by many translation projects is the variations of word lengths. Russian is no exception. If what you are translating needs to fit inside confines, the translation process might cause your text to overflow, messing up your layout or design.

When translating from Russian to English, this can be a big issue. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to allow for extra space in your source files so that the text fits perfectly without overflowing or being excessively tight. If possible, maximum character lengths should be provided for each size-sensitive segment so that translators can adapt their translation choices to make your content fit within your requirements.

Mistake 7: Repetition Mistakes

Repetition is not seen as a significant issue in English, and it is entirely natural to use the same word multiple times in the same sentence in those languages. However, in Russian, repetition is seen as a poor writing style and therefore avoided. Thus, in professional Russian translation, repetition is either replaced with a pronoun, or the sentence is rebuilt to remove the repetition altogether.

Choose the Right Russian Translator

By now, you have learned why Russian translation is not exactly a trivial matter. For this reason, you need to find the right professional Russian translation services provider for your content. Speaking Russian and the source language is not enough to complete sensitive Russian translation projects. Whether you are using an individual translator or a service, you must make sure that:

1.The language service provider is fully aware of all complications that Russian translation poses. 2.The language service provider is fully fluent in both languages but is Native in Russian. 3.The language service provider has a history of working on Russian translation projects in your industry.

With such a complex and nuanced language, choosing the right translation partner is essential. MotaWord has a proven track record as a Russian translation service. Get a quote and start translating today. MotaWord offers 24/7 chat support so that you can provide any additional context or desired terminology to ensure the translation is on point. MotaWord uses Translation Memory so that any recurring terminology or phrases are saved into a style guide for future translations.

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Published on Jun 7, 2021 by GIRK CAKMAK

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