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Obstacles in Educational Material Translations

One might think that the use of educational materials worldwide would be a simple task. Since the principles of most studies transfer universally from one language to another, it would almost make sense that teaching materials would as well. The basic principles of math or science, for example, are the same regardless of which language explains it. Some schools may wish to duplicate their tests for students with a different native languages to make it easier for them to take the tests. When ample information is not provided for the translator, creating a test in English to a Spanish written translation, for example, becomes a challenge.

In the eyes of many educators and by the rules of many schools, giving out test answers to anyone besides fellow faculty and staff is strictly prohibited. In reality, allowing the language translation service to have the information would actually be quite beneficial in ensuring that the test questions are correctly translated. If there is any concern about the true meaning of the words used in a quiz or test, the translator will be able to consult the answers and provide a comparable question in another language, rather than being incorrect or unable to complete the task due to ambiguity.

Translating tests and quizzes from one language to another presents a myriad of difficulties. Fill-in-the-blank questions may make sense as first presented, but if there is no context or list of correct answers, the professional translator cannot use the right wording in the final product. The number of blanks provided for multiple word answers may need to be adjusted. What is one word in one language may be a three-word phrase in another.

Sometimes there are many different meanings of a word in one language that has only one meaning in another. Assuming which meaning is to be translated without additional information might make it impossible for the student to choose the correct answer. For example, the word "head" in English could mean a person's head, the front of something or the tip of an object. Asking a multiple choice question on the meaning of the phrase "head of a boat" could be tricky to translate. This particular question would be impossible to decipher when creating an English to Portuguese text translation, because it only has one meaning in Portuguese. There would only be one choice for the answer.

Using proverbs and plays on words are often difficult to decipher because there is no comparable meaning using those words. When they are exchanged verbatim word for word, they make no sense. Also confusing and difficult to translate is the multiple choice test question when the translator does not know which, if any, of the answers are false. Some professors pride themselves on giving students a silly and obviously wrong choice to make the test more fun and to improve the probability of students choosing the correct answer. As a result, translators have unwittingly spent hours searching for a translation that makes sense when, in fact, the original multiple choice answer does not.


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