The Importance of Cultural Understanding in Translation Services

We live in a technological world. When we need to translate something, we tend to go to Google Translate, thinking this will do the job just fine.

But the truth is that Google often mistranslates sentences and doesn’t understand important cultural and linguistic nuances.

This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, cultural sensitivity matters when you translate texts. Here is what you need to know about understanding culture in order to translate texts correctly.

An example of how culture can change the meaning of words

As Europeans travelled West to conquer the New World, they brought their languages along too. That is why people living in the Americas also speak English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

However, these languages are quite different today.

Let us take the example of French, in order to understand better how critical these variations can be, when one translates texts.

You’ll see why understanding French culture when learning French is so important.

France is the centre of the French language. People living in the province of Quebec, in Canada, have been speaking it ever since the French conqueror Jacques Cartier stepped foot on their soil, in 1534.

Almost 500 years later, the use of the language and the accents of people based in Canada are entirely different from their original motherland.

In fact, it can lead to great misunderstandings, when one uses a word that has two completely different meanings.

One example of such is the word “gosse,” which in France means children. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, this same word is used to describe a part of the male genitalia.

If you do not understand that there is an important cultural distinction in both regions, you could either make people laugh out loud, or you could embarrass them.

What is cultural sensitivity, and why is it essential in translation?

Everywhere around the world, societies have their own cultural sensitivities. Although they tend to weaken in an increasingly international world, they still exist and need to be taken in account, whenever someone has to translate into another language.

It involves cultural norms and beliefs, values, as well as customs and behaviours. Without understanding them, trying to convey a message in another language can be difficult, or worse, it can create a deep misunderstanding.

Communicating also has its importance. If you are translating live and are directing the words to a person, you may be required to look them straight in the eyes, while the same could be considered impolite in another culture.

When it is your job to translate, these are elements that you need to be aware of.

The way that you will dress may also be very important, as it might offend some people, in regards to their religious beliefs.

The two main reasons why cultural sensitivity matters in translation is to not create misunderstandings or to not offend anyone.

The use of a single word can be sufficient to change the meaning of a whole sentence, even if it is the right translation. In such cases, the message that is sent out may be seen as offensive when it is not meant to be.

One can always pretend that there was a misinterpretation, but it is quite difficult to reverse the power behind words, once they are said out loud, or worse, written.

It also needs to be mentioned that even though a person can understand that you don’t know the culture of their country, the fact that you do will generate great respect.

In business, such a small gesture can go a long way to create strong trading bonds that will last for a long time.

How can you ensure cultural sensitivity in your translations?

Here are a few ways to help you with your translation services.

Learn continuously from professional translators

The learning process of a translator should never stop. Finding more experienced professionals can help increase the cultural knowledge with regard to the specific countries where you would like to work.

Do your research

That should always be the very first step when starting to work in a new country. There are so many ways to learn about various cultures nowadays, starting online.

Talking with the people is certainly a great way to go, when gaining an understanding of what you can and cannot say in conversations.

Be on the lookout for local dialects

There are countries where dialects play an important part in communication. That is certainly true in Italy, where each region uses a different one.

Even provinces have their own, which sometimes varies from city to city. A translator needs to take that into account.

It is clear that someone who works in translation needs to be aware of cultural sensitivities, if that person wants to convey the meaning of the words in the right way.

That is why it is better to focus on a few countries, in order to be good at your job.

10 Foods that Brits Miss When They’re Abroad

We all love a holiday and getting to enjoy the many wonderful new delicacies we can experience while being abroad.

Whether it’s tucking into a delicious paella or tasty empanada when in Spain; sweating over a hot curry in India; or sampling noodles by the bowlful in South East Asia.

However, despite the new and delicious culinary delights on offer, there’s always a selection of typical British foods expats miss, especially after relocating long-term to a different country.

These products that we long for are often the first things we head for when on a visit home. Perhaps we’ll pay over the odds when we discover them in international supermarkets.

Some of us even beg our families to ship supplies of our favourite goodies. While our specific cravings may vary, there are certain British foods we all love.

What are the classic home favourites?

Here’s a list of the foods most commonly missed by Brits abroad. If you’re visiting a British friend in their new home, why not take them something from this list as a little bit of Britain?

Proper British tea

Nothing beats a good old cup of British tea; it’s our answer to everything!


Something we love especially to accompany our tea. From chocolate digestives to custard creams, we all love a good biscuit dunked in tea.

Heinz baked beans

As the saying goes ‘beans, beans, good for the heart, the more you eat, the more you fart’! There’s nothing quite like beans on toast to conjure images of home.

HP sauce/Heinz tomato ketchup

Both these sauces have a unique blend of spices that no other brand can replicate. They are great condiments to accompany many traditional English meals.

Cadbury’s chocolate

While the UK is not famous for its chocolate, there’s something about Cadbury’s that no other chocolatier can quite match.


Although many countries have their own crisp brands, nowhere that I have visited can contend with our variety and choice of flavours.


Love it or hate it, this salty, savoury spread is one of the British foods expats miss from home. It’s best served with butter on hot toast and a nice cup of tea. There’s just nothing else like it!

The best English breakfast

Sausage, eggs, mushroom, beans, toast, tomatoes, hash browns, and black pudding is also what we refer to commonly as a fry up. Although it’s not something most people eat every day, it’s known as a great hangover cure, and sometimes it’s the only thing that will hit the spot.

Fish and chips

Our big fat potato chips and fried battered white fish are something special. We buy them wrapped up in newspaper, traditionally from speciality restaurants by the sea.

Interestingly, it is eaten with different condiments or side dishes depending on where you are in the country.

Sunday roast

This is a traditional Sunday meal and consists of roast meat (such as beef, chicken, or lamb) Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, and greens (vegetables) with gravy.

This is the average English family’s go-to Sunday lunch and is served in pubs throughout the country.

The English bits we can live without

Whilst our favourite English foods have us longing for the green grass of home, there are some things Brits really don’t miss when living overseas.

Chief among them is the weather! Britain is famed for its gloomy grey skies, cold temperatures, and rain. Many expats claim that one of their main motivations for moving abroad was to escape the British weather and get a bit of sun in their lives.

If you have immigrated to another country you may be looking for a professional translation service to assist you with the translation of business documentation or other projects and BeTranslated’s expert translators are here to help.

Contact us today for more information or a free, no-obligation quote.