Problems With Translation

Learning a new language? You may have encountered some common problems with translation — especially if English is your first language.


But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Below is a list of the most common problems with language translation (and a few easy fixes to help you out when you get stuck). 


While learning a new language isn’t easy, it doesn’t need to feel like a constant battle with words, either. 

Problems With Translation: Common Cultural & Structural Issues

One of the most common problems with translation when learning a new language is translating sentences and phrases word for word. Unfortunately, that’s just not how language translation works!


Each language has its own sentence structures, turns of phrases, idioms, and more. And each dialect of a language uses its own structures. 


Discover the most common issues with translation when it comes to communicating with other cultures and learning sentence structure and grammar. 

Common Cultural Translation Issues

The two most common issues language learners encounter when it comes to cultural differences is understanding different dialects.


Yes, if you learn European Spanish, you’ll be able to understand (for the most part) Latin American Spanish. But there are words and phrases that mean something completely different in each dialect.


Once you have a grasp of the language, you may want to learn how to differentiate between some of the most common words in major dialects. Some dialects also use different verb tenses (as with Mexican Spanish and Argentinian Spanish), and pronunciation often differs from dialect to dialect.


The good news is that your audience may still be able to understand you, as these differences are usually widely known between speakers of dialects. 

Structural Problems

Depending on the language you’re trying to learn and your first language, it may be easier than you might think to pick up a new language.


If you’re a native English speaker, learning Germanic languages might be easier because English is a Germanic language!


Yet, learning a Romance language might be a little trickier if English is your first language. And there are a few common mistakes English speakers make when learning new languages. 

Sentence Structure

Sentence structure problems are bound to trip you up from time to time when you’re learning a new language — and they’re one of the most common problems with translation. 


Some language sentence structures follow the subject, verb, object structure (SVO) and some follow the subject, object, verb sentence structure (SOV). Depending on your first language, you may find it difficult to switch between linguistic typology. 


If you’re used to saying, “Sam took the dog for a walk,” you might feel compelled to use the same typology when translating a sentence into Japanese (that uses the SOV typology). 

False Friends

False friends are words that have one meaning in one language and a totally different meaning in another language.


Great examples of false friends in French would be bras (which means arm in French). In English, this is a word for a garment. Brasserie in French is a brewery. Monnaie in French is a word that sounds like the English word for money. While monnaie is indeed money, it means change (as in coins, not as in transformative change). 

Homonyms and Homophones

Homonyms are two words that are spelled or pronounced the same way — but have two totally different meanings. 


An example of a homonym in English would be Chile, chili, and chilly. All three have totally different meanings (one is a country, one a pepper, and the third an adjective for cool weather). 


Homophones are two words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. An example of such words may be knows and nose. The first means “to know” both as in knowledge or as in familiarity; the latter is a body part found on the face. 


When learning a new language, these words can trip anyone up!

Literal Translations

Another common language mistake is using literal translations. There are many words and phrases that cannot be literally translated into other languages.


We don’t think about how often we use turns of phrases and figures of speech until we’re learning these phrases in another language! 

Poor Pronunciation

When it comes to learning a new language, pronunciation matters! 


English speakers have particular difficultly when learning how to pronounce words in the Romance languages. We were taught to “sound out words” when we were learning English. It should be that easy with other languages, too, right?




Try to listen to a word’s proper pronunciation when learning new vocab. That way, you won’t get in the habit of mispronouncing words from the get-go. 

Gender Agreement

In English, we only assign gender to people. In other languages, gender is assigned to both animate and inanimate objects (though the genders of many objects in other languages are now up for debate!). 


Learn the gender of words when learning the vocab itself so you don’t assign the incorrect gender to them. 

Using the Wrong Language Translation App

Not all language translation apps were created equally! Using a free app, such as Google Translate, can help you in a pinch but might not be your best bet for accurate translations. 


How accurate is Google Translate? Not as accurate as many of the paid apps out there.


Language translation apps like Vocre can help you learn how to correctly pronounce words and phrases. 

Solving Translation Problems

Struggling to learn a new language? We have a few tips to make problems with translation a little less stressful. 

Use a Language Translation App

If you use the right language translation app, you can learn new vocab and discover how to correctly pronounce words.


Language translation apps, such as Vocre, have voice-to-text and voice output translation. Learn how to say good morning in French, hello in Chinese, and common words and phrases in other languages — as well as how to pronounce these words and phrases correctly.


Vocre is available for iPhone in the Apple Store and Android in the Google Play Store. Download the app and its dictionaries and you can even use the app offline. 


Use it when you need to find out how to spell a word or how to pronounce it. Or, use it for accurate in-person translation.

Learn the Most Common Words & Phrases

If you’re newly learning a language, you’ll want to learn the most common words and phrases first. Doing this can help you learn to effectively communicate as soon as possible. 


Some of the most common words and phrases used in many languages include:


  • Hello
  • Good morning
  • How are you?
  • What’s your name?
  • Do you speak English?


In many cultures, learning simple words in another language goes a long way. All you need to say is, “Hello, how are you?” in the language of the person you’re addressing, and you’ll garner a lot more respect than if you addressed them in English. 

Find a Language Exchange Buddy

Don’t spend all your time chatting with a computer! The best way to learn conversational languages is to practice with a live person. 


No matter what your first language happens to be, you’ll find someone who’s hoping to learn it. Language buddies are available on message boards (like Craigslist), social groups (like Meetup), and ex-pat groups. 


Even if you can’t meet in person, you can always meet in an internet chat room or through video conferencing apps. You’ll learn common idioms, the most commonly used words, and the grammar the locals use. 

Immerse Yourself in the Culture

Even if you can’t visit another country, there are ways to immerse yourself in other cultures. 


Visit a local cultural diaspora and speak to the locals in their language. Watch movies and TV shows in other languages (you can change the spoken language on most Netflix programs). Some of the best Spanish-language movies on Netflix are a great place to start!


Or, watch a movie or TV show that you’re already familiar with. You’ll have a gist of what the characters are saying, so learning how to say these words and phrases in another language will be much easier.

Don’t Give Up 

Learning a new language isn’t easy. There are going to be times you feel completely overwhelmed or frustrated.


Keeping up with people who’ve spoken a language their entire lives is hard! That’s why we recommend finding a language exchange partner; you won’t feel so bad asking them to slow down or explain a word you didn’t understand. 


You’ll also gain a little emotional support with a language buddy. Try to find one that is at the same skill level as you. That way, you won’t feel so discouraged if your buddy seems to grasp concepts in your first language faster than you’re grasping them in your new language.


And if you get stuck on a vocab word or pronunciation? Download a language translation app! While apps like Vocre won’t replace human interaction, they can help you learn new vocab words — fast. 

International Travel Planning: 6 Ways to Prepare for a Trip Abroad


International travel planning is a must these days. Traveling abroad is an adventure, but make no mistake about it: You’ve got to be prepared. 

This is truer now than ever in the COVID era, when different countries pose different risks. Furthermore, new variants are making future travel as unpredictable as it has been since early 2020. 

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid foreign travel altogether (except in places where medical experts advise against it). You just have to know what you’re likely to face in your destination and what challenges you might encounter getting there.

International Travel Planning: Preparing for Your Trip

International travel planning requires a little more patience than planning for a domestic trip. Don’t forget to get a check-up, build a budget, pack the essentials — and (of course) learn the language with the help of a language translation app!

1. Get a Check-Up

The CDC recommends you make an appointment with your physician or a travel health specialist at least a month before you plan to depart. Don’t wait to get a check-up on the books. You never know how busy your healthcare provider might be or how far out you’ll need to schedule an appointment, so make one as soon as you know when you plan to leave. 

Consult on any medical conditions you have and how they may interact with the environment where you’re going. Allergies and asthma are a couple of examples. You don’t want to wind up somewhere that triggers severe allergic reactions, or with poor air quality that might contribute to breathing problems.

You’ll also want to be aware of any illnesses that may be problems in specific areas you plan to travel. Some places pose a greater risk for malaria or yellow fever, for example, and may even require vaccinations in order to enter the country. Be sure you’re up to date on routine vaccinations, as well as the COVID vaccine. 

Also, different countries have different travel restrictions, ranging from COVID testing requirements within a specific date of arrival to health insurance requirements and bans on travel from certain countries. Check on your planned destination to make sure it’s safe to travel there and what’s required for you to do so.

2. Build a Budget

Set a realistic budget for your trip, and start setting aside money well before you leave. Know that costs may change before you, and give yourself a cushion. Airfares are rising and so are gas prices.

One of the most important international travel planning tips is building a budget. 

You should also research the exchange rate and how to pay for products and services at your destination. The Federal Reserve has a table of exchange rates that shows current rates and which way they’re headed. Have some cash on hand in local currency; you can typically obtain some at your local bank before you leave.

Plastic is typically a great option because it reduces fraud liability, but some companies charge a fee of 1% to 3% for using credit cards abroad. So, check with your card issuer before you go. You’ll also need to let them know you’ll be traveling so your purchases don’t get flagged and your card doesn’t get canceled. 

If you need a credit card but don’t have the best credit history, consider getting a secured card. In exchange for a deposit, you’ll receive a line of credit. As an added bonus, you’ll also build your credit as you use the card and make your payments on time. 

3. Learn the Language

Communication is important, and when in Rome (or anywhere else a different language is spoken), it’s a good idea to learn how to understand others and be understood yourself.

Where’s the restroom? How much does this cost? Can you tell me how to get to my next destination? These are all questions you should know how to ask – and you’ll need to be able to understand the answers. 

You can get a handle on some basic words and phrases by looking in surprising places (like Netflix, YouTube, and podcasts) or even by listening to music. You won’t be able to learn any language overnight, so take a translation app like Vocre with you. It’s the no. 1 voice translation mobile app for Android and iOS phones.

4. Don’t Forget to Pack

Different kinds of trips require different methods of packing — especially when it comes to international travel planning. If you’re driving over a land border, you’ll probably be able to take more than you will if you’re flying overseas, for example.

Determine how much room you’ll have and map out a list of items, beginning with necessities first, followed by the stuff you just want to take for convenience or fun. Consider the climate where you’re going (do you need a sweater, sunscreen, or both?). And don’t forget important legal documents, such as your medical insurance and prescription information, as well as personal protective equipment like masks and antibacterial wipes. 

Speaking of masks, more than 80% of countries require masks. Even if you don’t need one to get into a foreign country, you’ll have to have one in order to get back into the United States. 

If you don’t have a passport, get one as soon as possible. There are also ways to get a passport quickly, but some countries require your passport to be valid for a minimum of three to six months (or longer) before you’ll be allowed to enter. You may also need extra documentation, such as a letter of consent from the second parent in the event a child is traveling with only one parent.

5. Prepare for Emergencies

The first rule of emergency preparedness for travelers is simple: Always have a first aid kit on hand. From minor injuries to more serious medical emergencies, a well-stocked kit is bound to come in handy. You can buy one or compile it yourself using an online checklist. The Red Cross is a good place to start.

Depending on what type of trip you’re taking, there are other kits you may need. For example, if you’re road-tripping across Europe, follow this road trip checklist to make sure you have everything you need to make the trek.

6. Open your mind

Part of the point of traveling abroad is seeing – and appreciating – how the rest of the world works. By keeping an open mind, you’ll be able to experience other cultures to their fullest. 

As Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life


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