Skip to content
Get Quote

7 Costly Mistakes to Avoid in Government Translation

Government translation projects are crucial for effective communication in Australia’s increasingly multicultural population. However, these projects often encounter costly mistakes that can undermine objectives and incorrectly communicate messages to the targeted audience. 

In this blog post, we explore 7 common pitfalls in government translation and provide insights on how to avoid them. We highlight the importance of accurate translation in government affairs and emphasise the need for a comprehensive understanding of language nuances and cultural contexts. 

By learning from these mistakes, professionals in the field can implement robust quality control processes, optimise project management, and engage effectively with our multicultural community.


Mistake 1: Producing unsuitable content for your audience

Understanding native-language literacy between different cultures is a great starting point. This will guide the range of communication materials to be produced in different formats to cater to the preferences and accessibility needs of diverse audiences, such as written, audio and video. It is crucial to consult the community and gather insights to ensure the content is culturally appropriate and engaging. At Ethnolink we undertake community consultation to discover what types of content would be most suitable to reach your target audience.

Developing a tailored distribution strategy for each audience and project further enhances the impact of government translation initiatives by reaching the intended audience through the appropriate channels and platforms. By taking these proactive measures, we can effectively convey their messages and achieve the desired outcomes of multicultural communications.

Mistake 2: Not adapting content for culture

Language does not equal culture. Producing unsuitable content can be avoided by involving the community in resource development, adapting text and visuals to the audience’s culture, and engaging experienced agencies with a multicultural focus.

By collaborating with the community, considering cultural nuances, and seeking professional guidance, we can ensure that their translated materials effectively resonate with the target audience, fostering successful communication and avoiding costly mistakes.

Mistake 3: Not considering the full user experience

The full in-language user journey should be consistent. This means not only translating specific content but also taking into account the entire user experience for the target audience. Consider the user’s path from discovering the translated content to engaging with it and taking desired actions. 

It involves making sure that the translated content is easy to find on your website, with clear navigation and intuitive design that guides users to the information they seek. Additionally, conducting in-language user testing on your product or service is essential to ensure that it meets the needs and expectations of the target audience.

Mistake 4: Not writing for translation

Writing for translation means being aware that the English copy you are writing is going to be translated. The clearer the source text, the clearer the translation will be. To enhance the effectiveness of public-facing communications, it is essential to adhere to Plain Language principles. Using clear and straightforward language that is easily understandable by a wide range of readers.

Additionally, considering Easy Read fact sheets can be beneficial, especially for audiences with cognitive or reading difficulties, as they use simplified language, visual cues, and concise content to improve comprehension. Creating simple and visually appealing material is another key aspect, as it helps to capture the audience’s attention, facilitate information absorption, and increase engagement.

Mistake 5: Typesetting translations in-house

Typesetting is the process of arranging text on a page to provide a great reading experience. Sometimes, decisions made in typesetting are creative and very intentional, and give additional effect to the words. When working with different languages, particularly non-Latin scripts, there are additional considerations to make including:

  • Font selection 
  • Line height 
  • Line break placement 
  • Leading, etc. 

Each of these elements needs to be adjusted according to each language — which can be tricky to get right! Multilingual typesetting should only be conducted by professionals, who are well versed in the unique requirements of each language.

When publishing translated web content, we recommend allowing your translation provider to have access to your CMS where possible, to implement all translated content for optimum quality control. However, if this is not possible or you are under time or budget constraints, you can also request translations back in Word/HTML which can be copied and pasted in. To avoid any issues, multilingual website content must always be reviewed ‘in-context’ by your translation supplier. 

Mistake 6: Skipping quality checks

It is important to engage a reputable translation provider that holds ISO 17100 certification for translation services. Our certification ensures adherence to strict quality standards, including independent checking of translations by a second translator, guaranteeing accuracy and reliability. In addition to independent checking, considering ‘community checking’ by involving community members or subject-matter experts can provide valuable insights and ensure cultural appropriateness. 

Furthermore, partnering with a translation agency that works with NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) credentialed translators adds another layer of assurance, as it signifies the translators’ professional competence and adherence to industry standards.

Mistake 7: Engaging multiple translation providers

Building a strong relationship with a preferred translation supplier is crucial for successful multicultural communications, and it is advantageous to work with a single supplier whenever possible. By fostering a long-term partnership, agencies can benefit from better understanding, streamlined communication, and improved consistency in translations. In case any issues arise, it is important to communicate them promptly with the supplier.

To enhance translation quality and ensure consistent terminology, leveraging Translation Memories and Glossaries can be highly effective. These tools help maintain a database of previously translated content, enabling consistency in terminology and increasing efficiency by reusing approved translations. 


By being aware of and actively avoiding these costly mistakes, we can significantly improve the outcomes of translation projects. Prioritising community involvement, cultural adaptation, and engaging experienced agencies, we can ensure all multicultural communication resonates with the target audience.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in exploring how Ethnolink can help you avoid these costly mistakes, reach out to our Head of Multicultural Communications, Rachael Coulthard –

Related Posts

The ultimate guide to multicultural community consultations
2024 & beyond: A new era for multicultural communications in Australia