One of our clients recently asked a great question on the use of idioms in translation. The specific sentence she was inquiring about used the idiom from scratch.

The client had asked the question.

I have a place in the text where I am having trouble replacing an idiom: “from scratch.” Do you have an idea of how problematic this will be for translation? My sentence is: If the user profile is corrupted during the setup process you will need to start from scratch.

My response was that in translation, especially in technical material, the linguist would typically change the idiom to common language. So instead of from scratch the translation would use something along the lines of recreating or repeating the process. As a result the clients example would probably come back from translation sounding more like these examples:

Original sentence:
If the user profile is corrupted during the setup process you will need to start from scratch.

Modifications to work around idioms:
If the user profile is corrupted during the setup process you will need to recreate the profile.

If the user profile is corrupted during the setup process you will need to create the profile again.

If the user profile is corrupted during the setup procedure you will need to repeat the process for user profile creation.

Does this mean that you can’t use idioms in your source text? Not at all. Just understand that during the translation process the idioms will typically be modified to common language.

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