The importance of an accurate translation

Language enthusiasts enjoy the story of the Treaty of Wichale to underline the importance of translation. The treaty of Wichale was signed in Ethiopia on 2nd May 1889 by the Italians and King Menilek II of Ethiopia granting the northern Ethiopian territories of Bogos, Hamasen, and Akale-Guzai (modern Eritrea and northern Tigray) in exchange for a sum of money and the provision of 30,000 muskets and 28 cannons.

An accurate translation can be crucial

An accurate #translation can be crucial

However, the problem was that the Amharic text differed to the Italian text. The former guaranteed Ethiopia’s king a good measure of autonomy in conducting foreign affairs, stating that Ethiopia “could” have recourse to the good offices of the Italian government in his dealings with other foreign powers. The Italian version on the other hand established Ethiopia as an Italian protectorate with no flexibility at all, using the word “must” instead of “could”. Six years later this seemingly small mistake led to war.

Even though this incident took place well over 100 years ago, the message is still relevant today: a translation (especially a legal translation) must be 100% accurate.

The types of texts we translate at The Page Refinery differ widely. We translate website content, marketing texts, legal texts, emails, newsletters, social media feeds, annual reports, theses and exhibition guides. Some of our clients specifically ask us to be as free with our translations as possible to ensure that they flow well and sound as compelling as possible. Other clients need us to translate their texts as accurately as possible, as even the smallest error or misunderstanding can lead to all kinds of trouble.

If you want to learn more about The Page Refinery’s translation services, our language combinations or our client portfolio, please get in touch by writing to: or calling: +44 7779 66 88 53.

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