Home Business Insights & Advice English to Nepali language translation: Tips and best practices

English to Nepali language translation: Tips and best practices

by Sarah Dunsby
6th Mar 23 10:47 am

Admittedly, many people consider translating English to French a piece of cake. They also find it relatively easy to do the same with Spanish. Unfortunately, translating English to Nepali is much more of a hurdle.

Native to parts of South Asia, Nepali is considered a Category IV language. Therefore, it falls into the same bracket as Russian, Greek, Turkish, and other Baltic and Slavic languages, some of the most difficult for native English speakers to master. All the same, what one needs is the right set of tips and tools to improve their translation skills, as discussed herein. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Getting the most out of English to Nepali translation

As mentioned, Category IV languages pose a significant challenge to English speakers. Nepali has very few similarities to English, so translating to and from it is a hard nut to crack. It is particularly more difficult for a native English speaker to translate text to the South Asian language than vice versa, but practice does make perfect in time.

Be conscious of the context

In truth, keeping the context in mind and familiarising yourself with the intended audience is a tip that works for all language translations. It is nevertheless more important where Nepali is concerned because the English phrases that come naturally to you may have an entirely different meaning from their South Asian counterparts. Additionally, a sentence in Nepali could have multiple interpretations depending on the context. As such, it is paramount that the translator gets right the setting of the content in question.

Acquaint yourself with common terms and phrases

Sure, English terms and phrases come naturally to you. But what of their Nepali counterparts? Familiarising yourself with the language’s common expressions and terminologies will confer the confidence you need to translate it effectively. And as mentioned above, being privy to such nuances will also help you deduce the intended meaning on account of context. Furthermore, it proves that you respect the language enough to care about its subtle distinctions concerning certain words and phrases. Wouldn’t you want such standing within the translation community?

Be keen on localisation

As is no secret, the Asian population is very particular about their traditional beliefs, customs, and culture. Language forms a massive part of their culture. Indeed, the saying goes that to understand one’s culture, you have to be one with their language, and this statement holds for Nepali native speakers.

When translating English to the South Asia tongue, ensure that you pay attention to the people’s cultural preferences. Know what terms are natively acceptable, have the offensive ones at your fingertips, and familiarise yourself with those they consider borderline. The goal is to have your content received positively by your targeted audience, a dream that may fall short should you use frowned-upon terminologies.

Stick to standard vocabulary

In English, minute differences in vocabulary from one sentence to the next are commonplace. While the same is true for Nepali, it is best to keep this in mind when translating from English.

For example, the text you translate could be an article about pets, such as dogs. Throughout the document, the author may refer to man’s best friends as puppies, pups, canines, or any other appropriate name. Unfortunately, you may lose these monikers in translation, and canine could refer to any member of the dog family, not necessarily a dog. As such, you must refer to the pet using a common word to avoid confusion.

Be careful with the jokes

While there is no question that humor embellishes written content, it presents murky waters in all matters translation related. It is especially tricky when translating from English to Nepali on account of sarcasm or a joke meaning something offensive in the South Asian dialect.

As mentioned earlier, Nepali speakers are particular about their language and culture, so it is in one’s best interests to pay keen attention to punchlines. Please have someone with excellent command over both languages review your jokes to ensure they land appropriately.

Translate the meaning, not the words

A common mistake with novice translators is that they pay more attention to translating the words rather than their meaning. The literal rendition of certain words in English may lose all sense when directly translated into Nepali. As such, you should ensure that your translation retains its original author’s intended meaning.

Often, mishaps are comical. But remember what was discussed about the South Asians being particular where language is concerned? Such mistranslations could be fatal mistakes that destroy your journey into translation, making you lose your confidence.


While translating English to Nepali may be easier said than done, the tips discussed herein provide a solid foundation to start. Now that you have more information on the art of transcription, you understand what’s a priority. Understanding the target audience, culture, and language nuances is critical to creating palatable content. As is the case with all other translations, reread your work to make sure it flows. Look out for slips in grammar and ensure you maintain the spirit of the original piece.

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