Context in translation

Context is the Most Important Factor in Translation

How important is context to translation? You will get an answer to this question when you consider the reason behind why most businesses prefer human translation over machine translation. Machine translations are generally simple verbatim translations that do not give importance to context. And the end product is a clumsy translation that can only be useful in understanding the crux of the original document. For example, consider the translation of the word ‘run’ from English to Spanish. The word ‘run’ has 179 different meanings, which varies depending on its context – whether it is used as verb, noun, verb phrase, or as other parts of speech. How can a machine accurately translate this word into Spanish without understanding the context? What this example shows is that when it comes to translation – context matters the most.

How a translator can make sure that the translation is contextually correct?

For this, the translator has to first de-contextualizes the original text and then re-contextualizes it in the target text, i.e., the translator has to first go into the background of the original text, understand it and then reconstruct it in the target language. This forms the cornerstone of any good contextualized translation. And while decoding the context of a text they need to keep in mind that there are two categories of factors that influence the meaning of the text. One is linguistic context and the other is situational context.

Linguistic context covers the linguistic factors that are influencing the meaning of the text. And here the interaction between words should be used to determine the meaning of the text rather than its isolated meaning. For instance consider the following three sentences-

  1. Press my shirt.
  2. I work in a press.
  3. Press the button.

In the above examples, the meaning of the word ‘press’ changes based on its placement and interaction with other words in the sentence.

On the other hand, situational context cites the aspects of situation and circumstances influencing the meaning of a text, which are generally quite hard to recognize.

The bottom-line

Language should always be seen through the prism of culture and understood in its context. And we at Outsourcing Translation understand this and make it a point that our translators give utmost importance to producing good contextualized translations. We have also put in place strict evaluation mechanism wherein an expert linguist will proofread the translated document and check whether the right meaning and context is carried forward.

Opt for our services and savor the benefits of accurate in-context translations.