One Thing that Really Matters in Translation: Context

One Thing that Really Matters in Translation: Context

One Thing that Really Matters in Translation: Context

A language is a way to see and understand the world. It is the vehicle of our ideas, thoughts, and perspectives of our world. However, since a human being is essentially a social animal we perpetually interact with our environment. This interaction with the environment is a factor of time and space. When and where we are interacting determines what actually we are meaning. Therefore, the context is very important in the communication process and that is why it is necessary to pay special attention to this concept.

The art of translation is very similar to this example of conversation. Translators frequently face the issue of dealing with details and underlying the hidden meanings in them. Aware of these complications, translators engage in a conversation with the text first: they look for the answers by carefully examining the context of the text.

Translation is understood as an act of carrying the meaning of a text from one language to another. This process involves interpretation of the meaning of the source text and producing the same meaning in another language. , however, cannot exist out of context. By context what is meant is the entire environment in which the word or sentence is expressed or stated. So a translator has to go into the background of the text to understand the text. Thus translator first de-contextualizes the original text and re-contextualizes it for the target text. This forms a good contextualized translation.

Context plays an imperative role in successful translation, particularly for business and professional needs. Without context, a translator would be required to undertake laborious research to determine the original content author’s meaning and intention. In all types of website, app and marketing translation, context is vital to ensure that the professional tone of the resulting text is honored as well as the comprehension and readability of the content. The context of any content determines how information is received and interpreted by a target audience. Context relates to the environment in which the content was written and is intended to be received and so in translation, it is important that the context of the original information is reflected in the resulting output.

The best translation services ensure that the original text or presentation material is translated into another language without losing any of the initial importance, meaning or comprehension. To do this, translators need to be vigilant and thorough in their understanding of their use, intention, and meaning of the original content. This is achieved through a variety of contextual focuses, including the social, linguistic and individual context of the piece. Human specialist translators are therefore required in order to ensure that the context of material is thoroughly apparent in the resulting translated piece.

While seeking the context of a text there may be two categories of factors that may influence the meaning of the text- linguistic context or the situational context.

Linguistic context cites the linguistic factors influencing the meaning of the text. Any word in the text is not present in isolation but interacts with other words in the text and with the whole text at large. This interaction among words determines their meaning rather than its isolated meaning.

Linguistic context too can either be immediate or remote. Immediate context refers to the words or sentences that make the context evident then and there through the whole text. Remote context pertains to the existence of word or sentence somewhere else. It may refer to the author using the word somewhere else or there may be special reasons to use that word or phrase.

Situational context refers to the factors of situation and circumstances influencing the meaning of a text. These factors are a little harder to be recognized than linguistic ones.  The situational factors may pertain to the facial expressions, gestures, and stances at the micro level and the social, political and economic milieu and the culture at large. Conventions and the whole value system differ from one culture and society to another. What is ‘right’ and what is ’wrong’ differs. Ideologies may also be a factor to refer to the context.

Language, therefore, should be considered a part of the culture and understood in its context. A translator must be giving over the top stress to understand the context so as to produce a good contextualized translation.

Why is the context so important?


The context influences the meaning of a phrase or sentence. It is linked to the environment in which the communication takes place. In translation, it is also very important: one word may mean a different thing depending on the context in which it is used.


To translate you need to understand the text. A good understanding is a key to an efficient translation. A sentence or a text is composed of words and phrases, but it requires thought, comparing the sentences around it to fully understand its meaning.


Translation has to take into account in which the industry or field the document will be used, and its purpose. Translation/language can be targeted at specific fields; its context can be technical, medical, legislative etc.


Being able to translate specialized documentation means the translator has to have specific skills and knowledge in order to understand the context and how to phrase a translation. That means translators need to be specialized in a specific field to translate correctly.

It is important to recognize that in all languages, one word may have multiple meanings and so the use of translation apps or non-expert translation services are likely to fall short on recognizing the context of individual words.

To lose contextualization in business or marketing documents or presentations can be immeasurably costly to a company as it is likely to have a significant impact on the appearance, professionalism, and reliability of the firm overall.

In order for the context of information to be reflected in the translated material, the professional translator must fully understand the original content. A sound understanding ensures that the translation reflects the tone, importance and thought of the original piece. This means that translators need to take into account the industry in which they are working, the intended audience and how the resulting content will be used. In doing so, they can be sure that they have sound foundations which enable them to mirror the tone, relevance, and formalities of the original text or verbal record.

Read about The Most Outstanding Facts about Translation Services


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