How to Provide the Context to your Translator?

November 5th, 2011
Translation services form part and parcel of a bustling niche market in the world of e-commerce and international communications. Oftentimes the message that is being promoted is misinterpreted by the recipient. This presents myriad challenges to both the sender and the receiver. Foremost among a translator’s tasks is the accurate processing of information from one language to another. In this vein it is imperative that not only the words, phrases, idioms, parables and essence are understood correctly, but also their context. Indeed it is entirely possible that the correct meaning is totally mistaken by dint of nothing else other than the context. Context is best defined as the set of circumstances and facts related to a particular event or predicament. With regards to translation services, context must be related to the written word and the type of translation service being requested. How to Provide the Context to your Translator? For every piece of prose which is need of translation, a specific context is required. For the purposes of correct translation, it is imperative that the needs of the issuing authority be met in every conceivable way. That’s why an e-commerce website detailing how best to go about purchasing a product or service is understood on the receiving end to mean the same thing as on the sending end. It would be an absolute travesty if the words were mistaken and somehow lost all meaning in translation. Simple examples best illustrate the importance of context within the same language (note that the problem is exponentially compounded when incorrectly understood contextual errors are translated): Homonyms such as no and know, their and there, to and too, here and hear, neigh and nay create complications for content creators. Should these incorrectly compiled concepts be translated, the entire message will have been lost. Problems Associated with Contextual Errors in Translation The problem with taking a piece of text from a website and inserting it into Google Translate or any other free text translation service is that words are translated but their meaning will be irretrievably lost. Users thus run the risk of relaying incorrect information. This is not only detrimental to a productive business model, or presentation or research effort, but it delegitimizes the entire effort. If the meaning of the data is lost, the message is lost and sales/revenue or reach will be hamstrung. The goal therefore is to clearly understand what it is that the sender intends for the receiver to understand. Enter the Translator Then it is the job of the translator to put the sender’s message into context and to provide a clear and concise translation with the right message. This is a professional service and one which should be taken seriously. Issues which can emerge include: inadequate contextual analysis, interference, lack of textual coherence, false calques, transcoding and hypertranslation. There are also multiple other errors to guard against and these include ambiguity, syntax errors, repetition of words, phrases and ideas, cumbersome construction of content and inappropriate content. Together, these issues create a systematic check and control mechanism against which a professional translation service can manage projects and ensure that senders and receivers are indeed on the same page.

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