Importance of Context in Translation

A language is way to see and understand the world. It is the vehicle of our ideas, thoughts and perspectives of our world. However since human being is essentially a social animal we perpetually interact with our environment. This interaction with environment is a factor of time and space. When and where we are interacting determines what actually we are meaning. For example ‘March’ is an act as well as month. The meaning depends on when, where and how.

Translation is understood as an act of carrying the meaning of a text from one language to another. This process involves interpretation of meaning of the source text and producing the same meaning in another language. Text 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.

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. For example see the use of word ‘press’ in these sentences.  A). press my shirt. B). I work in a press. C). press the button.

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 existence of word or sentence somewhere else. It may refer to 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 little harder to be recognized than linguistic ones.  The situational factors may pertain to the facial expressions, gestures and stances at micro level and the social, political and economical 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 culture and understood in its context. Translator must be giving over the top stress to understand the context so as to produce a good contextualized translation.

---

One Hour Translation is the world’s fastest professional translation service. One Hour Translation provides Fast, High Quality Expert Translation service on a 24/7 basis thanks to a community of over 8000 certified translators from all over the world.