Clear Examples of Why Context Matters

Nataly Kelly

VP of Marketing

Nataly brings nearly two decades of translation industry experience to Smartling, most recently as Chief Research Officer at industry research firm Common Sense Advisory. Previously, she held positions at AT&T Language Line and NetworkOmni (acquired by Language Line), where she oversaw product development. A veteran translator and certified court interpreter for Spanish, she has formally studied seven languages, and is currently learning Irish.

A former Fulbright scholar in sociolinguistics, Nataly lives in the Boston area with her husband. When she isn’t working, you’ll usually find her translating Ecuadorian poetry, writing books, and exploring the world (36 countries and counting!).

@natalykelly

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How important is context for the translation process? It’s essential.

Without context, translators often have to do extensive research to ascertain the source text author’s intended meaning. In the case of website translation, mobile app localization, and other types of digital content projects, context is imperative.

However, most computer-assisted translation tools and translation management systems do not offer translators (let alone other process participants) an in-context view of what they are translating. The work becomes a guessing game. Just consider that the word “run” has 179 different meanings, including nouns, verbs, verb phrases, and other parts of speech. How will the translator know how to translate this term without context?

Check out the infographic below, which shows how complex translating a single word can be when there is no context for the translator. While it might be tempting to think that translators always receive all the necessary context — not only visual, but stylistic and terminological — the reality is that most translation projects that take place today are done using a traditional method that leaves the translator without this essential information. This means that not only does quality suffer — turnaround times do too.

At Smartling, we always advise our customers of how important context is. It’s why our technology makes in-context translation a reality for diverse types of content. If you want to ensure quality for your translations, remember to enable your agencies and professional translators by providing them with the very best context you can — both in terms of the technology you use, and the supporting resources you offer to them through that technology.

Words with Multiple Meanings
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About Nataly Kelly

Nataly is VP of Marketing at Smartling. She is a veteran translator and a published author on the translation industry…

3 thoughts on “Clear Examples of Why Context Matters

  1. Great summary! I will be sure to share this with my translation students at UC San Diego-Extension. I am constantly preaching about the importance of context as well, and this useful graphic should really help make this essential point.

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