Professional Translation Services – Translations and Context
Languages are systems to encode and decode information. Human or natural languages are cultural constructs; they are arbitrary and based on convention. They not only reflect but effectively shape the way we see reality. The main function of human language is communication and all human language carries meaning. But since all communication and meaning take place in a given environment, context plays a major role.
Legal Translation Solutions can be trusted to handle your important legal document translation projects. Our native-speaking translators have a thorough understanding of the language you need and its culture. They can translate legal documents into any of over 70 languages, and our unique proofreading method ensures that you receive an error-free translation every time.
At its core, document translation – whether amateur or professional – involves understanding the meaning of a text in a given language and producing an equivalent text that communicates the same meaning in another language. The language of the text to be translated is known as the source language and the language that it is to be translated into is called the target language.
Before translating, the translator needs to understand the meaning of a text. To do so, the translator has to take context into consideration. Context refers to the total environment in which a word, phrase, or sentence appears. Context is very important because we do not translate words in isolation but rather words bound by their syntactic, situational and cultural contexts. We can safely say that for most practical purposes context determines the meaning of a text.
Take the word “bat” in English. It can be used as a noun or as a verb. In the sentences “He hit the ball with the bat” and “The bat flew into the night,” the term is used as the same part of speech, a noun, but with two completely different meanings. In the first sentence, we are talking about a wooden or metallic club, in the second about a winged, furry, nocturnal mammal. Things get more complicated when we consider “bat” as a verb. For example, “He will bat next” (meaning to strike with a bat) or “She did not bat an eyelid” (informal, to blink).
According to pragmatics, the subfield of linguistics which studies the ways in which context influences meaning, there are two primary types of context with relevance to meaning: linguistic (sometimes also referred to as verbal) and situational (or social).
Linguistic context refers to all the linguistic factors which influence or shape the meaning of the text. Words or lexical units in a text do not occur in isolation; they interact with other words and the text as a whole. Most words have more than one meaning or category and translators need to understand the way in which they are used. The best way to find the particular meaning of a word is to look into the context.
Situational context refers to the non-linguistic factors which influence or shape the meaning of a text. The same sentence or statement used in different circumstances may have quite different or even opposite meanings. Situational factors may include the body language of the speaker and the hearer in oral communication, and the social, political, moral, cultural and economical environment. Other factors to take into account are conventions, value systems, religious beliefs and even ideology.
Experienced professional and certified translators working for professional translation services companies such as Legal Translation Solutions and its parent company, ASTA-USA Translation Services, Inc., are well aware that they do not translate words in isolation, but rather words with meanings determined by linguistic and situational context and that developing context awareness is one of the most important requisites for a professional document translator.