Learn To Solve Translation Problems Caused By a Lack of Context
“Nice set of hooters you got there!” This is a quote from Dumb & Dumber. If you haven’t seen the movie (he’s referring to owls), this line could be offensive. This demonstrates how context is everything, and a lack of context can cause trouble, including translation problems.
Issues Arise when Context Is Ignored
Copying and pasting source text strings into a database generally serves as the start of traditional translation. The spreadsheet is then sent to a translator who puts the translated text in the correct column and sends it back for review.
Project managers love this simple workflow, but translators run into awkward situations.
When the source text is sent via a spreadsheet, the translator has no idea how the word stream fits into the broader content strategy or even the intended use of the phrase. All sorts of stylistic and grammatical ambiguities arise because of this.
For instance, your language service provider needs to know if the tone can be slightly playful or if the translation should stay professional, if the length of the target text should be the same as the source text for web design purposes, and which of the several possible verb definitions fit a specific sentence.
British Council goes into detail about how translating English into Mandarin Chinese relies heavily on getting the tone correct.
Each time a translator stops their work to get clarification, they are delaying the project. If it takes a day or more to get responses to their queries, they might just use judgment calls for minor ambiguities to keep the project moving.
However, inefficiencies follow when the translator’s educated guess is incorrect. In the context of a live publication, translation problems become quite clear, and teams are forced into damage control mode.
The process starts up again with added review steps, you have a decreased chance of launching the localized site on time, and the translation costs go up.
Context Will Improve Efficiency
In the above workflow, the key to maximizing efficiency is to minimize ambiguity. A linear path of progress replaces the cycle of redundant work whenever the translator is able to get it right the first time.
When you supply translators with detailed glossaries, comprehensive style guides, and clear instructions, you help address ambiguities and avoid translation problems. Yet, visual context serves as the greatest tool in ensuring an accurate translation.
They are instantly clued into everything from grammatical conventions to design restrictions once they can see source text located inside a mobile app, business document, or associated web page.
For example, there are certain words in English that have dozens of meanings, such as “set.” Without context, a translator would not know which meaning of “set’ to translate.
Common Sense Advisory points to the importance of computer-assisted translation in providing context.
Common Translation Challenges Solved by Context
Translation and localization are never simple A-to-B processes. If they were, you could just have a machine translate everything for you. Of course, machine translation fails for a variety of reasons. This The Guardian article will go into more detail about that for you.
There are several language considerations that get in the way of automated translation. Here are a few:
- Multiple Meanings: “Set” is an example of this.
- Expressions and Idioms: These use figures of speech to express unique concepts, and they usually vary from language to language.
- Language Structure: In English, we are used to our sentences being in subject-verb-object order, but other languages are different. For instance, Farsi goes subject-object-verb.
Look at the Translation Process from a Whole New Perspective
Confidence comes from knowing the context of the source material. Editors anticipate fewer issues, localization managers are able to meet their project deadlines, and translators feel more comfortable in their assumptions.
An even more profound change typically occurs once this confidence is confirmed after a few successes. Your enterprise can start running under the assumption that the translations are accurate the first time.
Your organization’s resources can be redirected and reconfigured toward more pressing concerns rather than keeping elaborate contingency plans featuring endless review processes in place.
Your team can focus on tackling the localization process with a leaner team or boosting advertising campaigns that direct traffic to the localized site. However you choose to reallocate your resources, most translation teams would love to be able to devote fewer resources to translation problems.
How to Inject Context into Translations
Our translation management system (TMS) features lean, automated localization workflows that integrate seamlessly with your processes to make the tedious process of localization simple. We also make sure all of your localized versions are kept up to date.
Whether it is from your website or internal documents, our TMS takes your source material and presents it to our professionals in a way that clearly displays the context. They also get recommended translations for phrases based on your project’s previous approved translations.