Why Context Matters in Translation Services

Young woman speaking with two men

Translation Services: The Importance of Understanding Context

Is providing translation services as simple as finding the equivalent word in another language? Well, if you wanted to provide the most basic translation services then, maybe. But, if you’re looking to provide accurate, user-focused translation services, then you’re going to need a more nuanced understanding. In most cases, it’s not just enough to understand the language at a basic level — you also need to understand context.

Context can make a big difference in the meaning of a statement, or even a single word. In this blog, the interpreter team at Akorbi is going to give you some insight into why understanding context in different languages can be incredibly important.

Cultural Differences

Possibly the most obvious reason why context is important is cultural differences. Words and phrases don’t always directly translate, and an inaccurate translation can cause problems. For example, take this Welsh phrase:

“Roedd y cwbl yn freuddwyd gwrach wrth ei hweyllys.”

We’ll forgive anyone unfamiliar with the Welsh language for not trying to read that out loud. Directly translated into English, it means: “It was all the dream of a witch according to her will.” Ever heard that one? No? You probably have heard the much shorter English language equivalent: “wishful thinking”. That phrase itself also doesn’t translate literally into Welsh from English. Phrases and words need to be modified to retain their core meaning.

Understanding cultural differences between languages means understanding that a lot of what you might say in your first language, without ever thinking about it, doesn’t translate into others. Cultural and historical context is important.

Tone and Presentation

Tone is important even in your first language. Just changing how you say “that’s fantastic!” can make it sound wonderfully encouraging, or bitterly sarcastic. Tone can also go beyond just how a statement sounds. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language all play a part.

They also vary wildly between cultures. In providing high-quality translation services, it’s important to be aware of things beyond just directly translating from one language to another — especially in person.

An Awareness of Taboos

Speaking of gestures, there are certain cultural taboos and off-limits phrases that mean very different things when they’re translated. For example, everyone loves cookies, right? Well, the word “cookie” as pronounced in English sounds an awful lot like “koki” in Hungarian. However, the two words mean two very different things.

We’ll let you do your own research on the Hungarian version, but the point is that it’s easy to accidentally come across potentially offensive phrases in other languages if you’re careless. Being a professional translator means being aware of potential cultural taboos, and knowing how to avoid them.

Ask Us About Professional Translation Services

Whether you need basic translation services or professional, in-depth interpreter help, get in touch with Akorbi. We offer customized solutions for companies, whether it’s translation, interpretation, transcription services or anything related. We’re here to help.

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