The importance of context within translation

Translation with context

The importance of context within translation

Context plays an imperative role in successful translation, particularly for business and professional needs. Without context, a translator would be required to undertake laborious research to determine the original content author’s meaning and intention. In all types of website, app and marketing translation, context is vital to ensure that the professional tone of the resulting text is honoured as well as the comprehension and readability of the content. The context of any content determines how information is received and interpreted by a target audience. Context relates to the environment in which the content was written and is intended to be received and so in translation, it is important that the context of the original information is reflected in the resulting output.


The best translation services ensure that the original text or presentation material is translated into another language without losing any of the initial importance, meaning or comprehension. To do this, translators need to be vigilant and thorough in their understanding of their use, intention and meaning of the original content. This is achieved through a variety of contextual focuses, including the social, linguistic and individual context of the piece. Human specialist translators are therefore required in order to ensure that the context of material is thoroughly apparent in the resulting translated piece.


Those who rely on computerised translation tools are not afforded the same benefits as using an expert translator who is able to recognise and acknowledge the in-context translation of all content. This means that when a word has multiple meanings, including nouns and verbs, the translator will honour the context and ensure that the resulting content is as understandable as the original. Machine translation does not have the ability to understand or recognise context and as such, the resulting translations of automated computer programs are often incoherent and senseless.


It is important to recognise that in all languages, one word may have multiple meanings and so the use of translation apps or none-expert translation services are likely to fall short on recognising the context of individual words. Imagine reading a story about an elderly mother and the text describing an old ‘deer’ instead of ‘dear’. The whole context of the tale is thrown and so in the same way that using the correct words in your native language is important, so too is context in translation. To lose contextualisation in business or marketing documents or presentations can be immeasurably costly to a company as it is likely to have a significant impact on the appearance, professionalism and reliability of the firm overall.


In order for the context of information to be reflected in translated material, the translator must fully understand the original content. A sound understanding ensures that the translation reflects the tone, importance and thought of the original piece. This means that translators need to take into account the industry in which they are working, the intended audience and how the resulting content will be used. In doing so, they can be sure that they have sound foundations which enable them to mirror the tone, relevance and formalities of the original text or verbal record.


Computerised translation systems are not able to effectively recognise the context of the original content and so specialist translators are required in order to ensure that the appropriate meanings, words and phrases are applied without impacting on the added tone. Some translators will specialise in specific fields or industries in order to hone their contextualising skills more thoroughly, whereas others may take longer in researching and understanding the original information before beginning their translation. In either scenario, the importance of context in translation is clear and the benefits to contextualised translation in business and marketing material are many.

Emma Tidey
  • Zsuzsanna Karolina Haraszti
    Posted at 5:18 pm, April 21, 2017

    Dear Emma Tidey

    I congratulate you on the interesting article about History of the Translation,- how difficult to translate not only poems but simple documents – not on word by word – to give the real meaning of the sentence. My mother toungue is Hungarian, which is an agglutinating language with the very flexible structure of sentences, and Google instant translation service – fortunately or not – are not able to translate it. at all !
    Sir John Bowring (1792-1872) made his first book: Poetry of the Magyars (1830) and in it an assay On the Magyar Language, in which he made such great remark : The Hungarian language goes far back. It developed in a very peculiar manner and its structure reaches back to times, when most of the now spoken Europian languages did not even exist…and so on. Edward Norris (1852) made connection between the Behistun inscription and Hungarian grammar. And I can reckon the names of Julius Oppert, Archibald Sayce, Francois Lenormant – all of them find connections between Sumer and the Finno-Ugrian-Hungarian grammar.
    Your site now made only a simple remark on my language: very few speaking on it, and far too difficult to learn. I would appreciate so much if Kwintessential will give a better view on Hungarian language.

    I visit Kwintessential quite often, I can see, the website profile is redesigned for a better one, but I loved the older text on my language !
    It has been a quotations from George Bernard Shaw telling his opinion, which is such a big compliment:
    “After studying the Hungarian language for years, I can confidently conclude that had Hungarian been my mother tongue, it would have been more precious. Simply because through this extraordinary, ancient and powerful language it is possible to precisely describe the tiniest differences and the most secretiv tremors of emotions ”

    Dear Emma, I’m familiar with this saying. but could you pls. find out, where and to whom (abc TV in America ?) G.B. Shaw have told this remarkable interview. I need to know it as a reference.
    I would appreciete your kind answer.
    Best regards from Budapest,

  • Jodi
    Posted at 3:01 am, May 5, 2017

    Imersspive brain power at work! Great answer!