“Hang not, leave him” – The judge pronounced to free a man off to life. But the verdict was written to the jailer as “Hang, not leave him” misplacing the coma which ended up in killing the innocent man. Thus its called “A coma killed a man“. We can see how important it is to place punctuation in the correct position to communicate correctly and clearly, so that the recipient gets the exact meaning of what is conveyed. Similarly, describing and detailing on a subject without understanding the exact context may end up in confusions and not communicating the exact and expected meaning. Translating an English sentence into a native language, without the translator knowing the correct context can result in the end user interpreting incorrect or wrong meaning of the sentence.
Contextualization is the process of providing relevant context for source strings. The objective is to provide meaningful descriptions of the source strings for translators to ensure the correctness and quality of the translations. Thus facilitating good end user experience of the localized applications.
Scenarios requiring contextualization
Ambiguous words: Some of the source strings have ambiguous words whose context needs to be mentioned.
Line: Here the word Line can be a line of text, a thin continuous mark i.e, a graphical representation, line number etc. All these different scenarios of word line can be found in a word processing. Empty Trash: Here word Empty can be a verb or an adjective i.e, whether to empty the trash or the trash is empty.
A language is a way to see and understand the world. It is the vehicle of our ideas, thoughts and perspectives of our world. However since human being is essentially a social animal we perpetually interact with our environment. This interaction with environment is a factor of time and space. When and where we are interacting determines what actually we are meaning. For example ‘March’ is an act as well as month. The meaning depends on when, where and how. Translation is understood as an act of carrying the meaning of a text from one language to another. This process involves interpretation of meaning of the source text and producing the same meaning in another language. Text however cannot exist out of context. By context what is meant is the entire environment in which the word or sentence is expressed or stated. So a translator has to go into the background of the text to understand the text. Thus the translator first de-contextualizes the original text and re-contextualizes it for the target text.
While seeking the context of a text there may be two categories of factors that may influence the meaning of the text- linguistic context or the situational context.
Linguistic context cites the linguistic factors influencing the meaning of the text. Any word in the text is not present in isolation but interacts with other words in the text and with the whole text at large. This interaction among words determines their meaning rather than its isolated meaning. For example see the use of word ‘press’ in these sentences. A). press my shirt. B). I work in a press. C). press the button.
Situational context refers to the factors of situation and circumstances influencing the meaning of a text. These factors are little harder to be recognized than linguistic ones. The situational factors may pertain to the facial expressions, gestures and stances at micro level and the social, political and economical milieu and the culture at large. Conventions and the whole value system differ from one culture and society to another. What is ‘right’ and what is ’wrong’ differs. Ideologies may also be a factor to refer to the context. Language therefore should be considered a part of culture and understood in its context. Translator must be giving over the top stress to understand the context so as to produce a good contextualized translation.