The Importance of a Context in Language Translation

Okay, this is another lesson from my wife. It is about how you should pay attention when you are translating from one language to other language. I am going to use Indonesian as the target language.

You can not separate context from language translation as well as you can not translate word by word. The context of a sentence or a paragraph can tremendously change a word meaning. I will use a word “book” as an example:

Note: En: English, Id: Indonesian

[1]. Book in a real meaning:
En : I buy a book.
Id : Saya membeli buku.

[2]. Book in a hotel transaction:

En : I book for a hotel room. (book = reserve)
Id : Saya memesan kamar hotel.

[3]. Book in a soccer match
En : Zidane is booked by the referee. (book = card)
Id : Zidane diganjar kartu oleh wasit.

Above examples show how context influences word meaning. You will know what will happen if you make a mistake by translating “booked” in [3] using “book” in [2]  😉

So, watch out about context.


11 Tanggapan to “The Importance of a Context in Language Translation”

  1. tonang Says:

    So, what do you comment on the interview session of Miss Indonesia a few days ago? Any issue about loosing context? I am eager to hear your wife`s comment on that such sensitive issue, please.


  2. Arief Fajar Nursyamsu Says:

    I would ask my wife to comment on this one..

    I do not think there were context loose there. Everthing is on the context. The biggest problem for Miss Indonesia is about her “less-practice” English.
    She is representing Indonesia. Miss Indonesia board should double, tripple chek about her ability in communicating in English first before sent her to this such big contest.
    But I dont know whether she thought that Indonesia is only Jakarta. That is why she said that Indonesia is a “beautiful city” instead of a “beautiful country”.

  3. tonang Says:

    At least, a good (or sad) news is that for the formal interview session yesterday, Nadine got help from an interpreter, an Indonesian who`s been living in California for years. I am sorry to say that this might also be a sad news, for it might prove the unwell preparation Nadine had had for the previous interview, or even – hope that I am wrong – that`s the real english ability she actually has.

  4. Arief Fajar Nursyamsu Says:

    A good news for Nadine and a sad news for Indonesian people.. hehehe

    If Nadine make a mistake or wrongly answer a question, the interpreter can correct the answer for the interviewer without Nadine notice it..
    What do you expect then?..


  5. Hermann Golden Says:

    How about this and how we can differ :

    1. Zidane is booked by the referee
    2. The girl is booked by the referee :”>


  6. Arief Fajar Nursyamsu Says:

    That is why we need a context. We now that Zidane is a football player, so we now that the context must be on a soccer match. But if a girl is booked by the referee, the word “booked” can be ambigous. The word can be translated as “given a card” or “booked” 😉

  7. Guntar Says:

    is there any post regarding “thinking in english”?

    many non-native people would tend to not directly think in english when they actually want to say it in the first place. they would first think the sentences in indonesia, and then go a long way to translate them in english. its troublesome, dont u think.

    Got any tips? 🙂

  8. Arief Fajar Nursyamsu Says:

    IMHO it is normal for a non-native speaker, because their mother language is not English. Practicing can help them improve it.
    Okay, so the keywords is.. Practice.. Practice.. and Practice..

  9. Guntar Says:

    Well, the next issue would be, “How can we practice our english effectively?” Im talking about quantum english learning here 😛

  10. Arief Fajar Nursyamsu Says:

    Thanks for giving me this idea.
    I’ll write that topic soon.
    Thanks. 🙂

  11. Elis Says:

    I wanna ask about context …
    Is there any context in single sentence?
    Please reply ………

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