This week we celebrate International Translation Day, and so my tip today is about every translator’s favourite word: CONTEXT.
I recently had to translate the following for a hotel website (I didn’t know the name of the hotel):
“Red Sun Room”
No context, just “Red Sun Room” 🤔
A hundred questions immediately came to my mind:
Are we talking about a bedroom (chambre), a larger event/meeting room or an actual sunroom (véranda)? Is “Red Sun” the name of the room? Does it refer to a particular feature of the room (maybe a mural?) which needs to be mentioned? Does it refer to the colour of the sunroom?
I came up with 5 potential translations, but without context, it was impossible to decide which one was the right one:
1. Chambre Red Sun
2. Chambre Soleil Rouge
3. Salle Red Sun
4. Salle Soleil Rouge
5. Véranda rouge
I asked my client for context. They sent me a link to the hotel, where I found a list of the hotel’s event rooms: the "Red Sun Room" was one of them. There was no red sun mural in sight, it was simply the name of the event room and didn’t need to be translated. The correct translation was therefore option 3.
So what kind of things can you give your translator to help with context?
● Website link
● Product listing link
● Screenshot of source text in situ
● Picture(s) of the product/place
● Product SKU number
● Product barcode
● Product ASIN for Amazon
● Mock-ups of visuals if not published yet
● Details about the translation purpose: what is it for? Who will read it?
● When I was translating in-house for a retail distributor, I had access to sample products if needed. Being able to see and touch the products and the packaging was always super helpful.
Giving as much context as possible to your translator will ensure there are no misunderstandings and that the translation is accurate.
It will also make you quickly become their favourite person 😁