• Carlie Sitzman MA, CT

A Practical Example of Context vs Content in Translation

Updated: 3 days ago



It is widely known that words taken out of context can easily be misunderstood. How does context affect translation though? What exactly happens when a lone word or phrase shows up on a translator’s doorstep? What struggles must the translator work through to discover a word or phrase’s true meaning in context? In this article, I will examine some examples of words out of context from a randomly chosen text on the Internet. Try to form your own idea of what each sentence means before scrolling all the way to the bottom to see it in context. I have included thoughts from a translator for your perusal along the way to give you a “translator’s-eye view”. Have fun, and no peaking!


Blocks? What blocks?

“As solar or wind energy is siphoned into an Energy Vault tower, an A.I. directs the concrete blocks to rise up.”


Translator’s Thoughts on Blocks

What kinds of blocks are these? I don’t know of any blocks that might rise up on their own, but this is new technology. Maybe they’ve developed something new I don’t have experience with. Perhaps blocks chemically engineered to rise like bread dough? The blocks could also be on an automatically activated platform that rises. Maybe they aren’t physically rising at all. Maybe the charge level is rising? They might be made of metal and rising hydraulically. I really need to figure out how they are rising, because there are several different translations of the word “rise” in my language with different meanings depending on how something is rising. I also need to figure out what these blocks are. They might not even be called “blocks” in my language, they might have a name more descriptive of what they do in my language. I sure hope the client can give me more context.

Text from: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a29463165/concrete-block-energy-storage/ (Accessed 10/28/2019 at 9 a.m.)


Sweeping with a what??

“This tool is good for light-duty sweeping of grass clippings and dry leaves from hard surfaces, such as a patio, walkway, and driveway. Its light weight makes it a pleasure to use for these purposes, where there’s no sense in using a heavier, heavy-duty machine.”


Translator’s Thoughts on Sweeping

It is sweeping. It must be a broom. Brooms are usually only used on hard surfaces. Wait a minute, it says “heavier, heavy-duty machine” at the end. They are comparing it with a machine. I wonder if the thing doing the sweeping is a machine too? What kind of machine though? Maybe a small version of those street sweepers city workers use to clean the streets? Maybe some kind of vacuum? Or an automated broom of some sort? A broom with an engine attached! I need to figure out what is doing the sweeping, because my language has several different ways to convey the concept of “sweeping”. I need to know if bristles are sweeping, or fabric, or metal, or something else. Otherwise I won’t choose the right version of “sweeping”. And I definitely need to know what machine this is or if it is a machine at all. I wonder if the client can give me more context?


Blocks in Context

From: “Are Concrete Blocks the Next Batteries?” by David Grossman

There are many ideas for renewable energy batteries. Energy Vault's consists of an almost 400-foot tall, six-armed crane with custom-built concrete blocks weighing almost 35 metric tons each. As solar or wind energy is siphoned into an Energy Vault tower, an A.I. directs the concrete blocks to rise up. Then, according to the company's website, the blocks are "returned to the ground and the kinetic energy generated from the falling brick is turned back into electricity."

Text from: https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a29463165/concrete-block-energy-storage/ (Accessed 10/28/2019 at 9 a.m.)


Sweeping in Context

DeWalt DCB790H1

Air Speed: 120 mph Volts: 40 Weight: 5 lb  

This tool is good for light-duty sweeping of grass clippings and dry leaves from hard surfaces, such as a patio, walkway, and driveway. Its light weight makes it a pleasure to use for these purposes, where there’s no sense in using a heavier, heavy-duty machine. This is a minor complaint, but this tool uses a roller switch to adjust its air output. We prefer simple trigger-adjusted air speed.

Text from: https://www.popularmechanics.com/home/tools/g2195/best-battery-powered-leaf-blowers/ (Accessed 10/28/2019 at 9:10 a.m.)



Questions?

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