You are a translator right? So how do you translate…..

80dbc312-78ea-4d98-8a12-401be1d7ad39As translators, there are many terms we can’t translate accurately without contextual reference. For instance, how do you translate the word “set” in Simplified Chinese? Should it be 设定、一套、放置、安置、出发、凝结、布景?

  • I have set the alarm clock. 我已设定了闹钟。
  • The runners set off at a blistering pace. 赛跑运动员如脱缰野马般起跑了
  • A cigarette set the dry grass alight . 一支香烟把干草点燃了。
  • A boxed set of original recordings 一套盒装原声录音带。

To accurately translate a word  from English to Chinese as well as other languages, we need to know where the word appears in a phrase or a statement.

This might not be a big issue when we translate a large document, such as a book, where the context is contained in the document itself. However, it can be a problem when we translate a 300 word document that is an excerpt from a larger document.

Recently, we received an Excel spreadsheet containing short phrases and words to be translated from English into Simplified Chinese for China market. There’s a word “switch”. So how did we translate it into Chinese?  开关?转换?改变?交换?

  • The heating is on a time switch. 暖气靠定时开关自动供热。
  • We had to make a switch in our arrangements. 我们不得不对我们的安排作些变动。

The translation can vary depending on what it refers to and may be translated differently into Simplified Chinese. It is difficult for us to determine the correct translation if we do not have an idea what that “switch” refers to. It could refer to a light switch; a switch-over; switch between 2 objects…. As responsible and professional translators, we requested reference information from our client. Eventually, we translated “switch”  to “转换“.

This simple act of ours saves costly errors. What if we had translated “switch” to “开关”?The result would be disastrous if our client simply plugs in the Chinese term that was not translated in the right context to wherever it needs to go in a complete sentence.

我们必须转换跑道 would become 我们必须开关跑道,which makes no sense at all!!

So now you see how important context is? It is vital for optimum results in translation. Always get contextual reference when in doubt.

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