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Determining Meaning of Words According to Context

Translators may encounter documents for translation involving various industries like machinery, IT, tourism, hotel, etc. Most translators major in English in university years before becoming a professional translator. Consequently, the chance that they are not so familiar with knowledge in other industries is great, which may exert an adverse impact on translation due to possible misunderstanding of the original text. This phenomenon also exists among translators majoring in other specialties. For instance, a translator majoring in accountancy may be assigned documents for translation concerning other industries instead of accountancy. In this situation, incorrect understanding of the original text may occur due to insufficiency of related background knowledge. The time available for expanding our vision may be limited and it is of difficulty for us to be a professional in every industry. A feasible way to minimize the inaccurate understanding of the original text is to judge the meaning from the context.

Polysemy is extremely common in English. We need to judge the accurate meaning of a word or phrase according to the context. Otherwise, the coherence in logic of the target text may be poor if we lack logical thinking during translation. The example below well demonstrates this point.

The original text:

You can use flags in different ways, such as to multiply the value in a field with the value of the flag. For example, you can multiply LineSalesAmount with the corresponding value of CurYTDFlag. If CurYTDFlag is set to 0, the result is 0, but if the flag is set to 1, the result is to LineSalesAmount. In a chart, the expression could show like this: sum(LineSalesAmount * CurYTDFlag). This returns the sum of LineSalesAmount, where the CurYTDFlag is set to 1, that is, the sales for the current year.

“Multiply” often refers to “to increase the amount, number, degree, etc.”. However, the coherence in logic will be interrupted if we adopt this meaning here. According to the context, “If CurYTDFlag is set to 0, the result is 0, but if the flag is set to 1, the result is "LineSalesAmount”, we can judge that “multiply” here is used to “filter” the “LineSalesAmount”. When CurYTDFlag is set to 0, the corresponding “LineSalesAmount” will be filtered; when CurYTDFlag is set to 1, the “LineSalesAmount” will be kept. We can find out the accurate meaning of “multiply” by weighing the context.

This are many other similar examples encountered in translation. We are not able to master relevant background knowledge in each industry, but we can find out the accurate meaning of a word, pharse or sentence by weighing the context. In this way, we could improve the accuracy of the translation.

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