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Context - What it is...

Do you have a translation question?

Context - What it is...

Postby Shirasagi » Tue 10.30.2007 5:42 am

The most important thing in any translation help request is context. (Actually, that's not true -- the most important thing is correctly transcribing the Japanese, but context is close, close second.) But reading over the various translation requests over the past half year or so, it's occurred to me that many are not exactly sure what context is, at least as far as Japanese goes.

Japanese is what's known as a high context language. What this means in this forum is that a wholly grammatical sentence is likely to carry very little pure information. Typical Japanese sentences are combos of verb-y and adverb-y words, with a minimum of noun-y and adjective-y words. And often, when you do have some noun-y words, that's all you have. Then you have politeness-levels, familiarity-levels, slang, jargon, and so on. The Japanese language both illuminates context, and is illuminated by it.

What this means is that when attempting to translate a Japanese sentence, any and all information is relevant. Context is not just the sentence before and after the Japanese in question (although that, too, helps -- an excerpt is even better), it's the gender of the speaker(s), their age, their emotional states, the relationship between them. It's the medium that Japanese is delivered in: newspaper article, song, manga, movie, novel. This is especially important, because sometimes we can access the same media you are looking at, and help you out while looking at the whole thing, rather than some fragment. If it's a book, tell us the author. If it's a song, tell us the singer, and title. More information is always better than less. Short and sweet is not the way to go here.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it's much more worth it to put in the work up front in the beginning. It greatly increases your chances of getting a helpful response right off the bat. Otherwise, you'll have to put that work in anyway when we repeatedly ask you for more context to make sense of the sentence. Better to have and not need than need and not have, so err on the side of too much information.
Josh Reyer
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RE: Context - What it is...

Postby Mike Cash » Tue 10.30.2007 8:11 am

Somebody lock the thread and sticky that post, please.
Never underestimate my capacity for pettiness.
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