Provide Complete Context
for Better Translations

This is a stock photo of a child blowing on a dandelion. Imagine a photo of two golfers, bags of clubs slung over their shoulders, traversing the course at sunrise. The caption, “Power Walking,” endorses daily exercise.

Picture a young girl holding a dandelion to her lips. The seeds scatter in the wind like tiny parachutes. “Blowing Off Steam” reads the caption, a reminder that stress relief can be found in your own backyard.

Now guess the intended meaning of “Tie The Knot” without an accompanying picture. Does the phrase refer to a wedding…or a shoelace? Does “Human Traffic” refer to freeway congestion…or illegal immigration?

Yet translators are often asked to translate such phrases with no pictures or context at all. Chance of success: almost zero!

Many times all that Inline translators need to complete their assignments is a small amount of context. For example, recently a client asked us to translate a single word to Spanish: spring. Could it be saltar (to jump), primavera (the season), fuente (a source of water), or resorte (the spring of a mattress)? When the client sent us the complete phrase (“Spring mattresses not accepted”), we had no difficulty in supplying the correct translation.

The translation of short phrases and bullet points often poses challenges even after the client provides the big picture. In such cases, we ask our translators to create three or four possible translations ranging from a literal translation to a highly creative version, with a couple of alternatives in between.

We also provide a “back translation” to English of each foreign language alternative. Although some of the alternatives may lose some of the original pizzazz, this approach often yields one or two alternatives that work well.

The bottom line: with proper context, we can help clients create successful marketing campaigns with limited budgets.

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