Skip to main content

Translators have a variety of processes, organization systems, and methods that they use to produce the highest quality of work possible. While these techniques can vary according to individual preferences, most translators begin their work process by analyzing the text they need to translate. During this process, they seek to identify the purpose of their translation. Locating this translation purpose is sometimes referred to as ‘scoping out’ the text. 

The scope (or purpose) of a translation is quite important. Translation is more than a simple conversion from one language to another. It includes other techniques such as localization, or ensuring that idioms, humor, and other literary devices are fully understandable in a foreign market. They also have to ensure that they are using the right tone, formalities, and vocabulary for their target audience. By establishing all of these ideas during a translation scope, linguists ensure that a translation will function perfectly in the situation in which it is being used. 


History of Terminology 

The term ‘scope’ used in the context of translation actually has a long history. Scope, or skopos in Greek, translates to ‘purpose’. The concept was first introduced by German linguist Hans J. Vermeer. Vermeer encouraged translators in the 1970s to focus on the purpose of a translation rather than just the conversion from one language to another. He published several works advocating for this ideology. 

While not all translators nowadays agree with Vermeer’s translation theories, his terminology has crept its way into standard translation vocabulary. Now the concept of identifying the purpose of a translation before beginning to work with the linguist elements is commonplace and considered extremely beneficial. 

Identifying a ‘Skopos’

As translators begin searching for the purpose of their translation, the first step is to read the source text very carefully. As they read, they make notes of key concepts and terminology that they may need to research. Another step that some translators may take is identifying specific details both included in and implied by the text. 

Extratextual Factors

This refers to elements found outside of the written text. A translator might consider factors such as who wrote the original source text, and who the intended audience is. By researching these things, they might gain a better understanding of how to best imitate the author’s tone. Other suggestions that might influence decisions include the place and moment of the source text’s production, the motive for its creation, and what function it serves within its industry. 

Intratextual Factors

This refers to different elements found within the written text. Intratextual details can include the general topic and tone of the text. Additionally, items such as textual structure and formatting play a huge part in identifying the purpose of a text. Nonverbal elements like italics may suggest sarcasm or emphasis. Syntax and sentence structure choices help a translator imitate the original author’s writing style. The translator also decides what assumptions the author has made about their intended audience. There may be some details that need to be further explained or developed due to the shift in audiences. 

 Once a translator has analyzed these different factors, they obtain a better understanding of the purpose of the translation. They are then ready to proceed with the translation. By identifying the scope first, they ensure that they can best translate each sentence to fit the intended purpose. Scope is a key element of creating high-quality, effective translations. 

Translation Briefs

While translators can identify the purpose of a text themselves through careful analysis, it is always more effective to discuss these details with a client. A translation brief is a meeting where the translator and client discuss information about the translation. Some details to include during this meeting might be the register and tone of the text, the target market, information about the product/brand, and terminology. Here a translator can also clarify any other questions concerning the translation purpose. 

Although a translation brief is ideal, it is not always possible due to scheduling. In these cases, it is up to the translator to make informed decisions about their translation. If needs be, they can reach out to confirm terms or other details via email if a translation brief is not possible.

The Takeaway

As translators seek to analyze their texts, they are better prepared to handle difficult linguistic situations and create high-quality translations that are satisfactory to the client. Identifying translator purpose and holding translation briefs are two possible ways to maintain client trust and produce high caliber products.  

Leave a Reply