Teaching in a school that almost never uses English despite learning the language reinforced one thing:

Never do literal translation.
Many people opt to do literal translation, word for word even in official documents whether it be in school or at the workplace. That is a big NO.

Why do I say so?

Literal translation can potentially take away the meaning of a sentence. The correct way to translate anything is to read the full sentence and identify the contextual meaning. 

Now that brings us to something else: Contextual meaning.

What is context? What is contextual meaning? What is the significance of it?

The Oxford dictionary denotes that:

while according to the Cambridge dictionary, contextual is "related to the context of something" and "It's impossible to understand the nuances of an isolated word without some contextual clues."

A word has multiple meanings but when applied, used in certain pieces of text, it usually denotes only one meaning. Therefore the context should be considered to determine the meaning of the word. Most of the time, context is developed intuitively by the language user. 

In a piece of text, a word has four layers of context (Dash, N.S., 2008). However, for the sake of simplicity, I'll forgo the names of the layers (you may take a look at the embedded link if you'd like to know more). 

Now, the four layers are what determines the meaning of the word.

So I'd give my personal opinion that most of us try to take the easy way out by doing literal translations. I made that mistake when I was a child who would slug her dictionary everywhere together with her novel. However, as I developed native fluency in the language through time, I found that sentences give meaning, not just individual words. "Isolated words don't usually makes sense...a sentence expresses a complete thought" (Crystal,  D., 2017, p. 3). That, I agree, Professor Crystal.

For more information, you may watch the video below

How to Use Context to Determine the Meaning of Words - Video & Lesson Transcript |

or refer to the references if you prefer. 

1. Dash, Niladri Sekhar (2008). Context and Contextual Word Meaning, SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics, 5(2). Retrieved from
2. Crystal, David (2017). Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar. London: Profile Books.


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