Why is Extralinguistic Knowledge so Important in Translation?


In the field of translation, the extralinguistic knowledge is compulsory. The translators are mostly well aware of the target as well as the source language, but it is not enough. 

To create a perfect translated document, one must keep in mind the circumstances, subject, and situations. 

You must be thinking about why extralinguistic knowledge is so important in the field of translation, especially, when a person is well-versed in the source and targeted language right? 

Well, extralinguistic knowledge is also known as background knowledge or auxiliary information, which helps to craft the perfect translation according to the context. It doesn't only focus on the grammatical structure, punctuations, or literal meanings but also the valid information and context. 

What is Extralinguistic Knowledge? 

Extralinguistic knowledge has some of the aspects that a translator needs to keep in mind while interpreting or translating the original document.

A translator must have the skills to use the linguistic and extralinguistic information. It involves problem-solving skills, research, methods, resolution, etc. 

In the simplest terms, extralinguistic knowledge is the knowledge that is being possessed by the translator outside of an original document. It can be related to the context, culture, and more. 

Here are some of the key aspects of Extralinguistic Knowledge mentioned below; 

Contextual Clarity 

To translate a masterpiece, contextual clarity is a must because words do carry different meanings. Extralinguistic knowledge serves the purpose of helping the translator to dig deep into the background information, and then decide in which context the document has been written.

Cultural Understanding 

Culture and language are deeply rooted in each other, and having extralinguistic knowledge helps to understand the idiomatic expressions, culture, and societal norms of the original document that needs to be translated. 

Events and Current Affairs Knowledge 

It is the translator's job to stay up to date about the latest affairs and events that are happening, especially for writing reports, contemporary issues, and new articles about certain topics. 

Specialized and Technical Subjects 

If the document that needs to be translated has a different subject nature or it is related to technical subjects, law, medicine, engineering, etc; In such situations, background knowledge which is also known as extralinguistic knowledge is very important. 

Audience Understanding and the Intention 

To craft a piece of translation, one must keep the target audience in mind; what are their preferences, age group, location, cultural background, etc. Extralinguistic knowledge helps to deliver sensible content to the right audience.

Ethical and Legal Consideration 

Extralinguistic knowledge helps to ensure legal and ethical considerations while dealing with confidential and sensitive information. 

Terminology and Consistency 

For terminology and consistency, extralinguistic knowledge plays an important role. For example; in technical writings, various terminologies are being used throughout the original document which requires to be translated consistently. 

Local Norms and Customs 

Having extralinguistic knowledge helps the translator to understand and interpret the original text according to the social norms and customs of that specific place. 

Here are some of the most asked questions about extralinguistic information mentioned: 

Is it Important for the Translator to be the Subject Matter Expert? 

Most translators get topics that are not related to their field, which makes people believe that the candidates from the mutual field are the perfect fit for the translation, but the well-versed translator is capable of researching even difficult and technical topics with the help of so many AI tools to translate the text.

A translator must be an open-minded person who is always ready to think out of the box and question his assumptions. 

Why is Extralinguistic Knowledge Important? 

Well, extralinguistic Knowledge is important, because we cannot understand the real context of the document until we know the background of it. 

To elaborate, a translator cannot understand the text completely until he has a good command of the source text, and while translating he might come across some issues related to comprehension as well.


There are two different types of information when it comes to comprehension; 

  • Linguistic Knowledge 

  • Extralinguistic Knowledge

According to recent studies, translators who have good analytical skills to understand the context are likely to be more creative and successful translators. 

The translators who are limited to linguistic knowledge and can only understand the text's literal meaning are less likely to be successful translators. 

Hence, it is proved that extralinguistic knowledge helps to understand and connect to the original text on a deeper level. 

What does Translator Competence mean? 

A translator pays attention to all kinds of knowledge whether it's linguistic, or extralinguistic knowledge. 

However, the translator who has mastered the art of translating successfully possesses great methodological analysis which includes; problem-solving skills, research, problem identification, etc. 

To analyze the competence of the translator various factors play a vital role like personality, self-concept, attitude and so much more. 

The level of competence can be measured by the quality of the translated work. There is also a possibility that due to the different nature and personalities of the translator, the one thing that is important for one translator might not be as important for the other. Some translators focus on translating components and others focus on quality. 

How Extralinguistic Knowledge Can Be Applied? 

1. The translator should consider the target audience before translation, knowing that they do not know about the realities of other countries and cultures. The readers of the translated text are also not native speakers.


2. To solve this issue, a translator can either supplement the additional information or omit the unnecessary details. 


Translation is the art of understanding the sense behind the written text. Extralinguistic knowledge plays a vital role in translating a text. It helps the translators to translate, no matter how sensitive the subject matter is or what can be the contextual meaning behind the original document. 

Extralinguistic knowledge focuses on the deep understanding of the text while keeping cultural sensitivity in mind. The translators who seek extralinguistic knowledge can bridge the gap between two different languages while ensuring that the translated text is culturally appropriate and accurate. 

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