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Translation Theories
2.1.1 Translation Definitions
There are so many definitions about translation because there are so many well-
known translators with their own different opinions and descriptions about language and
translation. Generally translation is transferring meaning from source language into
target language.
Here is the definition of translation according to Eugene A. Nida "translating
consists in reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the
source-language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style (Nida
& Taber, 1982: 12). In other words translation according to Nida is to change form of
the source language message and reproduce the closest natural equivalent text of the
source language, first is the meaning and then the style.
Below is the illustration of translation process according to Eugene Nida
Table 2.1: Process of Translation
According to the table 2.1, the first thing that a translator must do is analyzing
the source text, after that the translator starts to transfer his analysis and the translator
begins to restructure and finally gives a complete 'closest natural equivalent' translation
to the readers.
Catford has different opinion about translation: "translation is the change of
words from the source language into the equivalent word in the target language"
(Catford, 1969:20 in Rochayah Machali, 1998:1).
Translation is performing a source language text into the target language and to
make certain that: [I] The outer meaning of the two languages will be almost the same
and [2] the way in which the source language is put together will be given as similar as
possible but not too similar or else the target language formation will fade away
completely (McGuire, 1980:2 in Rochayah Machiali, 1998:1).
According to Pinchuck, translation is the series of action in finding a target
language equivalent for source language spoken words (Pinchuck, 1977:38 in Rochayah
Machali, 1998:1)
Translation according to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is "[I]
process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language [2] a text
or work that has been changed from one language into another" (Oxford Advanced
Learner's Dictionary, 2000:1382).
Basically, translation is a change of form. If we talk about the form of a language
we will refer to the actual words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, etc., which are
oral or printed. These kinds of forms refer to the surface structure of a language.
Actually what we see in written or spoken speech is the structural part of a language.
The structure of the source language is replaced by the structure of the target language.
Translation is the transferring process of the meaning from the source language
into the target language. This can be done by changing the form of the first language as
the source to the form of the second language as the target language using the way of
semantic structure. It is the meaning that the translator should transfer and it must be
held constant. Translation only changes the form and nothing else. The structure of the
original language is named as the source language and the structure of the language that
is going to be used named as the target language.
So, "translation, then, consists of studying the lexicon, grammatical
structure, communication situation, and cultural context of the source
language text, analyzing it in order to determine it's meaning, and then
reconstructing this same meaning using the lexicon and grammatical
structure with the appropriate in the receptor language and its cultural
context" (Larson, 1984:3)
The main goal of translating is reproducing the message. If the translator's goal
is not reproducing the message then basically it is a false work of the translator himself.
To reproduce the message a translator has to make grammatical and lexical changes.
Example, 'good morning' cannot be literally transferred into Indonesian as 'baik pagi or
pagi baik' because the meaning of 'good' in Indonesian is 'baik!bagus' and the meaning
of 'morning' is 'pagi', a good translator will not translate it literally. A meaningful
equivalent is 'selamat pagi'.
Another example is 'living room' a good translator will translate it as
tamu' not 'ruang hidup'. Although the meaning of 'living' is 'hidup' and the meaning of
'room' is 'ruang'. The similar example is in translating the word 'living thing' a good
translator will translate it as 'mahluk hidup' not 'benda hidup' because in word by word
the meaning of 'living' is 'hidup' and the meaning of 'thing' is 'benda'. So the meaning
of the words can not be translated word by word, a good translator will try to find the
meaning of the words as a whole not as a single word.
It is a must for a translator to give the equivalence and not the identical meaning.
In other words this means to emphasize the copy of the meaning rather than the dialogue
of an utterance. For example: 'di dalam' in Indonesian translated as 'in' in English. But
to explain that someone or something is in a house the English says 'at home' not 'in
house' while in Indonesia we say 'di rumah' to state that someone is in the house.
A good translation will not like a translation when we see or hear it. A diligent
translator will translate as closest natural equivalent. To give a closest natural equivalent
the first priority in translation is the meaning, this means the message that a writer wants
to say can be delivered in a good way so the readers can understand and get the message
clearly. As it is stated above the most important thing in translation is the meaning and
after that the style, but the style plays an important role for certain kinds of translation.
For example we can not translate poetry as if it is a prose because poetry has different
structure from a prose. But it is a little bit impossible to give the same style of the
original text such as: giving the meaning of certain names from the Bible (Isaac,
Abraham, Sarah, etc) or translate a poem that begins with the same alphabet and
pronunciation. A good translator must be aware in transforming the style ofthis kind of
A translation that is systematically able to identify can provide the informative
function in language. For example: 'a cake maker' can be translated to Indonesian as
'pembuat kue', but in 'trouble maker' we can translate it as 'pembuat masalah' because
'maker' means 'pembuat' and 'trouble' means 'masalah', but we do not make trouble or
problems as if we make a cake using many ingredients such as: eggs, butter, flour, etc.
·-·--- --·-------------------------
then the suggested translation will be 'orang yang suka cari masalah or orang yang suka
In translation, the dynamic equivalence is beyond the right communication of
information. Actually the dynamic equivalence is one of the important things and it is
often ignored by the translator. Elements are the expressive factor, because people have
to feel the sense and also understand what it says.
Language is not limited in informative and expressive uses; it has to be
imperative in a clear way, especially in such document like Bible, which demand not
only to describe God's actions but also to give announcement of guiding principles that
human have to conduct, i.e. 'a way of life'.
The importance of the readers beyond the forms of the language means that
basically one should give greater priority to the forms understood and accepted by the
readers because a translation is designed than to the form which can possess an extended
linguistic tradition or owned greater literary respect.
2.1.1 Kinds of Translation
A given text has form and meaning and because of that there are two main types
of translation according to Larson. The first one is form-based and the second one is
meaning-based. Form-based translations are often similar with the form of the source
language and these kinds of translation are called as literal translation. Meaning-based
translations make a lot of work to correspond the meaning of the source language text in
the accepted forms of the receptor language. These types of translation are known as
idiomatic translations.
Literal Translation
A complete literal translation is an interlinear translation, it means that the form
of the translation follows the form of the source language. For certain purposes it is good
to rewrite the linguistic features of the source work, for example, in a linguistic study of
a certain language. These literal translations are very useful for certain purposes related
to the study of the source language but it will give only a little help for those speakers of
the receptor language who are interested in the meaning of the written source language.
A literal translation will sound like nonsense and the amount of the
communication value is low. For example: 'This is my car' translated into Indonesian as
'Ini adalah punya saya mobil', this kind of translation of course sound strange and odd
for the Indonesian listeners. The proper and natural translation for the text is 'Ini mobil
saya'. Idiomatic Translation
The natural forms of the receptor language are used in idiomatic translation
both in the grammatical construction and in the choice of lexical items. A good
idiomatic translation does not sound like a translation. It will sound like it was written
originally in the receptor language. Because of that reason a good translator will try to
translate idiomatically, this is also the translator's goal. However, translations are often a
combination of a literal transfer of the grammatical units together with some idiomatic
translation of the meaning of the text. Example: 'diamond is forever' will not be
translated as 'berlian adalah selamanya' but the idiomatic translation will be 'berlian itu
abadi' (Larson, 1984: 15).
Kinds of Translation Problems
According to Eugene Nida there are five kinds of translation problems. They are:
I. Ecology, basically the nature things include in ecology, such as names of flora,
fauna, seasons, geographical places, etc.
2. Material Culture (Artefacts), consist of four items:
a. Food (sake, Japan I tuak, Indonesia)
b. Clothes (sarong, Indonesia)
c. Houses and towns (kampung, Indonesia I Tower, America)
d. Transport (becak, Indonesia I bemo, Indonesia I ricksaw, china)
3. Social Culture, consist of terms in social life such as: daily social life, work and
4. Organizations, customs, activities, procedures, concepts
a. Political and administrative: names for heads of states (President, Prime
Minister, King), names of buildings that identical with certain political
institutions (White House, Pentagon, Istana Merdeka), the International terms
(WHO [World Health Organization] became Badan Kesehatan Dunia in
b. Religious: dharma and karma (terms in Buddhist), mosque, temple
c. Artistic
5. Gestures and habits: spit as a blessing in Jewish culture
2.2.1 Ecological Differences
The ecological conditions between the western countries that have four seasons
of course are not the same with Indonesian which only have four seasons. A translator
must have good adjustment and many adaptations. The problem is many times even a
good equivalent is not too close in the receptor language. For example: a 'great hill' in
western country is not correctly accurate for the word 'gunung' in Indonesian but it is
the best ecological equivalent a translator can use.
The other example is 'prairies' which is referred to 'padang rumput' in
Indonesian. The ecological features such as fruits also include in this part. For example:
'guava' is 'jambu biji' in Indonesian, 'mango' as 'mangga'. We can see that the word
'mango' almost sounds the same like 'mangga' this could be adaptation because in
western nature they might not have 'mango' plant.
2.2.2 Material Culture
Many times there is a tendency in translation effort to point out the same
environmental feature, but there are so many cultural differences involved in it. The
similarities of the material form are not enough to find the equivalent in the receptor
language. It is important for a translator to find out how the native interprets such
environmental problems. For example: a 'stone jar' in western country almost has
similar equivalent in Indonesia, which is 'kendi' because the material to make a stone jar
and the material to make kendi is the same. But if we look further it is not the same
stone jar and kendi have a different cultural significance. The 'stone jar' that exists in
the Bible is used to get water form the well, but 'kendi' in Indonesia is used as a
container to drink water. To avoid misunderstanding this cultural situation should be
explained. The translator can put the additional explanation in brackets, example: kendi
(untuk mengambil air di sumur). But there are exceptions for national customs such as:
sari, kimono, kebaya, usually not translated.
2.2.3 Social Culture
Social organization and social culture in our environment is very complex, the
effect is a translator often has to face and confronted many difficulties in interpretation
and equivalence. Many times the problems occur in translation that involved social
practices become very complicated. For example: a term 'single parent' exists in any
society, but the meaning is different. In Indonesia normally a single parent means a man
or a woman who divorce with their partner or one whose partner already past away. In
western country single parent can be a single man or woman who keeps and raises
his/her baby. In Indonesia it is not common and even it is a shameful thing for an
Indonesian to keep and raise children without any marriage bound before.
2.2.4 Organizations, customs, activities, procedures, concepts
The simple example of this part is in connection with religious culture the
problems of translation also often very complex. As we know most of Indonesian is
Moslem so it is not difficult for the translator to translate a movie with Moslem
background. We also know that the religion of the majority of people in western country
are Christian. So, sometimes the equivalence that is used is not the words or phrases that
the Christian usually used. For example: the Christian people in Indonesia are familiar
with the phrase 'memecah-mecahkan roti' not 'membelah-belah roti', 'lamp' means
'pelita' not 'lampu'
2.2.5 Gestures and habits
There are also problems in translation connected with gestures and habits matter.
Gestures and habits in one country are different from other countries. One example is
connected with linguistic. Linguistic is the special characteristics of languages.
Language includes in culture and also as accumulation to the other cultural factors,
because of that reason one of the factors that might influence translation is the special
characteristics of the particular language.
For example: in Western country we can say 'thank you' if we rejected
someone's help, but in Indonesia we do not say 'terima kasih' if we rejected someone
who wants to help us. The meaning of 'thank you' in Indonesia is 'terima kasih' but the
use is different. if an Indonesian say 'terima kasih' when someone is willing to help
him/her it means that she/he accepted one's offer to help. In Indonesia if we reject one's
help we will say 'tidak, terima kasih' or 'saya bisa, terima kasih'.
The other example is connected with the body language. In India people nod
their heads if they say no and they move their heads right and left if they want to say yes.
While usually in many countries including Indonesia people nod their heads when they
want to say yes and turn their heads left and right when they want to say no.
For the Jewish the people show the blessing symbol by spitting the children
heads. This quite radical if we do it in other cultures because in many cultures spitting
means an insult not a blessing.
Linguistics Problems
In this section, the writer divides the problems into two main subjects: idioms
and phrasal verbs.
2.3.1 Idioms
'Language is a living thing', many of us may have heard about this phrase. As
we know living thing is something that always grows and changes from time to time. If
language is a living thing it means that language grows and changes continuously. We
can differentiate the differences between the old version and the old usage of English
word such as 'Thee' with the present word 'You' to substitute 'Thee' that the western
people use (Seidl and W McMordie, 1980: 1).
The word 'Thee' in the past is used when people talk privately with one person
and the position of that person is as the object in the sentence. The word 'Thou' means
'you' used when talking to only one person who is the subject of the verb. For example:
'Thou art my king and I respect Thee. The word 'Thee',' Thou', 'art' now is rarely used
and the western people in the present use 'You' to substitute 'Thee' and 'Thou', for 'art'
now we substitute it with 'are'. In present time people will say: 'You are my king and I
respect you'.
The other example is the language that Shakespeare uses in the past and the
language that Sidney Sheldon or J.K. Rawling uses in the present time. This also means
that the language will keep growing and changing in the future time. Nowadays, English
language is preferred to be used in form of idiomatic expressions. Idioms can not be
separated from language when a person uses it because idioms are part of the language
itself. One also can not choose whether she or he wants to use or leave out the idioms.
The words that were rarely used in the past and put in the categories of slang
(swear-words) are acceptable in the present time, they can be categorized as colloquial
or informal.
What is an idiom? "An idiom is a number of words which, taken together, mean
something different from the individual words of the idiom when they stand alone"
(Seidl and W McMordie, 1988:4). How can we know that a phrase or a sentence is an
idiom? Usually the character of idiom is when the words are put together it will sound
strange, not make sense and even incorrect according to grammar structure. But not all
idioms like that there are also idioms that are common in language make sense and
correct according to the grammar structure and the vocabulary is also correct.
2.3.2 Phrasal Verbs
Phrasal verb is a verb combined with an adverb or a preposition or sometimes
both to give a new meaning (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, 2000:949).
Example: Don't let them bully you. Fight back!,' fight back (against sb/sth)' means to
resist strongly or attack somebody who has attacked you not have a struggle behind you.
According to Seidl and McMordie phrasal verbs are expressions consisting of
verbs in combination with preposition or adverbial particles, example: move out, put in,
roll on, etc (Seidl and McMordie, 1997:101). The structure of verb and preposition can
make an idiomatic meaning. The meaning when the words are put together might be
very different with the individual meaning. Example: 'fill in' in 'Fill in the blanks with
the correct answer' it means to write down the answer in the blanks part of the paper. In
another sentence the meaning of 'fill in' can be different. Example: 'The math's teacher
is ill, so I'm filling in for a few weeks until she comes back', in this sentence 'fill in' is
idiomatic which means 'do a job temporary to replace someone else'. The two examples
show that the combination of a verb and a preposition can have an idiomatic or non­
idiomatic meaning depends on the context.
Translator's Knowledge and Skills
'What do translators need to know and do in order to produce a good
translation?' this is a kind of question that we might ask if we want to be a good
translator. In other words we are looking for a specific explanation about 'translator
Bell says "... the professional (technical) translator has access to five
distinct kinds of knowledge; target language (TL) knowledge; text type
knowledge; source language (SL) knowledge; subject area ('real-world')
knowledge; and contrastive knowledge" (Bell, 1998:36). The five
distinct kinds of knowledge called as translator's knowledge-base.
According to Bell there are four areas of knowledge and skills, which are:
[I] Grammatical Competence: knowledge of code rules, consist of vocabulary and
word-formation, pronunciation/spelling and sentence structure i.e. the knowledge
and skills required to understand and express the literal meaning of utterances.
[2] Sociolinguistics competence: knowledge and ability to produce and understand
utterances correctly in context, i.e. the topic, the position of the participants,
purposes of the interaction, etc.
[3] Discourse competence: the capability to merge form and meaning to achieve
combined spoken or written texts in different genres. The harmony depends on
structure in form (the way of the utterances are connected structurally to facilitate
interpretation of text) and coherence in meaning (the relationships among the
different meanings in a text; literal meaning, communicative functions or social
[4] Strategic competence: the mastery of communication strategies which may be used
to develop communication or to compensate for breakdowns (caused by restrictive
factors in actual communication or to deficient competence in one or more of the
other mechanism of communicative capability)
Movie translation is known as subtitle. "Subtitles are translation of foreign
dialogue of a movie or TV program, usually displayed at the bottom of the screen
(:// There are four groups in connection
with film, TV and video translation:
[I] Source-language countries, English-speaking. They often prefer to subtitle rather
than dub few films that they imported from other countries. The kinds of movies are
often 'art' movies with certain aim to add the audience knowledge.
[2] In countries like German, Italian, Spanish and French-speaking in and outside
Europe all films and TV programmes imported often dubbed.
[3] Voiced-over countries such as Russia, Poland, and other countries that do not have
enough money to do lip-synch dubbing. There is one narrator who interprets the
lines of the whole dialogue in doing voiced-over, while s/he is speaking the volume
of the original soundtrack is turned down.
[4] Subtitling countries includes several non-Europe language communities as same as a
number of little European countries with a high literary rate where subtitling is
favored than dubbing (Baker, 2000:244).
According to Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (2000: 244-255),
film or TV dialogue transcriptions that presented at the same time on the screen are
called subtitles but sometimes subtitles referred as captions. Normally the subtitles
standard maximum length is 35 characters which consist of one or two lines. Usually the
rule is subtitles are put below the picture. Subtitles can be shown in the center of left­
Usually, movie subtitlers work from one text to another text, translating the
dialogue starts from a post-production script and the script is returned with a list of
subtitles. After that these subtitles are transferred onto films or movie. On the other
hand, subtitlers of television and video usually work from videotape, watching, I istening,
expressing, editing and time-cueing the subtitles. After that the result is given to other
department to decide whether the movie is appropriate to be broadcast or not. Those
steps are the normal process of subtitling (Baker, 2000: 245).