Tagalog Word Order in Speaking and Writing Tagalog/Filipino

What Tagalog word order to use in translating English to Tagalog depends on at least four factors:

  • the perceived or expressed target users of the translation
  • the nature/genre of the text
  • the orientation of the translator
  • the English used in the source
  • the deadline

The Target Users should be classified according to age, gender, civil status, residence, work or profession, income, health and family. But when these are merely perceived, there is a chance that translators will opt for the safest route, that is, a text transfer that is too faithful even to the word order of the English text.

The text on the 2nd column in the pdf below cares more about literal accuracy more than it cares about understandability by users. Thus it is source oriented. Meanwhile, the text on the 3rd column has given the reader considerable thought, thus it is target oriented - note the Tagalog word order. These two types show the differences between literal and idiomatic translations.

Tagalog Word Order Shows Style of Translation

The source oriented translation aims for a literal transfer. Literal here means not deviating much from the style elements of the source text, even its segmentation, and the resulting punctuation.

The target oriented translation aims for maximum readability and impact. Thus, it uses the style elements of the target language, its grammar, cultural register, and age appropriate diction.

The nature/genre of the text. Doing a target oriented translation needs more time, especially for literary texts, educational materials, health surveys, religious literature, and general self-help manuals. See a translation of a short story for children.

Types of Translators There are probably three orientations among English to Tagalog translators:

    1. Those who are closely monitoring the language, students and educators who vigilantly follow the language trends.

    2. Those native speakers who live, work and play among their Tagalog families, neighbors, and friends and reside in the Tagalog region. They use Tagalog everyday, and they base their translation largely on their experience of the language.

    3. Those who are not native speakers, but speak and understand the language since they learned it in school. They depend largely on their community of family and friends who may or may not be frequent users of the language.

The first type are good reviewers and proofreaders. The second type have good ears for idiomatic usage and cultural register. The third type need some training and should not be considered in translating sensitive documents.

Among these three, the first will be picky on word choice, grammar, and usage, but hopefully will exercise an objective eye. The second will almost always opt for the natural Tagalog word order after an accurate interpretation of the meaning of the source text. The third will settle for how they understand the source, and will translate it with hardly a care for Tagalog textual conventions.

Filipino English The Philippine educational system has been using (or pushing for) American English for most of its instructions (and instruction materials). However, Filipinos generally speak a different type of English. (This blog may be unknowingly using Filipino English.)

A study made by Lourdes Bautista, shows the many features of Filipino English. Some Filipinos frown at these, but others defend it. In most cases, Filipino English follow the normal Tagalog word order and translates Filipino expressions literally.

The deadline Although it is easy to blame tight deadlines for careless translations, in most instances, mistakes are avoidable. But translations in a hurry will almost always miss the natural flow of Filipino or Tagalog. Literal translation is only the first step in translating English to Tagalog but tight deadlines sometimes make it impossible for the translator to revise. At worst the resulting translation becomes stiff and inaccessible or sounds like a machine translation.

Given ample time and assigned to the right translator Tagalog translations from English can achieve better quality and become good reads.

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