Tagalog to English Challenge

bangka, batil, basnig, balsa, lantsa, vinta (namamanti, namumukot,  nangingisda)

Tagalog to English challenge faced by Filipino translators is great because, naturally, Filipinos think in Filipino, and don't have natural access to various English Idioms. The dictionary becomes their most immediate source of equivalents, and often, it is not enough. Moreover, to revise Filipino English into English-English (US) requires fluency and an exposure to the current language milieu. Lacking either one or both of these, the back translator could be disqualified.

Back translators must not literally translate from Tagalog to English especially when the translation is in idiomatic Tagalog/Filipino. Ideally, back translators should not do a word-for-word translation. Instead, the BT should aim for idiomatic English. This would require that the back translator must also be well versed in idiomatic Filipino/Tagalog. A translator who uses Tagalog/Filipino every day at home, school, and the community may choose the more vernacular equivalents.

Arguably some customers prefer a "literal" translation. Their objective is to find out if the translation is right or wrong, near exact, or close "to the source". But the BT should take care to show that the translation is also  faithful "to the meaning".

The examples below may not be found in common medical and/or legal documents. Featuring Tagalog adjectives (pang-uri) composed of a root word and a common suffix, they simply illustrate the difference between a literal and idiomatic translation from Tagalog to English. 


  1. Kapag maraming problema ang isang tao, siya'y magagalitin. (RW-galit [[anger])
  2. Mumurahin ang kanyang bag pero matibay. (RW - mura [cheap])
  3. Maraming paanakin ang dinala sa maternity nitong Bagong Taon.(RW-anak [child/offspring])
  4. Mga dadaanin lamang ang pera sa kanyang bulsa. (RW-daan [hundred])
  5. Ang mga matatanda ay karaniwang antukin. (RW-antok [sleepy])
  6. Kahit labinlimang taon na, alagain pa rin ang binatilyo. (RW-alaga [chore])
  7. Nakakapagtaka na paiyaking-paiyakin ang anak ng boksingero. (RW-iyak [cry])

Literal Translation

  1. When a person has many problems he is prone to get angry often.
  2. Her bag is cheap but durable.
  3. Many due to give birth were brought to maternity this New Year.
  4. Only one hundred peso bills are the money in his pocket
  5. Old people are often sleepy.
  6. Although fifteen years old already, the young man still needs to be taken care of.
  7. It's a wonder that the child of the boxer cries easily.

Idiomatic Translation

  1. When a person has many problems he is irritable.
  2. Her bag is inexpensive but durable.
  3. Many moms who were due to give birth were admitted to the maternity clinic this New Year.
  4. His pocket contains only one hundred peso bills.
  5. Old people are often falling asleep.
  6. Although fifteen years old, the young man can't be left alone without a baby-sitter. 
  7. It's a wonder that the child of the boxer is prone to bullying and could not fight back.

Note that sometimes, a word may translate to a phrase to capture the exact meaning implied in the idiomatic Tagalog. When the customer asks for a reconciliation, the Tagalog consultant must be able to justify such choice. But first, the Tagalog to English challenge is to have a thorough understanding of the local use of those words.

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