Translation Seminar: Specific Solutions to Translation Issues

 A translation seminar may use evaluation questions to participants speaking in different languages. The evaluation questions will enable them to compare translations with common language speakers during a translation workshop. Evaluation questions will cover issues of:


Explore the Primary and Secondary Meaning of Words

Below are 10 different uses (meanings) of the word “Run” (English)

1 the boy runs
2 run along
3 color runs
4 run the computer
5 vine runs
6 boss runs a company
7 runs for president
8 time runs fast
9 run over
10 dry run

The primary sense of the word is usually the sense in which that word is commonly used in the language. It is the sense which native speakers of the language will think of when they hear the word in isolation. The other senses are often referred to as secondary senses.

Cross Language Mismatch

The meaning of words often does not match up across languages.
Some examples of mismatch:

English to Tagalog ; He/She = Siya (for both he and she) ; Husband/ wife = asawa (needs “na babae” for wife; “na lalake” for husband) ; Babysitter = tagapag-alaga ng bata ; Caregiver = tagapag-alaga ng matanda

Translation Solutions

Implications for Translation

In translation into another language, the word which gives the correct sense in each separate context should be used. This means that it will not always be possible to translate the same word in the source language using an exact equivalent in the receptor language.

(Workshop Activity: practice exercises in semantics)

·         Breaking Down the Meaning of a Word

Sometimes, there does not seem to be a word in the new language to express certain ideas. But it may be possible to break down the meaning of the word so that it is expressed by a phrase. It is the underlying meaning that is translated

(Workshop Activity: practice exercises in thought segmentation)

·         Using a More General Word

In some contexts, the translator can use a word which has a wider, more general meaning than the original word, without changing the real sense of the original

(Workshop Activity, practice exercises in delimiting and extension)

·         Using a More Specific Word

Sometimes, a word which has a narrower, less general meaning than the original word can be used.

(Workshop Activity: practice exercises in delimiting and extension)

How to Translate Unknown ideas

Meanings of some ancient words are unknown today because the concrete equivalent of those words don’t exist anymore - that is, there is no physical image available or the image has become extinct.

(Workshop Activity : list examples from recall)

Some solutions in translating unknown things:

·         Use descriptive phrases (possible loss in translation)

·         Substitute a word for something similar which is known

·         Borrow the word from the source language (disadvantage – ordinary people may not know what they mean. Translator should use a few foreign words as possible).


Similes A simile is a comparison used for the purpose of illustration. Every simile has three parts: topic, similarity, illustration

But sometimes, all three parts are not openly stated. One or even two parts may be understood only because of the context of the whole passage.

Metaphor A metaphor, like a simile, is a comparison between two “unlike” objects. The difference between a simile and a metaphor is that in a simile, the comparison is explicit and often indicated by the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ while in a metaphor, the comparison is implicit. Like a simile, a metaphor has three parts

Euphemism A euphemism is the use of a substitute word or phrase in place of a direct one in order to avoid being offensive. Every language has its own euphemism, the meaning of which is quite clear to a native speaker of the language. But if they are translated word for word into another language, they become puzzling.

Other figures of speech
Sometimes, an expression is used that has an actual meaning which is different from what it at first appears to say. The purpose of such expression is not to make the meaning obscure and difficult, but rather to emphasize the meaning and to make the style lovely and varied. 
In English, they say, ‘the kettle is boiling’ but what it means is ‘the water in the kettle is boiling.

Subscribe to Tagalog at Wordhouse newsletter. Opt-in to our Ezine for more practical translation solutions as discussed in this translation seminar outline.