Translation Seminar Outline Solutions to Some EngTg/TgEng  Problems

A translation seminar outline will direct participants on what to expect in a translation training. But the sample outline below works only when trainers have many examples to show under each translation problem. Meanwhile, participants can also offer their own examples.


David Crystal said that, “It is sometimes said that there is no task more complex than translation – a claim that can readily be believed when all the variables involved are taken into account.”

What does a translator need before he or she can translate?

1. The translator must know the source language well.  

The translator must understand how the source language functions – the structure (grammar) and the types of devices used in the language.

For example, in Filipino or Tagalog, there are lots of expressions used that cannot be translated directly into English. These include idioms.

Idioms: are common expressions that mean other than what they literally say.

For example: "Para siyang basang-sisiw" (literal - like a wet chick; idiomatic - forlorn) "Mahilig siyang magbuhat ng sariling bangko." (literal - fond of lifting his own bench; idiomatic - arrogant) "Aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo" (literal - what's the use of grass if the horse is dead; idiomatic- too late)


a.In translating English to Tagalog, one difficulty is in finding exact equivalent for nouns.

b. English distinguishes between the active and the passive voice, and depending on the voice used, the translation into Tagalog will have to decide on the emphasis. (Natural Tagalog always begins with the verb whereas active English always begin with the subject).

c. In English there are so many connectors, but in Tagalog, we only have “ng” and “sa” and these can mean of, in, on, at, above, under, inside, outside etc.

Of course there are other things the translator has to know about the source language. The examples above will give you an idea of some important issues

(Seminar Activity: practice exercises for this part of translation seminar outline using local idiomatic expressions)

2. The Translator must have a background understanding of the field of knowledge covered by the source text.

The translator is required 

to know the text of the source language well

to discover the original meaning of the text

to learn the cultural background in which it was written

to realize the purpose for which it was written

to anticipate potential areas of difficulty in the text

(Seminar Activity: practice exercises for this part of translation seminar outline using questions regarding the points above)

3. The translator must have a thorough knowledge of the culture of the target language. 

The best translator is usually a native speaker of the language. Aside from having constant exposure to the culture of the language environment, he or she is an active participant and knows nuances dictionaries or memory tools won’t be able to access or supply.

(Seminar Activity: practice exercises for this part of translation seminar outline using usual problem expressions because of cultural differences)

4. The translator must know the target language well.

It is important for the translation to sound natural. But it should also be clear and accurate. Only a native speaker who has wide exposure to the nuances of the language will be able to reflect a dynamic translation that does not sound like a translation.

  • Accurate: the translation must give the exact meaning (as nearly as possible) of the original message.
  • Clear:The translation should make the meaning easy to understand. There should be no phrases which are confusing, or which could be understood in a wrong way.
  • Natural:The language of the translation should be natural. It should not sound like a translation at all, but like someone speaking naturally in the new language.(Seminar Activity: practice exercises for this part of translation seminar outline involving actual editing of translations focusing on these three crucial functions)
  • See a handout example that deals with some issues mentioned in this translation seminar outline.