The traNSlation strategy of Common Expressions  FROM English TO Indonesian   DRA. HJ. MAS

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lemlit , UHAMKA | Monday, 14/November/2011 18:38

The traNSlation strategy of Common Expressions  FROM English TO Indonesian



Program Sutdi Bahasa Inggris,

Universitas Muhammadiyah Prof. DR. Hamka Jakarta



[email protected]




This paper is about the strategy of how to make proper translation of “common expressions” from English into Indonesian, in terms of literarily, rather than literally. The intention of writing this paper is to search the solution of the  difficulties in translating that are usually found; that could be caused by the difference of syntactical, the grammatical and the non-grammatical,  the varieties meaning of certain words, and the cultural aspects as well. It is really the fact that many aspects actually can involve when someone translates. The method used in translating could be judged by these aspects, like the  syntactical pattern of Noun Phrase + Verb Phrase (NP+VP) with subject-frontal or agentive focused (most of English), compared to those of theme frontal (most of Indonesian). To translate means to transfer concept  from one language to another language. That is why It is hoped that the writer can create the model of how to translate properly of those literary work, in order that a fairly exact idea or meaning of what were translated for certain context that might have special meaning could be formulated. Last but not least further research is also hoped to  be done based on the concept of this writing

Keywords:  translation strategy, common expression, model, cultural aspects



Translation is really a unique thing. The pople usually find difficulties in translating; exept they know the system of the language, in terms of lexical items, and grammatical aspects as well; including non-grammatical and cultural aspects. Let’s take an example of an English sentence “I cut my finger” that some people will make strange translation into Bahasa Indonesia, that is ‘Saya potong jari saya’, (meaning that someone intends to do suicide; but infact he/she actually does not. The right translation of this sentence is ‘Jari saya terluka’. Another example is the sentence of “I broke my leg”, ‘Kaki saya patah’, where Indonesia n people translate this into ‘Saya patahkan kaki saya’.   When we analyze these sentences, many things could influence the translation. It might be because of the syntactical pattern that uses Subject and Predicate (NP +VP) by making the subject of the sentence in front. Vice versa Indonesian language tend to have the pattern of event-frontal (theme-focused) sentence, rather than Agentive-focused like that of English sentence pattern, “yang mengambil buku itu adalah Johny” ‘the man who has taken the book is Johny’. It may also influenced by the  Cultural aspects, like in Indonesia it will be said “Aku dan kau suka Dancow”, instead the people in English will state “You and I …..” .  Judging from syntactical pattern, we can also take the example of Malaysian language like “Tuan/Puan adalah dipelawa untuk membentang kertas kerja dalam persidangan tersebut”, ‘You are pleased to present paper in the meeting; compared to  Indonesian language, that to be are, that has grammatical fungtion is not to be translated, *Anda adalah dipersilahkan menyajikan makalah dalam seminar tersebut’. Another example is concerning about the variative meaning for certain word, like in Indonesian it is said “Saya bisa melakukannya”, ‘I can do it’ dan “Bisa ular sangat berbahaya”, ‘The poison of the snake is very dangerous’. That is why it is the aim of this writing is to solve the problems found in translation; where the people still do no not get use to translate figuratively, instead they tend to translate literally. Even in translating Indonesian proverb they find difficulties.


2.    Theoritical Background

To translate means to transfer concept  from one language to another language. This concept goes hand in hand with the  theory of translation stated by Ainon Muhammad : 1985, as she said “Terjemahan ialah suatu kaedah untuk menyampaikan makna daripada satu bahasa ke dalam bahasa yang lain”. It means that the translation we made should be  based on translating texts related to the meaning of each language, whatever language it is;  aiming at the people can make proper meaning; since it is true that to translate means to transfer concept from one language to another language, or from L2 (the target language) to L1 (the mother tongue).

What it means here is that of literal translation that denotes a translation that represents the precise meaning of the original text, and does not attempt to convey its style, beauty, or poetry. It  is, however, a great deal of difference between a literal translation of a poetic work and a prose translation. A literal translation of poetry may be in prose rather than verse, like what has been done by Charles Singleton's translation of The Divine Comedy (1975), which is regarded as a prose translation. Let us take an example of a literal English translation of the German word "Kindergarten" that means "children garden;" where  in English, this expression refers to the school year between pre-school and first grade. In this occasion, literal translations means where individual components within words or compounds are translated to create new lexical items in the target language.


3.0 The Category of Meaning

      As a mtter of fact,  we can classify  meaning into, they are :

3.1  Common Expressions

What we mean by common expression is that the words which are not always used with their usual meanings. It means that we to have know a fairly exact idea of what really meaning do certain words have. Words might have more than one meaning; especially when combined  in the expressions that can create special meaning. Let us take for example, to take something for granted. This expressions simply means ‘to suppose that something is true and settled’; and  you can’t get this meaning from the meaning of the individual words in the phrase; and   this phrase is one of those common expressions that people always know where the new meanings arise. Another example is the use of the word point in these expressions that have different meanings carried by each like:

a.    That’s besides the point  (not related to the main idea)

b.    Just at this point the telephone rang (at the exact moment)

c.    Make a point of listening carefully   (to make a habit of)

d.    The students made their point about homework (showed the reason and sense of)

e.    That’s the whole point of going early (the reason for)

f.     I missed the point of the story (the main meaning)

g.    There are three strong points against the plan (arguments or facts)


3.2 Literal Vs. Figurative Meaning

Meaning could be categorized also into usual meaning, which is called  literal meaning; and that is of what is the so called figurative meaning, where the words  express likenesses and comparison. Most  word in common use have several different meanings. The word green, for example, may refer  to a color, part of golf course, and on the leaves of a plant. But we have to bear in mind also that there are still many words in common use, that do have just one meaning. Words that name devices (carburetor), instruments (violin, thermometer), or people who do a special kind of work (dentist) are likely to have just one meaning.          Scientific terms (molecule) and words used in professions such as law and architecture also usually have just one meaning. This is a great advantage because there is no chance of misunderstanding. In science forinstance, tiny differences are important; but in ordinary affairs on the other hand we are more concerned with likenesses than with differences.            

Let us also look at  common expressions such as lean over backward as certain  comparison. This phrase actually contain the words as if which are left out,  means that “these people are acting as if they were leaning over backward.” This figurative use of words makes our language lively and interesting.


3.3 Contextual Meaning

Word has a bundle of meaning; they may even have a dozen different meanings. We should be able to apply the meaning that fits. We usually find  meanings are much more alike, and we have to apply the one that makes more sense. It means that other criteria of meaning is the case in which a word appears in its context; that is, the passage (text) in which it appears (con). The context of a word may also be the whole situation in which it is used -  a business office, a factory, a hospital, etc; where the context always determines which meaning of a word is intended.


3.4   Figurative Meaning of Proverb  

We can also classify meaning, that what is the so called of proverb meaning, that is usually used by the people in every language of the world which may contains advise, parable, personification, or satire. Let us take forinstance the expressions. Anyone who literally walked on eggs would be laughed at or considered a fool; or If you started a business on a shoestring, you would soon be out of stock. It migt also contain comparison in it; that is the outline or shape of something; where the meaning became “a likeness representation. Thus, figurative language expresses likeness in some way. We use hundreds of comparisons like this in everyday speech. They make our language lively and interesting. It is interesting to notice how many parts of the body are used in comparisons. We speak of the head of a nail, the eye of the needle, the foot of the mountain, and so on.

In Indonesian proverb, it can be explained here a kind  exemplification like the following:

  1. Pipinya bak pauh dilayang ‘her cheek is like slices of mango’
  2. Hidungnya bak dasun tongga ‘her nose is like singgle garlic’
  3. Alisnya bak semut beriring ‘her eyebrow is like ants walking successively’
  4. Dagunya bak lebah bergantung ‘her chin is like hanging group of bees’


4.        The Analysis

In this section the result of translation to be analyzed will be categorized into proverb analysis and contextual analisis as well; that is based on translation made by the students; that can be categorized into Senseless, meaning not clear, clumsy, and being not able to apply knowledge of variative meaning; as it can be seen through the following data :

Data 1: Absence makes the heart grow fonder

*Kekurangan membuat hati tumbuh kasih sayang (senseless)

Berjauhan lebih menumbuhkan kasih sayang

We feel more affection for our friends and relatives when we are parted from them.

Data 2: Action speaks louder than words

*Bertindak lebih keras dari pada kata (senseless)

Tong kosong nyaring bunyinya

It is what we do that really matters, not just what we say.


Data 3:            After a storm comes a calm

            *Setelah badai datang ketenangan (senseless)

Dibalik derita pasti ada kebahagiaan menanti/Tak selamanya mendung itu kelabu

There is inevitably a calm after every storm.


Data 4:            All good things come to an end

*Semua hal baik berakhir (senseless)

Tiada yang abadi di dunia ini

Pleasure cannot go on forever, for all things change.


Data 5: All's fish that comes to the net

*Semua ikan itu datang ke jaring (senseless)

Segala apa yang terjadi pasti ada hikmahnya

We should take advantage of everything that comes our way.


Data 6: All that glitters is not gold

*Semua yang gemerlap bukanlah emas (Not Clear)

Tidak semua yang kuning emas

 Do not judge a thing by its attractive appearance.


Data 7: An apple a day keeps the doctor away

*Bekal dokter setiap hari sebuah apel (Not Clear)

Konsumsi apel setiap hari membuat kita  selalu sehat  

 Apples and other fruits help to keep healthy.


Data 8:  You can buy a book of coupons at the bank

 *Kamu dapat membeli sebuah buku dari kupon di bank (Not Clear)

 Anda dapat membeli bundelan kupon di bank


Data 9: As you sow, so shall you reap

*Apa yang kamu tabur itu yang kamu tuai (clumsy)

Siapa yang menabur, dia yang menuai

 You will be punished or rewarded according to whether you have led a virtuous or  sinfil life.


Data 10: Barking dogs seldom bite

*Anjing menggonggong jarang menggigit (clumsy)

 Anjing menggonggong kafilah berlalu

  A person who utters threats in a loud voice, or is given to noisy boasting need not  be   taken seriously.


Data 11: The sign said ”Emergency parking only

*Tanda itu berkata "parkir Darurat hanya" (clumsy)

Tanda tersebut menunjukkan “Hanya untuk parkir darurat


Data 12: You must watch the road when you are driving

  *Anda harus menonton jalan saat Anda mengemudi (clumsy)

  Perhatikanlah jalan ketika mengemudi


Data 13:  It fell to Jim’s lot to be cook for the party

   *Itu sudah menjadi takdir jim menjadi juru masak untuk sebuah pesta (clumsy)

    Jim merasa sudah ditakdirkan untuk menjadi jurumasak di pesta


Data 14: The sign says “watch for falling rocks

  *Tanda itu menunjukkan “hati-hati batu-batu berjatuhan.

   Tanda tersebut bertuliskan “hati-hati longsor bebatuan (clumsy)


Data 15:  The cowboys drove the cattle north every spring

   *Para koboi mengemudikan ternak utara setiap musim semi (clumsy)

   Para peternak menggiring ternak mereka ke utara setiap musim semi


Data 16: The surveryors drove sticks into the ground to mark the property lines

  *Pengukur tanah  menyetir kemudi ke lapangan untuk menandai batas tanah

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