Thursday, November 5, 2015

Before we go to the sentences we are making samples, let us talk about the theory of translation coined by Eugene A. Nida. In approaching the translation, he suggested two methods of translation: Dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence. These methods were initially used to translate Bible and the like, but they are then used to translate any text. Those methods are rhetorical actually and can literally be said as sense-for-sense translation (translating the meanings of phrases or whole sentences) and word-for-word translation (translating the meanings of individual words in their more or less exact syntactic sequence) (

In more practical context, formal equivalence is more likely to emphasise fidelity to the lexical details and grammatical structure of the original language, while dynamic equivalence tends to favour a more natural rendering; the translation readability is more important than the preservation of the original grammatical structure. Recently, these two methods are widely known as literal translation (formal equivalence) and contextual translation (dynamic equivalence). In LQA, this literal translation is often avoided and sometimes falls into error category, while it is not quite clear if the suspect sentence is literally translated.

Now let's take a look at the samples we portray below. There should always be two or more alternatives for one phrase or sentence, and this should be realized by the industry players. Failing to understand it will surely lead to long debate.

A phrase red book can be translated as buku merah (formal equivalence) and buku yang berwarna merah (dynamic equivalence). The translation no. 1 emphasises the fidelity of lexical and grammar detail; red: merah, book: buku with the standard grammar rule of Bahasa Indonesia. Meanwhile, the second option will display more contextual translation; some additions are made to create better readability [yang berwarna]. The lexical and grammar details are no more important, but its readability is more important. Some Indonesian translators think that this second option is the best method of translation.

We recently found two sentences we think they are worth explaining. The sentences would really suggest the same things, but the author intends to modify the sentence structure, but to leave the meaning as it is. These sentences are found in one of smartphone UIs we happen to work on. We are initially curious and we decide to raise these in our blog to give Indonesian translators and general audience insights on how one phrase or sentence is possibly treated.

The sentences are: 

You may find similar sentences and you do not surely know how to treat them. They can be translated using formal equivalence method as:
1) Dengan [With] iOS [iOS], Anda [you] bisa [can] memilih [choose] xxxx
2) iOS [iOS] memungkinkan [allowsAnda [youuntuk [toxxxx and
3) Anda [Youbisa [bisajuga [also] xxx
4) Anda [you] juga [alsomemiliki [havepilihan [optionuntuk [to] xxx

The translation above is faithful. The target strictly follows every single structure of the source and so does the lexical detail. Meanwhile, the translation would structurally and lexically be different from the source if the dynamic equivalence method is as its approach. The translation will roughly be like:

1) Anda bisa memilih xxxxxxxx menggunakan iOS [You can see that the target structure is totally different from the source structure and the lexical detail is not a main focus, rather than its meaning]
2) Dengan iOS, Anda bisa [here, the iOS allows you to is replaced with With iOS, you can that is contextually flowing] and
3) Anda juga bisa [juga is put before can (bisa) as this is the way the translation will sound natural. The lexical detail is no more important]
4) Anda juga bisa [the translation is made straightly without compromising its intended meaning. You also have the option to is considered to be similar with You can also, thus the grammar and lexical details are no more important, but the meaning is]

From these examples, which method is better? Both methods are applicable and whether to use formal or dynamic is really based on the context and purpose of translation. As Indonesian translator, what we need to do is to realize that there remain two or more alternatives to one phrase or sentence and we have to explore more before we judge that the phrase or sentence should be associated with its best equivalence.

Question? Contact us!


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