Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I is one of several subject pronouns that only few people notice its unique traits when dealing with Indonesian. Often, people failed to transfer it into correct target form when dealing with language translation. We are now here to slightly talk about it.

What is I actually?
The pronoun I // is the first-person singular nominative case personal pronoun in Modern English. It is used to refer to one's self and is capitalized, although other pronouns, such as he or she, are not capitalized. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_(pronoun))

It is clearly seen that the function of I and Saya is quite similar, but from the structural perspective they are different. I is always capitalized no matter where it occurs. We would say, I will always love you. You were a kid when I was teacher. You will know who I am someday, and so on. From the examples, we can clearly see that I must be capitalized no matter where it happens. 

What about Saya as its equivalent in Indonesian?
Unfortunately, Saya has no special traits as I does. When dealing with Indonesian translation, I will be translated as Saya. Structurally, they are differently treated. Saya capitalization must follow the way it occurs, while I capitalization will always be an absolute case no matter what. This is a very significant difference the Indonesian translators must keep in their mind. All the examples above can be individually translated as:
  • I will always love you. --> Saya akan selalu menyayangi Anda. (Saya is capitalized as it occurs in the beginning of a sentence.)
  • You were a kid when I was teacher. --> Anda masih kecil saat saya masih mengajar dulu. (Saya is not capitalized as it occurs in the middle of a sentence.)
  • You will know who I am someday. --> Suatu saat nanti, Anda akan tahu siapa saya(Saya is not capitalized as it occurs in the end of a sentence.)
Now we can see the difference between subject pronouns I (English) and Saya (Indonesian). Both function as subject pronouns, but they are differently capitalized when dealing with the sentence construction. I is always capitalized no matter where it occurs while Saya is capitalized depending where it occurs. 

This is one of special cases Indonesian has and this is also one of the reasons why language is called as unique. Further, we will talk about the variants of I (memymine, and myself) compared to the variants of Saya. We will show you how I and Saya are unique each other in different article. Check back later for more updates.

Question? Contact us at any line provided or comment below the article. We are happy to answer any related questions. :-)

Further discussion can be traced here: Translating an I into Indonesian (further discussion).


  1. It is quite confusing when pronoun I could also be translated into "aku" or "saya" depending on formal and informal situation, and it is frequently found in one English text.

  2. We are talking from the strutural perspective, instead of the level of formality. However, what you advised is also one of unique language traits (hopefully, we can discuss it further in this blog, or you can contribute one?). Thanks for visiting. :-)


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