Some learners often find it hard to translate Indonesian expressions into English. Some beginners even use a kind of a translation method called literal translation or direct translation. They just simply translate Indonesian words to English (word for word translation) rather than convey the sense of the original. This kind of translation (literal translation) often results in an inaccurate translation. The sentences in the target language may be grammatically correct, but culturally wrong. In brief, literal translation may miss some essential meanings in the source language especially for idiomatic expressions. Hence, the literal translation is not suggested when learning English. On the other hand, learners should use what we call an idiomatic translation in which culture in both languages is involved in the process of translating texts.
The following table shows some Indonesian expressions with their literal translation and idiomatic translation. Some expressions in the literal translation below look weird and are sometimes used as sources of jokes in English classes.
Indonesian expressions (IE) Literal translation (LT) Idiomatic translation (IT)
(IE)Badanku nggak enak. (LT)My body is not delicious. (IT)I am feeling under the weather./ I’m not feeling fine.
(IE)Jangan ngomong ke siapa-siapa (LT)Don’t tell it to anyone else. (IT)Don’t tell a soul.
(IE)Itu sih masalah kecil. (LT)It’s a small problem (IT)It’s piece of cake.
(IE)Hubungan kami sulit. (LT)Our relationship is difficult. (IT)Our relationship was on the rocks
(IE)Dia tuh orangnya aktif banget. (LT)He is a very active person. (IT)He is on the go.
(IE)Aku cabut dulu. (LT)I pull it first. (IT)I’m leaving/ better get moving.
(IE)Gak usah ikut campur urusanku. (LT)Don’t mix my business. (IT)Mind your own business/ Stay out of this.
(IE)Kamu nggak perlu cemas. (LT)You don’t need to worry. (IT)Stay cool/cheer up!
(IE)Jangan deketin aku. (LT)Don’t come closer to me. (IT)Stay away from me. /Leave me alone
(IE)Bertindaklah dewasa. (LT)Be mature. (IT)Act your age /Grow up
(IE)Aku suka banget membaca. (LT)I like reading very much. (IT)I am crazy about reading.
(IE)Kita bayar sendiri-sendiri. (LT)We pay ourselves. (IT)Let’s go dutch.