On Types of Translation

(A short article on types of translation)

From Newmark (1988: 45), it can safely be concluded that translation is a process of matching ideas in a source language (SL) with their equivalents in a given target language (TL) in such a way that there exists an ‘equivalent effect’ on the part of the readership of the translation as was obtained on the readership of the original. To do so, the author presents a number of translation methods, two of which he considers as being best able to fulfill the two main aims of translation, i.e., accuracy and economy. They are semantic and communicative translations.

Semantic translation, which takes into consideration such aesthetic values as the beautiful and natural sound of the SL text, is best applied to expressive texts, that is, ‘sacred’ texts such as imaginative literature which contains unusual syntactic structures, collocations, metaphors, peculiarly used words, neologisms, etc. translating which the translator has to posses adequate linguistic repertoire. The purpose of this translation is to best interpret the text so as to show the translator’s empathy with the original, the result rendering the very effect the SL text has on himself, not on any putative readership as there are oftentimes individual readers rather than a readership. Our translating our then professor Musthafa’s Breakfast with Rumi is a good example of this method.

At the other end, communicative translation, which seeks to provide the exact contextual meaning of the original text, applies to informative and vocative texts which expose information that can be interpreted in a simple, clear, brief, yet resourceful way. My translating Bahtera Foundation’s documents on non-formal education into English is a perfect example of this method.

Completely, the translation methods the author proposes are as follows:

1. Word-for-word translation,

in which words are interpreted literally. Unless this method is used as a pre-translation method, it often produces out-of-context translation.


Cintanya besar.

His love big.

2. Literal translation,

in which—as in No. 1—words are interpreted literally, yet grammatical constructions may correctly be converted into their immediate TL equivalents. Unless this method is used as a pre-translation process, it often produces still out-of-context translation.


Dunia mengutuk America.

The world curses America.

3. Faithful translation,

in which words are translated carefully, attention being closely paid to the cultural nuances the words produce.


Dunia mengutuk America.

The world condemns America.

4. Semantic translation,

in which words are translated carefully, attention being closely paid not only to the cultural nuances the words produce but also to the aesthetic value of sound they render.


leaving the traveler envy

his endless ecstasy.

membuat sang pengembara muda iri hati

akan kegembiraannya yang tiada henti.

5. Adaptation,

through which SL plays are freely culturally converted into TL ones, texts rewritten but themes, characters, and plots usually preserved.


my then students’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

6. Free translation,

which is not considered as translation at all.


Cintanya besar.

Love his big.

7. Idiomatic translation,

in which the ‘message’ of the original is reproduced but distorted by preferred idioms that do not exist in the original text.


Out in the open, lonely, the boy had a crazy idea of yelling ‘there’s a wolf!’ to wake everybody up. And they did, to the disappointment of finding out that they had been fooled by the boy. Next time around, there was really a wolf. The boy shouted ‘there’s a wolf!’ again. Only, this time, nobody woke up.

Sang anak berbuat seperti pribahasa sekali lancung ke ujian, seumur hidup orang tak percaya.

8. Communicative translation,

in which the exact contextual meaning of the original is reproduced in such a way that both content and language are best comprehensible to the readers.


Dalam kenyataannya, menurut data dari Biro Pusat Statistik, ada sekitar 5,5 juta anak putus sekolah pada tahun 1998. Sumber lain mengatakan bahwa sekarang ada 7,7 juta anak yang putus sekolah. Ini menunjukkan bahwa ada kemungkinan jumlah anak yang putus sekolah sebenarnya lebih besar dari yang ditunjukkan oleh statistic yang ada.

In reality, according to the data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, there were some 5.5 million children dropped out of school in 1998 alone. Other sources show that there are 7.7 million school drop-outs now. This suggests that there is a possibility that the actual number of school drop-outs may be higher than that shown above.

That ends the 8 translation methods the author proposes that the translator use.


Newmark, P. 1988. A Textbook of Translation. Hertfordshire: Prentice-Hall. 

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