Translation of Colloquial: An Effortless Challenge That Is Not

Translation of Colloquial is a process of identifying the background of a text before translating. When you translate a text from French, for example, then you need to first understand who the “speaker” is and the area where this language variation is used. Why is it so essential?

Understanding the entire content of the text is beneficial to avoid mistakes in translating. Moreover, when you work in the scope of language variations closely related to a region. In some cases, it may be necessary to look for the equivalent translation in the target text instead of translating it directly or word for word.

Translation of Colloquial is a process of identifying the background of a text before translating:

  • Readers oriented

There are four languages ​​spoken in Switzerland which are French, German, Italian, and Romansh. Meanwhile, French has international and standard versions. When you translate French to Swiss, then you need to understand which version is used by the readers there. The word “déjeuner” in French means “lunch,” but native Switzerland discovered it as “dinner.”

  • Avoid the Same Colloquial

The purpose of translating is to make it easier for the reader to understand a text. Therefore, you don’t have to look for a Colloquial equivalent in the target text, but present it in an adequate manner. Or, you can still maintain the Colloquial equivalent, while adding a footnote to the description. 

Another thing you need to pay attention to is to always consult an editor or client when translating Colloquial expressions. They will assist you in treating the language variation and make clarifications.

Understanding the entire content of the text is beneficial to avoid mistakes in Translation of Colloquial.

Understanding the entire content of the text is beneficial to avoid mistakes in translating.

The Differences between Vernacular and Colloquial

These two are related to language variations that refer to a region, but there are several signs that can distinguish them. What are they?


Vernacular has been known since 1601 and comes from the Latin “Vernaculus” which means national and domestic. So, it can be concluded that its users are closely related to native and difficult to identify in the standard version. In addition, the prestige in society is lower.

For instance, grinder means sandwich in America. Or, grid means money or cash in British. Another example is, dunny means toilet in Australia.


Colloquial is an informal language that is used in casual situations, but its users don’t only relate to natives since it has several features to be identified, namely regional variations, contractions, profanity, phrases, and aphorisms. Let’s take a look at the example below:

  • Regional variations → Carbonated drink in America’s region has some definition, such as coke, soda, pop, and soft drink
  • Contractions → Gonna and ain’t
  • Profanity → As an adjective in America, while in British means curse word
  • Phrases → Pass the buck, penny-pincher, and she’ll be okay
  • Aphorisms →  Put your money where your mouth is and don’t judge a book by its cover

Jump into translation work, it can be said that translating Vernacular is more difficult than Colloquial expressions since identification is often not written in non-standard language dictionaries. However, that doesn’t mean the translation challenges just ended.

Difference Between Slang and Colloquial Language

One thing that is most striking regarding Slang and Colloquial Language is the different level of informality. Meanwhile, the existence of these two coincided in the mid-18th century. 

Slang is surely more informal than Colloquial Language and its users are more limited that refers to a group. For instance, teenagers show their identity. Meanwhile, Colloquial Language is widely used in everyday life. 

What else? Vocabulary in Slang will change as time goes by since it is coined by speakers through phenomena that occur in society. However, Colloquial Language has remained relatively the same over time and definite patterns can be found.

Let’s take a look at the example below:

  • Slang → Bee’s knees means something excellent
  • Colloquial Language → Whatcha doin’ this weekend?

The problem that exists for translators is finding equivalent expressions that are appropriate to the target text. For instance, “whatcha doin’ this weekend?” can be translated in Indonesian as “mau ngapain aja lo Minggu nanti?” 

Translation of Colloquial seems easier, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges to be encountered.

Translation Method Used in Translating Colloquial Expressions

It’s a common issue that a text has its own method when translated, as well as Colloquial expressions. There are six translation methods that you can utilize, including:

  • Exotic method

This method refers to aspects of the source text that are maintained in the target text.

For example: Maybe some caviar and bread? → Mau caviar dan roti?

  • Cultural Loan

This method aims to preserve specific terms from source text to target text, such as scientific, engineering, cultural, and political.

For example: Hot flashes in menstruating women are normal → Hot flashes pada perempuan yang sedang menstruasi adalah hal yang normal

  • Calque method

This method will translate an idiom word for word or can be called a faithful translation as conveyed by Newmark.

For example: Kill two birds with one stone → Membunuh dua burung dengan satu batu

  • Communicative method

In contrast to the Calque method, this one is more flexible as it takes context into account.

For example: It’s raining cats and dogs → Hujan lebat

  • Idiomatic method

Almost the same as the Communicative method, the translator will work on the idiom that is looking for an equivalent in the source text and the units are smaller, such as “shit” and “son of bitch” which means “sialan” in Indonesian.

For example: Two peas in a pot → Bagai pinang dibelah dua

  • Adaptation method

This method refers to cultural adjustments in the target text and is also adapted to the target audience.

For example: The fox → Si Kancil

Translation of Colloquial requires initial analysis to ensure whether this is indeed the case since this language variation, at a glance, is similar to Vernacular and Slang. In addition, translators are strongly advised to consult with editors or clients, so that the results are reader oriented.

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