Laila Sarah Puspita Sari

A Candidate of Master of Applied Linguistics of Universitas Brawijaya


According to Newmark (1988:7), translation is a craft consisting in the attempt to replace a written message and/or statement in one language by the same message and/or statement in another language. Then Nida and Taber (1982:12) propose a rather complete definition of translation, that “Translating consisting of reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalence of source language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in term of style.” Meanwhile, Catford (1965:20) also states that translation is the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (TL).

Working on translation, technically, a translator has to know the equivalency in translating the source language to the target one. As we know, translation peers always encounter different changes in equivalence within different language levels ranging from physical forms into meaning. Bell (1991:20) defines the phenomenon as “the replacement of a representation of a text in one language by a representation of an equivalent text in a second language.” Baker (2001:77) defines equivalence as the relationship between a source text (ST) and a target text (TT) that has allowed the TT to be considered as a translation of the ST in the first place. From what the experts’ statement above, we can say that equivalence is the most important element in the process of translation.

This paper discusses translation problems arising from lack of equivalence at word level; what does a translation do when there is no word in the target language which expresses the same meaning as to be source language word? Based on those considerations, this paper deals with one of the types of equivalence that Baker proposed in her study, that is equivalence at word level. The data are taken from one of the Dan Brown’s novel, “The Lost Symbol” (Chapter 1) translation of English into Indonesian.



Baker (2001) explores the notion of equivalence at different levels: equivalence at word level, equivalence above word level, grammatical equivalence, textual equivalence, and pragmatic equivalence. These levels of equivalence are closely related to the translation process, including all different aspects of translation and hence putting together the linguistic and the communicative approach. There is n on-to-one correspondence between orthographic words and elements of meaning within across language (Baker, 2001:11). In her book, Baker also describes common problems of non-equivalence at word level and the strategies dealing with it.

Culture-specific concepts

The source-language word may express a concept which is totally unknown in the target language (abstract or concrete; it may relate to a religious belief, a social custom or even a type of food).

The source-language concept is not lexicalized in the target language

The source language word may express a concept which is known in the target culture but simply not lexicalized, that is not “allocated” a target language word to express it.

The source-language word is semantically complex

The source-language word may be semantically complex.

The source and the target languages make different distinctions in meaning.

The target language may make more or fewer distinctions in meaning than the source language.

The target language lacks a superordinate

The target language may have specific words (hyponyms) but no general word (superordinate) to head the semantic field.

The target language lacks a specific term (hyponym)

More commonly, languages tend to have general words (superordinate) but lack specific ones (hyponyms).

Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective

Physical perspective has to do with where things or people are in relation to one another or to a place, as expressed in pairs of words such as come/go, take/bring, arrive/depart, etc. perspective may also include the relationship between participants in the discourse (tenor).

Differences in expressive meaning

There may be a target-language word which has the same propositional meaning as the source-language word, but it may have a different expressive meaning.

Difference in form

There is often no equivalent in the target language for particular form in the source text.

Differences in frequency and purpose of using specific forms.

Even when a particular form does have a ready equivalent in the target language, there may be a difference in the frequency with which it is used or the purpose for which it is used.

The use of loan words in the source text

Words such as au fait, chic and alfresco in English are used for their prestige value, because they add an air of sophistication to the text or its subject matter. This is often lost in translation because it is not always possible to find a loan word with the same meaning in the target language.

In addition, Baker also proposes some strategies dealing with it as follows:

  • Translation by a more general word (superordinate)
  • Translation by a more neutral/ less expressive word
  • Translation by cultural substitution, which involves replacing a culture-specific item or expression with a target-language item which does not have the same propositional meaning but is likely to have a similar impact on the target reader.
  • Translation using a loan word or loan words plus explanation,which is particularly common in dealing with culture-specific items, modern concepts and buzz words. Following the loan word with an explanation is very useful when the word in question is repeated several times in the text.
  • Translation by paraphrase using a related word, whic his used when the concept expressed by the source item is lexicalized in the target language but in a different form, and when the frequency with which a certain form is used in the source text is significantly higher than would be natural in the target language.
  • Translation by paraphrase using unrelated words. This is done if the concept expressed by the source item is not lexicalized at all in the target language, the paraphrase strategy can still be used in some contexts.
  • Translation by omission is adopted whenthe meaning conveyed by a particular item or expression is not vital enough to the development of the text to justify distracting the reader with lengthy explanations, translators can and often do simply omit translating the word or expression in question.
  • Translation by illustration is a useful option if the word which lacks an equivalent in the target language refers to a physical entity which can be illustrated, particularly if there are restrictions on space and if the text has to remain short, concise and to the point.



In this paper, the data are categorized based on the problems of equivalence at word level.

  1. Culture-specific concepts
  • the 555-foot –> 555 kaki (170 meter)
  • turtlenecks –> Kaus berleher tinggi
  • cravat –> cravat (dasi)
  • fascalia –> fasealia (syal pengikat leher)
  • Staccato –> suara berderak
  1. The source language concept is not lexicalized in the target language
  • austere –> sederhana
  • daybag –> tas bahu
  1. The source-language word is semantically complex
  • unloading platform –> platform untuk menurunkan penumpang
  • collegiate cordovan loafers –> sepatu kulit santai model mahasiswa
  1. The source and the target languages make different distinctions in meaning
  • voice –> aksen
  • read –> membahas
  1. The target language lacks of superordinate
  • leaned –> mencondongkan tubuh
  • saying –> mengucapkan
  • climbing –> naik merayapi ­
  1. The target language lacks of specific term
  • craning –> menjulurkan leher
  • spire –> menara
  1. Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective
  • you –> kau
  • child –> bocah
  • boy –> anak laki-laki
  • boy –> bocah
  • woman –> perempuan
  • your guest –> tamu Anda
  1. Difference in form
  • unexpected –> tak terduga
  • Hate –> tidak ingin
  • background –> latar belakang
  1. The use of loan words in the source text
  • corporate jet –> jet korporasi
  • symbology –> simbologi
  • philanthropist –> filantrop
  • dynasty –> dinasti
  • silhouette –> siluet
  • etymologically –> etimologis


As mentioned in the previous part, Baker in her book “In Other Words” proposed some strategies dealing with the problems that translator may face in translating the English into Indonesian. In this part, the work focuses on analyzing the problem and the strategies that the translator deals with.

Culture-specific concepts

a. Data: the 555-foot –> 555 kaki (170 meter)

ST : The 555-foot marble-faced obelisk marked the nation’s heart.

TT : Obelisk berpermukaan marmer setinggi 555 kaki (170 meter) itu menandai jantung bangsa ini.

It is proper for Western to say foot to describe the measure of altitude or length. The foot is still legally recognized as an alternative expression of length in Canada, officially defined as a unit derived from the metric metre and still commonly used in the United Kingdom, although both have partially metricated their units of measurement. The foot is widely used outside the English-speaking country ( In this phenomenon, the translator decides to translate it into 555 kaki and add explanation (170 meter) in which the measurement of length in meter sounds familiar in Indonesia.

b. Data: turtlenecks –> Kaus berleher tinggi

ST : The woman laughed. ‘Those turtlenecks you wear are so dated. You’d look much sharper in a tie!’

TT : Perempuan itu tertawa. “Kaus berleher tinggi yang Anda kenakan kuno sekali. Anda akan tampak jauh lebih cerdas dengan kemeja berdasi!”

American describes turtleneck as a garment, usually a sweater with a close-fitting, round, and high collar that folds over and covers the neck. Indonesian does not have the equivalence word of turtleneck because it is originally worn by American and Australian. The translator tries to find the cultural substitution for this in order to be more understandable for Indonesian. Therefore Kaus berleher tinggi is the best translation for turtleneck by describing how turtleneck looks like, that is t-shirt with high collar that folds over and cover the neck.

c. Data: cravat –> cravat (dasi)

d. Data: fascalia –> fasealia (syal pengikat leher)

ST: —and despite the headmaster’s romantic claims that the origin of the cravat went back to the silk fasealia worn by Roman orators to warm their vocal cords,—

TT : —Walaupun ada pernyataan romantis dari pemimpin akademi bahwa cravat (dasi) berasal dari fasealia (syal pengikat leher) sutra yang dikenakan para orator Romawi untuk menghangatkan pita suara,—

Western describe cravat is a scarf or band worn around the neck as a tie especially by men. Cravat means the forerunner to the modern tie. Historically, a cravat is a symbol of culture and elegance associated with Croats in the 17th century ( Nowadays cravat is worn by bridegroom of Western style. Again there is no equivalent word for cravat in Indonesian and we only have tie to call kind of long piece of cloth around the neck. In consequence, the translator uses a strategy by keeping the source text and give explanation as an addition, which sounds general or neutral for Indonesian that cravat can be described as the same as tie.

The same phenomenon exist in translating fascalia, there is no equivalence word for fascalia then the translator keeps the word and give explanation in the bracket

The source-language word is semantically complex

  • unloading platform –> platform untuk menurunkan penumpang

ST: Almost there, the boy told himself, craning his neck and looking up at the unloading platform.

TT: Hampir sampai, ujar bocah itu kepada diri sendiri, seraya menjulurkan leher dan mendongak memandangi platform untuk menurunkan penumpang.

In this case, the source text word is semantically complex and the translator decides to translate unloading platform intoplatform untuk menurunkan penumpang. The strategy which is applied is translation by paraphrasing using a related word

  • collegiate cordovan loafers –> sepatu kulit santai model mahasiswa

ST: He was wearing his usual charcoal turtleneck, Harris Tweed jacket, khakis, and collegiate cordovan loafers—

TT: Seperti biasa, dia mengenakan kaus abu-abu tua berleher tinggi, jaket Harris Tweed, celana panjang khaki, dan sepatu kulit santai model mahasiswa

The same problem happens in this part of text. If we translate it word-for-word, it causes a long text to explain one by one the term of that kind of shoes. Then, the same strategies used to transfer the appropriate meaning that is by paraphrasing using related words to get the understandable and acceptable translation.

The source and the target languages make different distinctions in meaning

  • voice –> aksen

ST: ‘Hello! Hello!’ a singsong British voice shouted from across the tarmac. ‘Professor Langdon?’

TT: “Halo! Halo!” teriak sebuah suara merdu beraksen Inggris dari seberang aspal. “Profesor Langdon?”

Literally, voice means sounds made when speaking or singing. For example, she is lost her voice. For this case, the translator considers the addition of information of British in which there is a stress that the character is speaking British English. Cultural substitution is used as the strategy to make it appropriate translation. Therefore he translates it into aksen which is not the literal meaning of voice.

  • read –> membahas

ST: ‘My book group read your book about the sacred feminine and the church!

TT: “Kelompok pembaca buku saya membahas buku Anda tentang sacred feminine dan gereja!

It is a great choice translating read into membahas, whereas the literal meaning of read is membaca. By considering the previous words, it is mentioned already the ‘pembaca’ is used to translate book. Word-for word translation is not the appropriate strategy to solve this problem. Therefore the translator applies the strategy of paraphrase by using the related words by considering some aspects that support the diction choice. The diction choice is acceptable for reader because they have the same information that a book group’s activity is not only reading the book but also discussing the contents of the book.

The target language lacks of superordinate

  • climbing –> naik merayapi ­

ST: Petugas lift sedang mengucapkan sesuatu menenangkan mengenai piston bersambung dan konstruksi besi tempa lift.

TT: Lift Otis yang naik merayapi pilar selatan Menara Eiffel itu dipenuhi turis.

We see that the translator decided to make his translation as natural as possible in Indonesian. He considered his understanding of Eiffel Tower that people can see Paris from above and people already know about it. Meaning that, there is the same knowledge between the reader and the writer. The decision of the collocation used is appropriate dealing with the ‘lift’ . Here ‘lift’ is subject which is climbing with the help of machine. If we translate it into ‘memanjat’, it is not acceptable because we use ‘memanjat’ only for human and some animals. Also the translator makes it more expressive by using naik merayapi. He wants people to imagine what was happening with the lift at that time’

It can be said that it is the strategy of the translator to translate it in two phrases, ‘naik merayap’ intead of ‘naik’. He tends to keep the natural meaning of ‘climbing’ in the text, in which the author describes the ‘lift’ is moving up slowly. Then if he only translates it ‘merayap’, it is less accurate in fact ‘merayap’ can be down, up, right or left.

 The target language lacks of specific term

  • craning –> menjulurkan

ST: Almost there, the boy told himself, craning his neck and looking up at the unloading platform.

TT: Hampir sampai, ujar bocah itu kepada diri sendiri, seraya menjulurkan leher dan mendongak memandangi platform untuk menurunkan penumpang.

In my opinion, the translation of menjulurkan leher fot craning is not appropriate. In Bahasa, menjulurkan is commonly expressed for tongue, menjulurkan lidah. Hence, we need more acceptable word to transfer the meaning of craning. Because of Bahasa lacks of specific term so the strategy used is paraphrase by using related word. The activity which is associated with stretching out one’s neck in order to see something can be called mengulurkan leher in Bahasa.

  • spire –> menara

ST: Outside the window the sun had set, but Langdon could still make out slender silhouette of the world’s largest obelisk, rising on the horizon like the spire of an ancient gnomon.

TT: Matahari sudah terbenam di balik jendela, tapi Langdon masih bisa melihat siluet ramping obelisk terbesar di dunia, yang menjulang di cakrawala seperti menara jam kuno.

A more general word is used as the strategy. Yet, the translator gives lack information to transfer the meaning of spire. He translates spire into menara and the reader will imagine the whole menara (tower), in fact, in his book, the author wants the readers to imagine the special part of the tower that is the spire. In the source text, English has specific word to call the top of the tower that is spire, while in Bahasa it needs two words to call the spire. In my opinion, it is acceptable if the translator translates the word spire into puncak menara in order to get the more specific meaning and information for the reader.

Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective

  • you –> kau

ST: ‘You look pale, son. You should have stayed on the ground.’

TT: “Kau tampak pucat, Nak. Seharusnya kau tetap di bawah.”

The Kau in this dialogue is used as the consideration of poetic term of novel and it is generally used as bound morpheme of engkau. Because of the social status between the speakers, in daily conversation kau sounds rude compared to kamu. In my view, kamu term is more acceptable for Indonesian. Kamu is considered a more familiar way of talking; it stands in the middle of formal and informal. Kamu is used with your sister, brothers, cousins, and other family members of the same age or status.

  • your car –> mobil Anda

ST: ‘If you’ll come with me, sir, your car is waiting.’

TT: ”Ikuti saya, Pak, mobil Anda sudah menunggu.”

Anda is very formal way of talking, like between businessmen, to people that are older, to person that you respect, to teachers, or to strangers. It can also be used as a barrier, because it shows that you have no interests of forming a close relationship with the other person. Considering the relationship between Langdon and the driver shows the different social status between them and the term of Anda is accurate to be used in the translation.

Difference in form

  • unexpected –> tak terduga

ST: The daydream about his late father, Langdon suspected, had been stirred by this morning’s unexpected invitation from Langdon’s longtime mentor, Peter Solomon.

TT: Langdon curiga, agaknya lamunan tentang almarhum ayahnya dipicu oleh undangan tak terduga pagi ini dari mentor lamanya, Peter Solomon.

To describe the minimal formal element of meaning in language, as distinct from word, this may or may not contain several elements of meaning. Thus, an important difference between morpheme and words is that a morpheme cannot contain more than one element of meaning and cannot be further analyzed. The term of tak terduga is an accurate diction for unexpected.

The use of loan words in the source text

  • corporate jet –> jet korporasi

ST: He was sitting all alone in the enormous cabin of a Falcoln 2000EX corporate jet as it bounced its way through turbulence.

TT: Dia sedang duduk sendirian di kabin luas jet korporasi Falcon 2000EX yang berguncang-guncang melewati turbulensi.

In my view, it does not need to keep the loan word in the translation when we have the original word in Bahasa. Corporate can be translated into perusahaan which is more acceptable and understandable for the target reader.

  • symbology –> simbologi

ST: He’d been halfway through reviewing Masonic symbology when his mind had drifted.

TT: Dia sudah setengah jalan meninjau simbologi Mason ketika benaknya tadi berkelana.

Symbology basedon Merriam Webster is the art of expression by symbol, or the study or interpretation of symbol. Bahasa does not have the equivalence word of this term so the translator decides to keep it in his translation and this strategy is exactly appropriate to solve the problem.

  • philanthropist –> filantrop

ST: The fifty – eight-year-oldphilanthropist, historian, and scientist had taken Langdon—

TT: Finlantrop, sejarahwan, dan ilmuwan berusia 58 tahun itu sudah membantu dan membimbing Langdon—

As the same as the previous discussion about using the loan word, in this case the translator does the same thing consider that in Bahasa, we have no term to substitute philanthropist.

  • dynasty –> dinasti

ST: Despite the man’s influential family dynasty and massive wealth,

TT: Walaupun dinasti keluarga Solomon sangat berpengaruh dan kekayaannya luar biasa,

Sometimes translator should not use the loan word to play save in his translation when we have our own term in the target text. When we talk about dynasty, it deals with royal family in a country and the same thing happens in Indonesia. Dinasti term in Bahasa is something like looking back in the China Kingdom era hundred years ago. It is better if dynasty is translated into keturunan because it is more neutral and familiar for Indonesia.

  • clipboard –> clipboard

ST: Langdon looked up to see a middle-aged woman with a badge and clipboard hurrying toward him, waving happily as he approached.

TT: Langdon mendongak dan melihat seorang perempuan setengah baya dengan lencana dan clipboard bergegas menghapirinya, lalu melambaikan tangan dengan gembira ketika Langdon mendekat.

As the same reason and opinion in the discussion above, I propose that the more acceptable translation for clipboard is papan tulis kecil. Some people will not get the same understanding what clipboard is if the translator keeps the English term.



Based on finding the analysis there are eight types of problems found dealing with the equivalence at word level in The Lost Symbol translation of English into Bahasa: Culture-specific concepts, the source language concept is not lexicalized in the target language, the source-language word is semantically complex, the source and the target languages make different distinctions in meaning, the target language lacks of superordinate, the target language lacks of specific term, differences in physical or interpersonal perspective, difference in form, and the use of loan words in the source text. The most problem faced is the use of loan words, found five terms in English which are no equivalence word in Bahasa. The strategy used by the translator is to loan the word because the term is also familiar for the target reader.



Baker, M. 2001. In Other Words: a Course Book on Translation. London and New York: Routledge

Bell, Roger.T. 1991. Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Longman.

Catford, J. C. 1978. A Linguistic Theory of Translation. London: Oxford University Press

Newmark, P. 1988. A Textbook in Translation. London: Prentice Hall

Nida, Eugene and Charles R. Taber. 1982. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: E. J. Brill


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