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Translation Shifts In Students Translated Texts English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5210 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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People living in this world are divided by their cultures. Language as the part of culture holds an important role in people’s lives because it enables people to express their ideas either by talking or writing to others. In the earlier times, people did not seem to have problems related to the communication since they only needed to communicate with people in the same community who had good knowledge of the language they used. However, along with the growth of the age marked by the advance of communication devices and the needs of people to communicate to others outside their communities, the problem of communication starts to occur since people have to communicate with others having different languages in terms of its grammatical structures, its vocabularies, and even its spellings. It causes difficulties for people who are not accustomed to those differences.

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In order to solve the problems between two different languages, people use translation. Basically, translation is a tool to deliver meaning from source language (SL) to target language (TL). To make sure the meaning is perfectly delivered, a translator must re-construct the text by translating the words from SL to TL and arrange them based on the structures of sentence in TL so the structures are suitable with TL and there will be no loss of meaning. Knowing the importance to master translation skills, universities in Indonesia open a subject studying translation, and one of them is Translation Skill subject in English Department State University of Jakarta focusing on studying translation between English and Indonesian languages.

In this Translation Skill subject, besides studying the theories related to translation such as the process, the methods, and the strategies of translation, students also conduct the activity of translating, that is to translate texts from English to Indonesian language and vice versa. In order to become a professional translator, students do not only have to master proper knowledge concerning translation theories but also they have to able to translate different kinds of text from foreign languages, in this case, English to Indonesian language in a proper form which means that the text can be read easily and its meaning remains intact. However in the implementation, students may face problems especially related to the different structures between English and Indonesian because indeed, as Moentaha (2006:12) states, every language has its specific grammatical and lexical systems.

Actually, there many strategies, procedures, and techniques provided by translation experts to solve difficulties in translating as well as to prevent any distortions of meaning and errors which may be conducted by a translator especially students of English Department as novice translators, and one of them is translation shift. Catford (1965:73) defines translation shift as the departures from formal correspondence in the process of going from the SL to the TL. The shift can occur when a translator is translating a text from SL to TL by concerning some adaptations namely structural adaptation which causes the shift of form and semantic adaptation which causes the shift of meaning (Nida and Taber, 1969:105). Shifts are categorized into two major types, namely level shifts, the different level of equivalence between SL and TL items and category shifts, the departure of formal correspondence which are divided into four categories namely structure shifts, unit shifts, class shifts, and intra-system shifts (Catford, 1965:76). Studying those shifts in translation raises the curiosity of the writer to find out the types of shifts which occur in English Department students’ translated texts as well as the patterns of shift the students use to solve different structures between English and Indonesian language.

Research Questions

The questions to be answered in this study are:

What type of shifts occurs in students’ translated texts?

What shifts do dominantly occur in students’ translated texts?

What pattern of shifts used by students to bridge the different grammatical structures between English and Indonesian?

What pattern of shifts does dominantly occur in every type of shifts?

Purpose of the Study

The study aims at discovering the types of translation and classifying patterns of shifts occurring when students translate a text from English to Indonesian. From those kinds of translation shift and its patterns, the study also aims at figuring out the kinds of translation shift which dominantly occur in the translated text and the patterns of shift which are dominantly used by students to bridge the different grammatical structure between English and Indonesian.

Limitation of the Study

The study will focus on analyzing translation shifts occurring in thirty-five translated texts randomly taken from midterm test on Translation 2 subject conducted by students of English Literature Study Program English Department State University of Jakarta. The writer will use the theory of translation shifts provided by John Cunnison Catford in his book A Linguistic Theory of Translation dividing shifts into five categories namely level shifts, structure shifts, class shifts, unit shifts, and intra-system shifts.

Significance of the Study

Besides can enrich the field of translation in English Department State University of Jakarta, this study is expected to enhance the ability of English Department students as novice translators to translate texts from English to Indonesian as equivalent as possible by concerning the shifts they can use to solve different structures between English and Indonesian.



This chapter consists of definition of translation, process of translation, method of translation, definition of translation shifts, types of translation shifts, and the use of midterm test on Translation 2 subject as the source of data.

2.1. Definition of Translation

Translation rises as an activity to translate message from source language containing meaning and words, and to reproduce them in a target language which can be understood by its readers. Although the elements of translation – source text, meaning or information, and target text – are agreed by translation experts proven by the presence of those elements in their definitions of translation, they have different ways to express the definition of translation.

Catford (1978:20) defines translation as the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (TL). From the phrase ‘equivalent textual material’ above, it can be figured out that the main thing which should be replaced is the information. In other words, a translator has to be capable of replacing the information in source text with equivalent information in target text.

Another definition of translation is also presented by Nida (1969:12) stating that translation consists of reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalence of the source language message, first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style. On that definition, Nida explains clearly that the main activity a translator has to do is to convey the message from source language to target language as natural as possible by regarding its meaning and style.

Besides meaning and style, there is another thing which should be considered by translators if they want to create a good translation – the intention of the source text’s author. The concept is derived from Newmark (1988:5) who states that translation is rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text. Therefore, before translating a text, a translator has to read the whole text to understand the intention of ST’s author in making the text. In other words, a translator is like a bridge connecting the intention of ST’s author to the readers of target text.

A balance between forms of language and structures of meaning which creates a complete package of a proper translation is delivered by Larson (1984:3) who states:

Translation is transferring the meaning of the source language into the receptor language. This is done by going from the form of the first language to the form of a second language by way of semantic structure. It is meaning which is being transferred and must be held constant.

On that definition, the first activity translators have to do is to transfer the meaning constantly from SL to TL continued by delivering it in the appropriate form of TL to prevent any loss or distortion of meaning.

2.2. Process of Translation

Before explaining the process of translation deeper, one thing to be considered is the meaning of process. Oxford Advance Learner’s Dictionary (2000:1050) provides three definitions of process and the first one is appropriate with translation defining process as a series of things that are done in order to achieve a particular result. Another definition of process is also provided by Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (2002:899) defining process as rangkaian tindakan, pembuatan, atau pengolahan yang menghasilkan produk. Two definitions of process above can be concluded that to achieve certain goals, there are a series of actions should be conducted. The same matter also occurs in translation when a translator has to undergo a series of processes to translate texts from SL to TL as stated by translation experts below.

Larson (1988:3) provides three steps to produce a translation. First thing translators need to do is to learn the lexicons, grammatical structures, communication circumstances, and cultural contexts from source language continued by analyzing the SL texts to find out its meaning. Finally, the meaning is re-expressed using the lexicons and grammatical structures of target language and its cultural contexts as drawn on the figure below:

Figure 1



Text to be translated

Discover the meaning


Re-express the meaning


In line with Larson, Nida and Taber (1982:33) also draws a figure to explain that translation has to undergo three processes namely analysis, transfer, and restructuring called Three Stages of Process as shown below:

A (Source)





B (Receptor)


Figure 2

On the first stage namely analysis stage, the message in language A is analyzed in terms of its grammatical relationships as well as its meaning and combination of words in the form of X. Secondly, on the transfer stage, those analyzed materials are transferred in the mind of the translator from language A to language B in the form of Y. Finally, on the restructuring stage, the transferred materials are restructured in order to make the final message fully acceptable in the receptor language.

Moreover, Newmark (1988:19) divides the process of translation into four levels namely the textual level, the referential level, the cohesive level, and the naturalness level. On the textual level, translators have to find the equivalence of SL grammar in TL, translate its lexical units, and put them in the appropriate form of TL sentences. However, there are some words having more than one meaning including idioms and figurative expressions in the source text and these are the task of translators in the referential level, to define the real meaning behind those expressions and put those meaning in the appropriate expressions in the target text. To link the textual and referential level, translators should advance to the next level namely cohesive level. In this level, translators use connective words which can unite the text such as conjunctions, enumerations, reiterations, definite articles, general words, referential synonyms, and punctuation marks (Newmark, 1988:23). In other words, to secure the meaning of the text, translators have to secure its form first because if the sentences in the text are not linked together, the readers will not get the meaning of the text. Finally, on the last level, focusing on constructing translated texts, translators have to make sure that their translated texts make sense and read naturally for a certain kind of situation because the translated texts seem natural in one context, may not seem natural in other contexts. Nothing translators can do other than to read their whole translated texts, underline some unnatural expressions, and replace them with the more natural ones.

2.3. Method of Translation

In their attempt to distinguish between methods, strategies, and techniques, Molina and Albir (2002:507) define methods of translation as the way of a particular translation process that is carried out in terms of translator’s objective, i.e., a global option that affects the whole texts and their definition is strengthened by Newmark (1988:81) stating that translation methods relate to whole texts, while translation procedures are used sentences and the smaller units of language. It can be concluded that the result of translated texts is determined by the methods of translation used by translators because the aim and the intention of translators will affect the overall result of their translated texts. Newmark (1988:45) draws the methods of translation in the form of a V diagram dividing them into SL emphasis such as word-for-word translation, literal translation, faithful translation, as well as semantic translation, and TL emphasis such as adaptation, free translation, idiomatic translation, as well as communicative translation.

2.3.1 Word-for-Word Translation

This method is used on the pre-translation phase where the TL words are directly put below the SL words as so called interlinear translation. Cultural words are translated literally out of the context. Translators only need to find the equivalent words from SL to TL but the position of those SL words remains intact in TL to understand the mechanism of TL and as Catford states (1965:25) to illustrate in a crude way differences structure between SL and TL for further studies.

2.3.2 Literal Translation

This method of translation is between word-for-word and free translation where the words are still translated out of context as in word-for-word translation but then they are placed based on the grammatical structure of TL.

2.3.3 Faithful Translation

In faithful translation, translators try to reproduce the contextual meaning of SL to TL and place them based on the grammatical structure of TL. Cultural words are translated but its grammatical and lexical abnormality still occurs. Faithful here means the translation attempt to be completely faithful to the intentions and text-realisation of the SL writer.

2.3.4 Semantic Translation

This method of translation produces a more natural translation than the previous method since in semantic translation, the aesthetic element is taken into consideration and cultural words in SL are translated into its cultural equivalent in TL. Semantic translation is more flexible than faithful translation which Newmark (1988:46) says as an uncompromising and dogmatic method.

2.3.5 Adaptation

Adaptation as ‘the freest form of translation’ is commonly used in translating poetries and script of plays where cultural conversions occur from SL to TL without changing the themes, characters, or plot of SL. Therefore, if translators want to adapt a script of play, for example, they have to maintain the characters and plot of the script while adapting only its dialogues from SL to TL.

2.3.6 Free Translation

In this method, the content of source text takes more priority than its form so paraphrase is commonly used to assure the message from source text can be clearly delivered to the readers of target text.

2.3.7 Idiomatic Translation

When translators reach this method, their translations will not sound like translated texts anymore since in this method, the message is reproduced in TL with more natural and familiar expressions sometimes using colloquialisms and idioms which do not exist in SL.

2.3.8 Communicative Translation

This method prioritizes the elements of communication such as purpose of translation and readership (Machali, 2000:55), so translators have to translate the contextual meaning of SL both its language and its content to be acceptable and understandable for readers of TL who expect no difficulties in reading translated texts.

2.4 Definition of Translation Shifts

As stated on the scope of study, the writer will use the theory of translation shifts provided mainly by Catford added with some other explanations from Newmark as well as Vinay and Darbelnet. Catford (1965:73) defines translation shifts as the departures from formal correspondence in the process of going from SL to TL. Items which can be shifted are grammar as Newmark (1988:55) states shift is translation procedure involving a change in grammar from SL to TL, and word-class as Vinay and Darbelnet (1958:64) state transposition is the replacement of one word-class by another without changing the meaning of the message.

Newmark (1988:85) states at least four reasons behind the occurrence of shifts. The first one is when SL and TL have different language systems so the shifts occur automatically and translators have no options but to undergo those shifts as in the translation of English plural words ‘A pair of glasses’ to Indonesian singular words ‘Sepasang kacamata’ and the position of adjectives as in ‘A beautiful woman’ translated into ‘Wanita cantik’ (Hartono, 2009:28). Another reason is when the grammatical structures of SL do not exist in TL, for example the initial position of verb in Indonesian sentences which is not familiar in English sentences except in imperative sentences. Therefore, it uses common structures of sentence as in the translation of ‘Telah disahkan penggunaannya’ to ‘Its usage has been approved’ (Hartono, 2009:29). Further, shifts also occur where literal translation is grammatically possible but may not accord with natural usage in the TL so it is the matter of naturalness between SL and TL, for example the change of word-class from noun to verb as in the translation of ‘The pursuits of an intellectual life’ to ‘Mengejar kehidupan intelektual’. The last, shifts occur to replace virtual lexical gap by a grammatical structure, for example the change from phrase to clause as in the translation of ‘The man with blue jacket is Mr. Green’ to ‘Lelaki yang memakai jaket biru adalah Tuan Green’ (Hartono, 2009:30).

2.5 Types of Translation Shifts

There are five types of shifts provided by Catford (1965:73) divided into two major types namely level shifts, and category shifts consisting of structure shifts, class shifts, unit shifts, and intra-system shifts.

2.5.1 Level Shifts

Level shift occurs when an item at one linguistic level in SL has its translation equivalent at different level in TL (Catford, 1965:73). The only possible level shift in translation is the shift from grammar to lexis and vice versa as in the translation between English ‘This text is intended for….’ to French ‘Le present Manuel s’adresse a….’ From the example above, level shift occurs when English ‘this’ as a term in grammatical system of deictic is translated to French ‘le present’ as a modifier consisting an article + a lexical adjective. Another example is from English ‘He is eating a noodle soup’ translated to Indonesian ‘Dia sedang makan mie rebus’ where a grammatical structure of English present continuous tense (is + V-ing) is translated to Indonesian lexicon ‘sedang’.

2.5.2 Category Shifts

Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary (2000:196) defines category as a group of people or things with particular features in common. Catford (1965:76) states category shift refers to some shifts which share a particular feature – departures from formal correspondence in translation. Category shifts is divided into four types namely structure shifts, class shifts, unit shifts, and intra-system shifts. Structure Shifts

Structure shifts grammatically occur at any ranks of language where words, phrase, clauses, or sentences in SL has its translation equivalent with the same rank in TL so only their structures are different. Catford (1965:77) gives an example of structure shifts in clause rank from English clause ‘The man is in the boat.’ to Gaelic clause ‘Tha an duine anns a’ bhata.’ where their subjects are highlighted, their predicators are italicized and their adjuncts are underlined. A shift of structure occurs since the subject and the predicator of English clause exchange their position when the clause is translated to Gaelic so the structure S-P-A in English is switched into P-S-A in Gaelic. Another structure shift also occurs at phrase rank from ‘A beautiful woman’ with adjective + noun in English to ‘wanita yang cantik’ with noun + adjective in Indonesian.

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View our services Class Shifts

Class shifts occur when the translation equivalent of a SL item is a member of a different class from the original item. An example given by Catford (1965:79) clearly shows a change of class from English phrase ‘A white house’ to French phrase ‘Une maison blanche’ where the English adjective ‘white’ as a modifier (M) has its equivalence in French adjective ‘blanche’ as a qualifier (Q) although both of them are adjectives, they possess different functions as a modifier in English and as a qualifier in French. A change of class also occurs when an English clause ‘They insist on higher wages’ is translated into an Indonesian clause ‘Mereka menuntut kenaikan gaji’. The example shows that the English adjective of comparative ‘higher’ changes to Indonesian noun ‘kenaikan’. Unit Shifts

Unit shifts occur when the translation equivalent of a unit at one rank in the SL is a unit at different rank in the TL. An example comes from the translation of English clause ‘My father is very nice’ to Indonesian clause ‘Ayahku sangat baik’ where a phrase in SL ‘my father’ has a word ‘ayahku’ in TL as its equivalence. Intra-System Shifts

Intra-system shifts are departures from formal correspondence where (a term operating in) one system in the SL has its translation equivalent (a term operating in) a different non-corresponding system in the TL, the shifts occur internally within a system. Vinay and Darbelnet in Catford (1965:80) give examples of the system related to the singular and plural form of words between English and French. An English singular word ‘advice’ has translation equivalent a French plural word ‘des concils’ and vice versa, a French singular word ‘le pantalon’ has translation equivalent an English plural word ‘trousers’.

2.6 Midterm Test on Translation 2 Subject as the Source of Data

Translation Skill is one of the subjects provided by English Department State University of Jakarta divided into two subjects taken continuously in different semesters namely Translation 1 in the fourth semester and Translation 2 in the fifth semester. Both subjects have four credits and are held twice a week. The purpose of this subject is to prepare reliable translators who can translate various kinds of texts including legal and non-legal text from English to Indonesian and vice versa. To reach its goal, students are not only given theories of translation such as definition, process, and various strategies to produce adequate translation, but they are also assigned to translate various kinds of texts to train their translation skill and to apply the theories they are studying.

In the middle of the meetings, Translation 2 holds midterm test on November 2nd 2012 which consists of two parts. On the first part, students are given two texts and they have to choose the types of those texts whether persuasive, descriptive, or expository as well as to give their reasons regarding their choices. What will be analyzed by the writer is the second part of the test where students have to translate two texts from English to Indonesian titled The Meaning of “English Literature” and Enhancing the Role of Forests in Adapting to Climate Change as clearly, naturally, and accurately as possible. Although this is a midterm test, students are still allowed to open their dictionaries but it only helps them to find the lexical meaning of words. They still have to pay more attention to find its contextual meaning and to adjust their translations in the appropriate structures of Indonesian language using the strategies they have learnt so far, and one of the strategies may be translation shifts. Translated texts from midterm test are chosen as the source of data because during midterm test, students are translating the texts more carefully and more seriously to produce clear, natural, and accurate translations in order to obtain proper score. It comes better possibility to produce better translation.



This chapter consists of theoretical framework, research method, data and source of data, data collection procedures, and data analysis procedures.

3.1. Theoretical Framework

Following up the definition of translation by Larson who states translation is to transfer the meaning and to change the form of texts from SL to TL, the writer will conduct a study about translation shift in students’ translated texts. Catford (1965:73) defines translation shifts as the departures from formal correspondence in the process of going from SL to TL. In other words, there will be some changes of form when a text is translated from SL to TL. Newmark (1988:85) states shifts occur when SL and TL have different language systems, when the grammatical structures of SL do not exist in TL, when literal translation is grammatically possible but may not accord with natural usage in the TL, and when translators want to replace virtual lexical gap by a grammatical structure. The translated texts are taken from English Department State University of Jakarta students’ answer sheets of Translation 2 midterm test and those translated texts will be analyzed using the theories of translation shifts by Catford who divided shifts into five categories namely level shifts, structure shifts, class shifts, unit shifts, and intra-system shifts. The writer chooses to analyze translated texts from midterm test because during midterm test, students will be more serious and more careful in doing their tests to obtain proper score so the possibility to produce better translation is higher.

3.2 Research Method

In this study, the writer will use descriptive analysis as the method of the study. Kountur (2004:105) defines descriptive as a kind of research which gives descriptions or analyses over a situation as clearly as possible without manipulating the objects being observed. Therefore, in descriptive analysis method, the writer will describe the data and continued by analyzing them as Ratna (2010:53) states that descriptive analysis method is conducted by describing facts followed by analyses providing sufficient understanding and explanation.

3.3 Data and Sources of Data

Thirty-five translated texts in Indonesian language from midterm test on Translation 2 subject will be used as the source of data. The analysis will be focused on the words, phrases, and clauses in the texts as the data.

3.4 Data Collection Procedures

Data collection is a process of recording an event and gathering pertinent information (La Pierre and Zimmerman, 1997:39). In this study, the writer will collect the data using following procedures:

Asking for permission from the lecturers of Translation 2 subject to borrow answer and question sheets.

Copying the answer and the question sheets.

Reading two English texts in the question sheet.

Reading two translated texts written in Indonesian from students’ answer sheets.

Underlining words, phrases, and clauses where translation shifts occur to be categorized and analyzed later.

3.5 Data Analysis Procedures

After collecting the data, the writer will analyze them using the procedures below:

Drawing a table consisting of English items, Indonesian items, and types of shift columns as following:

English Items

Indonesian Items

Level Shifts

Category Shifts

Structure Shifts

Class Shifts

Unit Shifts

Intra-system Shifts

Name of Students: ……………………

Filling English and Indonesian Items columns with the words, phrases, or clauses from both versions of texts to be analyzed.

Determining the patterns of shift on the types of shift columns as shown below:

English Items

Indonesian Items

Level Shifts

Category Shifts

Structure Shifts

Class Shifts

Unit Shifts

Intra-system Shifts

They insist on higher wages

Mereka menuntut kenaikan gaji

Adjective to Noun

Listing the types and the patterns of shift used by every student as shown below:

Student A

Types of Shift


Patterns of Shift


Level Shifts


Grammar to Lexis


Structure Shifts


Adj+N to N+Adj


Class Shifts


Adjective to Noun


Noun to Adjective


Unit Shifts


Word to Phrase


Phrase to Word


Intra-System Shifts


Plural to Singular


Stating the dominant types and patterns of shift. For example, the table above shows that the dominant type of shift is intra-system shifts while the dominant patterns of shift are ‘grammar to lexis’ from level shifts, ‘Adj+N to N+Adj’ from structure shifts, ‘Adjective to Noun’ from class shifts, ‘Phrase to Word’ from unit shifts, and ‘Plural to Singular’ from intra-system shifts.


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