Literal translation

From Teflpedia

A literal translation is something translated where the target language reflects the literal meaning of the original language. This can result in mistranslation, i.e. a literal mistranslation.

Examples from Chinese[edit | edit source]

For example the following Chinese phrases are often literally translated:

L1 word Literal translation Accurate translation
冰山 (bīngshān) #ice mountain iceberg
茶桌 (chá zhuō) #tea table coffee table
吃药 (chī yào)

喝药 (hē yào)

#to eat medicine

#to drink medicine

to take medicine
方便面 (fāngbiàn miàn) #convenient noodles instant noodles
红茶 (hóngchá) #red tea black tea
爬山 (páshān) #to climb a mountain to hike
睡衣 (shuìyī) #sleep clothes pyjamas
意大利面 (Yìdàlì miàn) #Italian noodles spaghetti

Idioms[edit | edit source]

Idioms may or may not literally translate. Sometimes an idiom is present in both languages.

Other times the translated idiom may not be found in English, but be simple to understand. For example, the Italian "ubriaco come una scimmia" literally translates as "drunk as a monkey", obviously meaning "very drunk", [1] so if an Italian student said #"he was as drunk as a monkey", they would probably be understood even though it’s not a natural English phrase.

Sometimes the idiom translates differently. For example, "It’s Greek to me" translates into other languages often referencing the alleged incomprehensibility of Chinese or Spanish rather than Greek[2]

References[edit | edit source]