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03 July 2013

What is "Binara" in English? Problems in Translating Tagalog Words in English

"Ingles" o "Inggles?" Ginamit kong batayan ang isang
sanaysay ng isang Pambansang Alagad ng Sining
para matalakay nang bahagya ang tunay na baybayin
ng Inggles. (Purist Tagalog prefer the Tagalog Inggles
 to the Hispanic Ingles.)
Some people look down on Tagalog and put English on a higher pedestal but I have sometimes found English lacking when it comes to translating specific terms and expressions in Tagalog.  Our language is closely tied to our culture, which is often adaptable, dynamic and I dare say quirky.  Tagalog, and perhaps other Philippine dialects as well, often assign multiple meanings to just one word that English does not often do.  For example, the expression “naman,” does not have a direct translation in English. In some cases, “naman” can mean “of course.”

For example:
Statement: “Ang ganda mo ngayon!” (You’re beautiful today)
Reply: “Naman!” (“Of course,” or “you said it!”)



But the meaning of “naman” changes in a different context.
For example:
Statement: “May over time kayo today, kaya walang uuwi ng maaga!” (You all have to work over time today so no one should go home early.)
Reply: “Naman!”
The meaning of "naman" in this context cannot be "of course" because "naman" is spoken with irritation to say the least. The best translation may be "really" plus "you got to be kidding."

Working in an English language center, my co-teachers and I are obligated to speak English at all times so our foreign students can practice their English.  This environment has brought about many problems in translating everyday Tagalog words and expressions in English.  For example, what are the English translations for the following Tagalog words, “himulmol,” “nasita,” and “nabara?”

“Himulmol” may be translated as lint if you refer to the little pieces of thread on your clothes, but “himulmol” means “breaking at the seams” when you refer to the breakage at the seams of fabric. 

Example:
“Ang daming himulmol sa T-shirt mo.” (You have so much lint on your shirt)
“May himulmol na sa T-shirt mo.” (Your shirt is breaking at the seams).

One co-teacher said that we could also use “natastas” but “natastas” can mean “rip” or “run” and if “tastas” is an adjective, it means “unstitched” in English.

At the moment, the challenge in our school is to find an accurate translation for the Tagalog word “binara” or “nabara.”

Examples:
(1) “Binigyan ko lang ng pansin yung ginawa niya kanina, tapos binara ako.”
(2) “Mahusay mambara ng tao ang komedyanteng si Vice Ganda.”

Some of my colleagues gave funny suggestions but they do not entirely capture what the word “binara” means:
(1) I just commented on what he did a while ago and he blocked (or clogged) me.
(2) Vice Ganda is adept at blocking people.

Other funny suggestions for “binara” are “demoralized”  and “obstacled” (as in “he obstacled me,” which is more funny than grammatically correct.) “Scold,” “reprimand” and “berate” are strong words and they often denote punishment.  “Binara” is not physical; it is more verbal.  For now, the best I can come up is “reply curtly” or “give a curt reply or response.”

Example:
I just commented on what he did a while ago and he gave me a curt response.

Thankfully, all these dilemmas gave birth to a new project.  As English teachers, we now aim to translate some of the seemingly “untranslatable” Tagalog words in English so if you have some problems finding the English translation of Tagalog words, feel free to share them with us and we will do our best. 


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