Syntactic translation strategies are used when structural and conceptual elements of the source language can be transposed into the target language. They include: loan or borrowing, calque, and literal translation.


Loan is a translation strategy whereby a source-language word is transferred directly into the target-language text without translation. Many English words are ‘borrowed’ into other languages; for example software in the field of technology and funk in culture. English also borrows numerous words from other languages; abbatoire, café, passé and résumé from French; hamburger and kindergarten from German.


A calque is a translation technique where a morphological or syntactic structure of a source language is transferred unchanged into the target language. That is the linguistic unit is translated literally word-for-word.

One of the well-known claques in Romanian is a face anticameră, after the French faire antichambre. Another example is the Romanian verb a conlucra, which is a calque after the French collaborer following the patter: prefix con- and the lexeme laborer was translated a lucra.

An example of an unacceptable calque is gazolină, used by a journalist in the article called <Noul avion fara pilot al Pentagonului zboara la 21 km înaltime>, published by Ziarul de Iași, on January 21, 2011.  ‘Avionul funcționeaza cu hidrogen, combustibil care are o valoare energetică de trei ori mai mare decât gazolina, astfel că aparatul poate zbura la altitudini mai mari, pe distanțe lungi, la costuri mai mici și fără emisii poluante`, explica președintele AeroVironment, Tim Conver’. The text is clearly a translation from English where the term gasoline is translated with gazoline maybe because of their homophony instead of being translated – benzină, as is normal according to the context.

An unsuccessful calque can be extremely unnatural, and can cause unwanted humor, often interpreted as indicating the lack of expertise of the translator in the target language[1].

Calquing may also be a form of cultural borrowing, whereby only the model of source language grammatical structures is borrowed. Proving a word is a calque sometimes requires more documentation, since in some cases a similar phrase might have arisen in both languages independently. This is less likely to be the case when the grammar of the proposed calque is quite different from that of the language proposed to be borrowing, or the calque contains less obvious imagery.

Today, the Romanian translators show a strange tendency to resort to calque despite the fact that the Romanian language has the proper equivalent for the the respective reality. For instance the dissolution of marriage should be translated into Romanian desfacerea căsătoriei. However, there are not few cases when we can read dizolvarea căsătoriei.

Literal translation

Literal translation is a translation strategy which is a middle way between metaphrase and imitation, not too close and not too free; more generally, a translation that can be described as loose, free, sometimes even under-translated.  

             This translation strategy can help in comparing the syntactical and lexical structures in various languages.

Paul has signed a new contract.

Paul a semnat un nou  contract.

Elle peut créer des tensions au sein d’une famille.

Poate crea tensiuni în sânul unei familii.

Sometimes, the literal paraphrasing is indicative of the translator’s lack of creativity or his/her incapacity to use the language in a various way.

However, at the level of the specialized texts, literal translations works nicely

Ce terme est souvent ramplacé par ‘surdité’

 Acest termen este deseori înlocuit cu ‘surzenie’

except for the cases where such technique leads to forms which are not specific to the target language. In a documentary on the History channel, the sentence It doesn’t make any sense ­was translated Nu face niciun sens.

A hilarious case of literal translation was the translation of the syntagma trial-and-error which appeared in an IT magazine as process-și-eroare, în loc de metoda aproximării succesive or valorificarea eșecului temporar.

 [1] The English working vacation was translated ‘concediu lucrativ’ in a television documentary, showing also the translator’s gaps in the Romanian language.