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Translation: How to translate borrowed words in Vietnamese?

Translation: How to translate borrowed words in Vietnamese?

Translation: How to translate borrowed words in Vietnamese?

What will you do if you can’t find a Vietnamese word that matches the English word you need to translate? For example, how would you translate the parts of a newly invented machine or the name of a drug in therapeutic medicine? Borrowing words in translation is the solution. Learn how to borrow and how to use borrowed words in translation to deal with these situations.

What is borrowing in translation?

Borrowing in translation is the reuse of an entire word or the transliteration of it in the target language. Borrowed words can sometimes be “sprinkled“ with Vietnamese elements to make them easier to read even for people who don’t know a foreign language. There are also many words that have been included in the dictionary, but most of them do not have a specific definition in Vietnamese.

The transliteration technique turning sounds into words is the main principle and the primary way to convert borrowed words from foreign languages into Vietnamese, and over time, familiarize them, are widely recognized and used in Vietnam.

In order to correctly determine which words should be borrowed and which are used as is, translators need to have experience in this regard. You can also recognize and apply borrowed words when translating through some signs below.

Translation: How to translate borrowed words in Vietnamese?

#1. Borrowed from the original

This means you use the English word as is and apply it in Vietnamese. In this case, those English words are often used in speech and, in turn, lead to familiarity. For example:

Website; email (e-mail); Internet; Click; Online; vlogger, vlog, blog, …

You can easily see that the words in the above example come from the field of information technology. Why is that? The simple answer is because computer terminology is very new to the Vietnamese language, so although sometimes there are words that can be translated into Vietnamese, computer engineers are used to using the original word and can create a “modern” expression.

#2. Because can’t find the equivalent word with the same length in Vietnamese

When you translate, it is very easy to encounter this situation. Failure to choose the equivalent Vietnamese word is often encountered when localizing software, especially its functions.


Sometimes you have to interpret a short phrase of 1-2 three words in English into one long word in Vietnamese. Inconvenient, isn’t it?

For example:

  • the word License = “Li-xăng”. If we apply the common meaning “Permit” or “Giving permit”, it may be only partially correct.
  • the word Internet = “World-wide-web” that is pronounced in tuh net. Even its definition includes the phrase world-wide-web. In this case, the word Internet has been included in the Vietnamese dictionary and has a clear definition, so we will immediately understand what the Internet is and consider it a Vietnamese word.

#3. Name of person, places, countries; chemicals, medicine, etc.

This is a common phenomenon that we frequently encounter. You can easily call out the name of the President of the United States are Mr. Bee den or Mr. By duhn. Or when you are at school, you learn the 108 chemical elements in the periodic table. All are transliterated from foreign languages into Vietnamese words.

Normally, when writing into Vietnamese names, places or chemicals, we will write them more concisely (abridged letters) and can also use hyphens. For example:

  • Drug name Ampicillin = am-pi-xi-lin: in addition to the transcription, the name of the type (drug) is added for distinguishing purpose.
  • Albert Einstein’s name = An-be Anh-xtanh
  • Country: Indonexia = In-đô-nê-xi-a
  • Chemicals: Chloride = Clo-rua; clo; cờ-lo (borrowing from French root chlorure)

#4. Turn sounds into letters

This is the most common borrowing techniques in the Vietnamese language. From the time of Hanization to the French colonial period, the Vietnamese language is a culture melting pot. The translation of sounds into words means that you write what you hear, sometimes it is only a near representation but we still can understand and ensure semantic elements.

  • Some words you use very often are: hello; antenna; beer; bus; … is a few of the words that have been borrowed by the old long time ago.
  • Nhất, nhị, tam, tứ (one, two, three, four) … are all borrowed words.
  • Bu lông (bolts); Búp bê (doll); Cabin; Công ten nơ (Container); ….

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