Slang is a very informal spoken language with abundant cultural backgrounds. When people use slang to replace ordinary expression, they are not only exchanging the meaning, but also the information and emotion with that slang.

Thus, slang translation should not be word-for-word translation. Translators must understand all of the connotations within that slang and express them in corresponding and powerful target language.

There are three equivalences need to be pay attention to during translation.

i. Semantic Equivalence

Some slang has equivalent expression in Chinese, such as “dead-end street” can be translated into 死胡同 or 死路. But most of them do not have. Thus we should consider the connotation and context, find out the most suitable expression in Chinese.

For example:

Mr. John is a little under the weather these days.

“under the weather” here means a little sick or ill, or feel depressed, upset.

Thus, it should be translated as 身体不适 or 心情不好.

ii. Stylistic Equivalence

Besides to semantic equivalence, stylistic equivalence is also very important. As slangs are always appear in friendly, casual and informal situation, we should avoid using stiff and formal expression. Instead, it is better to use relevant stylistic to reproduce the humorous, funny and colloquialism of English slangs.

Here is an example:

And now 2000 women want his number. The guy could be a crack head, a transvestite, a flasher, a junkie, a chain – saw murder or someone really sick.


Read Also: English Language Translation

iii. Cultural Equivalence

Cultural background is also a key element in understanding meanings and implications of English slangs. Due to different living habits, religious ceremonies, values and priorities, we should pay special attention in culture representation. For example, when translating the phrase “keep a straigntface”, we can find the corresponding Chinese expression 板着脸 or 拉长脸. Also, for the phrase “nodding acquaintance”, we can translate it into 点头之交.

Some slangs are euphemism, usually some embarrassed, hard-to-speak-out words. For example, there are many expression of die. As we Chinese also have different ways indicating die, we can use equivalent translations as follows:

to expire 逝世

to end one’s day 寿终正寝

to go west 命赴黄泉

to log down one’s life 献身

to go to sleep 长眠

to pay the debt of nature 了解尘缘

Another example is the different expressions of pregnant:

She is expecting. 她在待产中。

She is about to have a blessed event. 她不久会有喜事。

She is six months gone. 她已经有六个月身孕了。

In the end, I will provide you with some frequently used English slangs and their corresponding translation.

On the same wavelength 志趣相同

Space cadet 想入非非的人

Wrong side of the tracks 社会地位低的人

Follow one’s heart 做自己想做的事情

Cut a deal 达成协议

Throw your weight around 仗势欺人

A stupid person 笨蛋

Sick as a dog 病得很重

A social butterfly 善于交际的人

A piece of cake 小菜一碟

A slap in the face 公然受辱

A thorn in someone’s side 芒刺在背

Ants in one’s pants 坐立不安

Butterflies in mu stomach 心里紧张,七上八下

Cut to the chase 开门见山,单刀直入

Last straw 最后一根稻草

Left a bitter taste in the mouth 留下不愉快的回忆

Wrapped around one’s little finger 玩弄于股掌之间

When hell freezes over 决不可能的事

Not lift a finger 袖手旁观

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