Four Common English ‘Translations’ to Avoid

As speakers of English as a second language (ESL), it’s easy to fall into the habit of translating a phrase directly from our native tongue without double-checking whether the result is correct.

More often than not, this strategy leads to miscommunication in that these “translations” usually make no sense or could mean something else entirely!

Can you imagine how confused your foreign co-workers would be when you ask them about the company’s children fruit (anak buah)? Or the sheer terror you would strike in your English teachers when you ask them for exam kisses (kisi-kisi)?

Let’s look at the top five common mistakes ESL speakers in Indonesia make that often cause confusion:


Ramadhan has just come to an end, but you probably remember restaurants inviting customers to enjoy their seasonal “breakfasting” menu at the end of a long day of fasting. The only problem is that in English, breakfasting is done in the morning – at breakfast.

The correct phrase for the occasion is “breaking the fast.”

Granted, it doesn’t sound quite as catchy, but it will save your foreign friends from showing up to what they thought was a morning meal together!

I’m Boring!

English teachers often hear this from students in class – which never fails to make them smile or laugh. What these students mean to say is that they “feel bored,” but by exclaiming “I’m boring,” they are actually calling themselves dull and uninteresting!

Remember, when an adjective ends with -ing (boring, exciting), it describes an object or action that makes you feel a certain way.

To describe how you feel, use adjectives that end with -ed (bored, excited). This way, you won’t give people the wrong idea by saying, “I’m so annoying!”


This word is often used by people who are eager to get away from work or school by “refreshing” in Puncak.

However, “refreshing” is something you do to a web page to load the latest information on the site. It’s easy to see how the word can be confusing, especially as it’s related to the state of feeling “refreshed.” Nevertheless, it would be far more effective to say that you are looking forward to unwinding or de-stressing in Puncak.


This is often confused with the colloquial usage of the word “whatever,” with many ESL speakers falling into the habit of saying sentences like, “For the party, you can bring cookies, chips, soda or whatsoever.” This is an easy mistake to make as the two words look alike and share the same origin.

The trick is to remember that “whatsoever” is used in negative statements to add emphasis.

For example, if your wallet is empty, you can say, “I have no money whatsoever.” 

So, to prevent misunderstandings in the work place and at school, remember to avoid these common errors!

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