Manglish or Bahasa rojak. How can?

Mariam Mokhtar | January 27, 2012
Free Malaysia Today

The inexcusable translation in our government departments is not just a question of lack of professionalism and education but, more importantly, of attitude, especially of those at the top.

Throughout Malaysia’s arms spending history, the government has forked out billions on defence procurement while millions more have allegedly been used for commissions and backhanders.

And yet the defence ministry does not see fit to apportion a tiny fraction of its massive budget on the services of a translator.

It cannot be a lack of funds or a scarcity of translators. Is it an aversion which started after one high-profile translator connected to a particular defence purchase met an untimely end?

When the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) posted its error-riddled translation on its English website to describe the dress code appropriate for staff, it received extraordinary attention on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The translations ranged from the painful sounding “Clothes that poke eye” to the more serious safety connotation of the “Malaysian Government take drastic measures to increase the level of any national security threat”.

Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi admitted that his ministry had utilised the free Google online translator. He subsequently ordered the site to be removed temporarily. It is easy to blame Google.

The buck should stop with him, the minister. Was he being penny-wise, pound-foolish or is this merely lack of attention to detail? Military budgets are not just about buying the big toys. What use is the equipment if no one can translate the repair manuals for our service engineers?

It is not sufficient for Zahid to confirm that future translations will be done manually. Shouldn’t the Cabinet be looking to overhaul the whole education system and specifically the manner in which students treat their education and the learning of English? Nationalist sentiments should not override global aspirations.

Malaysia’s seemingly bottomless military budget has been spent on armaments and other defence hardware including the purchase of two Scorpene submarines at RM7.3 billion. The Scorpene deal allegedly included RM570 million on “coordination and support” services, a euphemism for “commission”, to a little-known company called Perimekar.

In the Scorpene scandal, which is now being fought in the French courts, a Mongolian model-cum- translator, Altantuya Shaaribuu, who was said to be fluent in Russian, English, Chinese and French, was later found murdered in a jungle in Shah Alam.

What about training and repair manuals?

Are the problems in Mindef the tip of the iceberg? Can Zahid reassure us that none of his men have used the free online Google translator to translate defence training or repair manuals from some foreign language to Bahasa?

The frequent waste of military hardware from crashing planes to defective equipment, has resulted in heavy loss of lives and expensive machines. The wide array of armaments from different countries, contribute towards complications in maintenance, poor operational effectiveness, stocking issues and compatibility between different systems. Could the translated manuals have posed a problem, too?

One former member of the armed forces confided, “The MiG manuals were translated from Hindi to BM. We bought the jets from Russia. MiG jets are built under licence in India for the Indian air force. The Russians must have found it easier to get the Hindi version translated instead.”

It isn’t just cyberspace where government bodies are maligned. Perak enters the New Year with the much-touted Visit Perak Year (VPY) 2012.

In 2011, the patience of hoteliers, travel agents and ordinary Perakians including politicians was tested when many claimed that very few people knew what VPY 2012 involved.

The state is hoping to receive in excess of three million visitors, both foreign and local tourists. Despite that, many tourist sites were not prepared for VPY 2012.

The ‘Ipoh Tree’ saga

In October 2011, a local Ipoh community paper, highlighted the glaring problems in the proficiency of English of the staff working at the Perak Tourist Information Centre (Pusat Pelancongan Perak) near the Ipoh Padang.

According to the paper, the Perak Tourism Information Centre, which is an extension of the Ipoh City Council’s tourism department, had an embarrassing description of the Ipoh Tree, emblazoned beneath a photograph of the tree, on display at the centre.

The full text which the paper reportedly found at the centre is reproduced here:

“The words ‘Ipoh’ makes us memorize to Ipoh Tree. Epu or Upas Tree (Antiaris Toxicarial). It can be found in many areas surrounding Ipoh City old time ago. Introduction about Ipoh tree as a place can get it from “Perak And The Malays” book author by J.F. Mcnair in 1979.

“This tree is grouping under ‘nettle’ species and can growth up until hundred feet’s tall. The primitive using the Ipoh Tree’s liquid to make a poison dart to use in their weapon. This tree also can be found in Borneo Sumatera, India and Philippine. Now days Ipoh Tree can be founded at Railway Station and D.R. Seenivasagam Park.”

Even primary school students will consider the above description, which is littered with errors, to be gibberish.

If people think that it does not matter that such things happen in a provincial city like Ipoh, then how about the gaffe which occurred when Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and his entourage visited Putrajaya? The banner flying at the welcoming ceremony was printed in inaccurate Chinese.

Or how about the court interpreter, Ting Chin Kin, who translated Teoh Beng Hock’s supposed suicide note using Google Translate?

Just like in the Mindef mess, the inexcusable translation in our government departments is not just a question of lack of professionalism and education but, more importantly, of the attitude, especially of those at the top. Incompetent officials appear to hold sway in the Malaysian civil service and Cabinet.

The top echelons should dispense with their “tidak-apa” attitude, and lead by example. If they demanded good results and accuracy, then perhaps, people might feel less inclined to say that the two important languages in Malaysia are Manglish and Malay.

  1. #1 by sheriff singh on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 1:45 pm

    Lost in Translation in Ipoh? So what are the local councillors and assemblymen doing? What are the MPs doing? Oh, I forget. There is the eastern part and the western part of the city. I hear next round there will be a northern, central and southern parts as well, all to make things more interesting.

  2. #2 by good coolie on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 2:04 pm

    I am an old bloody-fool (there are young ones of that type too) and I am looking for a job to fill up my empty pockets. I am sure that I can get through, and polish up, the mangled-lish we find in government documents. But I will not be employed because I am not a “son of the soil” (Mahatir’s concoction for segregating Malaysians).

  3. #3 by dagen on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 2:40 pm

    The write up on Ipoh tree was done immediately after the author was struck by Mr English’s super muscle relaxant.

  4. #4 by cskok8 on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 3:41 pm

    Whats the point in learning English? We are not buying arms from UK or USA anymore. Better learn French, Russian or Turkish.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 4:42 pm

    Now that only 11% of schools choose to use PPSMI, the rot in English will continue. One more thing— it is impossible to learn the English language without understanding its grammar.

    For instance, as Saiful says, “Today I pangsai. Yesterday I pangsai-ed. Tomorrow I shall pangsai and now I am pangsa-ing”

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 5:02 pm

    The sad thing is the author is not even concern on his/her mistake. Likely to ask , so what? that is not my Mother tongue; such attitude is likely to be the reaction! Their pride will be found at mostly unexpected issue. In a sense, there is no doubt that this is also an outcome of the policy of hiding weaknesses behing one’s right to do whatever one desires. Hope for change, only when more rational leaders take over!

  7. #7 by yhsiew on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 8:00 pm

    ///Shouldn’t the Cabinet be looking to overhaul the whole education system and specifically the manner in which students treat their education and the learning of English?///

    The current education system is aimed at making life easy for people whose mother tongue is Malay. It is unlikely that the government will seriously do anything to uplift the status of English in government schools and colleges.

  8. #8 by cemerlang on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 9:16 pm

    The word professional is a much abused word. Flip flop education. In the beginning, Inglis is compulsory. Later, Bee Am is compulsory. Now Inglis is important. Be specifik. Which is compulsory ? If you cannot make up your mind and your mind is not fokus, your translation is scrued. If you the authority cannot do anyding, don’t expect your citizens to be able to do anyding. Day will just copy paste from u. The ones with quality will feel disgusted and they will just leave the country. Outcome from this sort of learning base will be of no quality. Imagine. You fly from US to UK to Australia to NZ to France to Timbuktu looking for the best education system. You put all these together and what you get is a messed up system. Because this is rojak.

  9. #9 by Loh on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 9:48 pm

    ///Defence Minister Zahid Hamidi admitted that his ministry had utilised the free Google online translator. He subsequently ordered the site to be removed temporarily. It is easy to blame Google.///–M Mokhtar

    There is nothing wrong with using Google online translator to speed up translation. The trouble is the person working on translation was either lazy to edit the machine produced text, or worse he was not qualified for the job.

  10. #10 by monsterball on Friday, 27 January 2012 - 9:59 pm

    In the name of defending the country and people…UMNO b thieves found a way to make billions in term of commission and approving overpriced defense equipments.
    How sickening low can an elected bunch of politicians be.

  11. #11 by cemerlang on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 1:15 am

    If you are the immediate staff to the Menteri that is Minister, you better know your Bahasa Malaysia very well. In fact, working side by side with people who lead your nation, means that you better be a professional linguist to translate a document. It is stupid to give an official document so to speak, to any Tom, Dick and Harry and expect them to translate it. If you are an ordinary Malaysian who uses English and it is not your native tongue and you are not a professional linguist, save yourself from being laughed at for being a fool for translating an official document. You cannot just fish out any Mat Salleh with his her native tongue of English to do your translating also. Officers in the Ministry level, the high powered team which lead the nation, think that the whole world is made of fools who cannot be bothered about the details that go into the translation of an official document. Do not wear clothes that are revealing. Do not wear sexily. Do not wear fitting clothings. Do not wear tight clothings. Wear your national clothes or dress and that is Malay clothe or dress or baju Melayu that is loose and baggy and the traditional type not the modern type that fits your body. And this is not professional English. This is just the everyday English or Manglish.

  12. #12 by drngsc on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 9:52 am

    My friends,
    It is arrogance. I can do whatever I like. What can you, rakyat do about it? Once in 4-5 years, I bribe you, I have Mr Gerry and Mander, I have Mr Phantom, I own helicopters and postal votes. I give out instant ICs to people I tell to keep quiet, and not to vote when GE 13 comes ( Mr Silent ). Why should I care about you. That is the attitude.

    Wake up, Malaysians.
    It is time for a change. They think that Putrajaya is their permanent address

    We must change the tenant at Putrajaya, GE 13 is our best chance. It is coming soon. Failure is not an option. We must show them that the Rakyat is the boss. Please, let us all work very very hard for victory in GE 13.

  13. #13 by monsterball on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 10:07 am

    Mariam Mokhtar is a brave intelligent freedom fighter.
    She refused to be bought and join UMNO b.
    She parted ways with Rias Yatim.
    Her messages are constant reminders…what we need to do…and young voters can read and learn more.
    Her contribution to gather votes for change cannot be seen…but I am sure…PR leaders do appreciate her efforts all these years.
    Read her message and know how sickening our government is.

  14. #14 by dagen on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 10:51 am

    Translations? Aisehman. We thought about supplying rubbish bins. About hightec public toilets. About decorating gobermen depts with fresh flowers. About setting up facebook pages. About putting up 1malaysia signboards. And about lots and lots of other possible contracts. And you know wat mariam mokhtar? We have actually ran out of ideas. Really. Semua yg boleh buat pun sudah sedang diusahakan. Of course by certain certain umnoputra. And now translation. Ho Ho Ho. That is new. Opportunity yg baru. Never thought about that. Good. Kita sekarang boleh buat kontrak translation. We can have language labs for all gobermen depts. Complete with latest software. And and latest computers and servers and headphones. Software harga 10,000 each. Computer 20,000 each dan headphones 10,000 setiap satu. Whole country kita sapu semua. So we need a 100 storey HQ and 5000 computers and 5000 software. And of course a team of 2000 translators from indonesia. Then we can also propose a International Islamic (jenis umno) University of Language Translation. Wooow. This is big business. Errr Jib boleh adakan interim budget. Kita nak interim allocation 10billion for translation works and segala yg berkenaan dgn translation. Ni urgent sikit.

    ps. thank you mariam.

  15. #15 by cemerlang on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 12:05 pm

    We thought about supplying rubbish bins. About hightec public toilets. About decorating gobermen depts with fresh flowers. About setting up facebook pages. About putting up 1malaysia signboards. And about lots and lots of other possible contracts.

    These are what we call icing on the cake which looks beautiful. But does the cake itself taste nice ? These are not quality. A neatly professionally laser printed out document does not reflect the same professionalism inside the department. You should see all the shit that goes on inside. But you know already.

    Why should you care ? You should because you receive the people’s vote and the confidence that you would care for them. That is what is required from you. You are bound by laws, by morals, by ethics, by your conscience, by your religion, by obligations to care even though you do not feel like it. If you think that the vote is meaningless, then the people should not vote. People did not vote to let your earn big money, sit in winter cold Putrajaya or whatever jaya there is, live a jet set life. People vote you to work for them. People is your boss. It is like the stakeholders who decide the fate of the CEO.

  16. #16 by Kampong Orang on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 2:39 pm

    Remember the previous defence minister, Najib, bought 2 submarines from France and paid RM500 million to a new company owned by wife of Razak Baginda?

    A government like BeEnd government buying equipments requires a middle agent like wife of Razak Baginda? This is clearly giving away money (actually corruption!) to a couple who are close friend of Najib.

    The rural people in whole Malaysia not all are informed of this. Anyone who knows this, would certainly be angry.

    Today, Najib said, his government is good for long term development. SWEET TALK again, the longer they stay one, the longer Malaysia debt increase without stopping and Ringit continue to be far away from dollar Brunei and Singapore.

  17. #17 by boh-liao on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 6:34 pm

    No surprise what. Nowadays where got normal M’sians understand Queen’s English 1 (only offspring of UmnoB/BN who got educated in England motherland can 1), only understand BMglish lah; Queen’s English too poke eyes mah
    Lagi, got advantage know only BMglish 1 – in case get caught with bags of $$$ in outside country, can claim innocence lor cos no understand Queen’s English what

  18. #18 by sotong on Saturday, 28 January 2012 - 6:39 pm

    This is the result of decades of bad leadership and gross mismanagement…..and still they don’t care!

  19. #19 by Loh on Sunday, 29 January 2012 - 6:06 am

    ///“Do not cause havoc in this country because the 2.8 million Rela members will not stand idly by and watch the country descend into chaos,” he (Najib) said to a chorus of approval from the audience.///–Malaysia Today,

    Rela members are also UMNO members who are militant. Najib’s statement can be understood to mean that if UMNO does not win by General Election, they will keep power through riots.,

  20. #20 by PoliticoKat on Monday, 30 January 2012 - 2:02 am

    I am amused and rather glad.
    Finally after much neglect, the powers that be are finally seeing what decades of neglect has done to Malaysia’s English proficiency.

    It seems that the average Malaysian government servant can’t string a decent English sentence together anymore. And imagine, we really were rather good at that language… defending champion of the Commonwealth postmaster’s competition about 3 decades ago.

    Ah, well as the government has said, Malaysian have no need English. We are a ‘rich’ people so let hire some translators.

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