Monday, January 16, 2012

'Poke Eye' Language

Malaysiakini reported on January 10, 2012 that the Ministry of Defence had blamed the use of Google Translate for the mangled English that appeared on its website, sparking online ridicule. That is just so lame!

The literal translations on the staff dress code guidelines – from the Malay language into English – illustrated our cleverness. These included “pakaian yang menjolok mata” (“clothes that poke eye”) – a reference to revealing attire, and “berkolar baju Melayu cekak musang berbutang tiga” (“collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three”).

Please lah – don’t take us for idiots! Even if you use Google Translate – any person with average intelligence knows that it shouldn’t be used directly. It is important to fathom the linguistic context; otherwise you get phrases like the ones highlighted above! What’s more, you can still spot the errors before you upload the translated script onto the website – if you do actually check and double-check, that is. Unless, of course, you are asleep on the job.

As you will have known by now, snickering Malaysians speedily passed the bungled translations around via social networking sites. The passages have since been removed from the ministry’s website as MOD officials turned beetroot red.

Mortified Malaysians should try to be understanding. Given that our fellow citizens are wretchedly educated, the poor blighters at MOD have no choice but to turn to Google Translate, which is convenient and also free. They couldn’t help it – they had discovered that their command of the English language was so atrociously bad that they would be struggling to render their copy into English. Please be sympathetic! Don’t mock these Malaysians – it’s not their fault their English is dreadful. Blame it on the Government because it was their political myopia that caused the standard of English to decline as fast as lightning.

"We have corrected the mistakes and translations are no longer done that way. It is now done manually,” Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (above) told The Star on January 09, 2012. The damage’s done, isn’t it?

But if you care to check the MOD website ( today - as I did this morning - you cannot help but notice that the English version is actually in Malay and the writings and articles are all preceded with one telling line: There are no translations available. I reckon that since abandoning Google Translate, the Ministry must attempt to do the job manually. One can deduce that this poses a testing challenge to those tasked to do the translation work! Coupled with their poor English – it may take a long time before the English version is in English! I suppose they have not heard of outsourcing. Or maybe they would consider it if there is big money to be made on the side if they manage to put in a hefty budget for this translating job.

So there you have it – the proof that English in this country is being butchered. Now you know why I cringe with embarassment when Malaysians open their mouths to speak! I’d rather have them shower me with spittle than words that just don't make sense! I regret to report that the Queen’s English has departed from our shores.

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