Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Translation skills

This first post of the new year is so late in coming...

An uncle of mine passed away on Sunday morning so we had to rush to Singapore. We just got back from KL the night before.

I was thinking of writing something about the sad occasion but perhaps on a later day. For now, just a simple post about some signs I saw on my travels.

Pic 1 : Bbeteng Restaurant at Taman Tamaddun Islam in KT

Pic 2 : Menu at Bbeteng

Pic 3 : Notice at Jusco Setiawangsa

The first photo is the entrance of Bbeteng Restaurant at the new Taman Tamaddun Islam in Kuala Terengganu, where the Crystal Mosque is located. Nothing interesting in this pic except for the banner proclaiming a special `Menu Musim Bah' that was on offer. It is an introduction to the next photo which shows the restaurant menu... where Keropok Lekor is translated as `Deep fried fish farce'. Hmmm....

The third photo is a notice at Jusco Setiawangsa in Kuala Lumpur, placed in front of the Christmas tree display. The Malay part of the sign sounds okay... but I cringe when I read the English translation.

Update 06.01.10 : Perhaps I should clarify a bit on this post to avoid misunderstanding. It is not my intention to make fun of the mistakes or to show that I have a better command of English. Rather, I am hoping that those who do such translation work to take a bit more care in what they do. If you are translating something that would be read by thousands of people, then please make the effort to do it correctly. If you are not sure about your translation, get help from people who can check your work. And that, I believe, is not a difficult thing to do.

24 comments:

NanaDJ said...

Oldstock,
Bad translation? What else is new? Lately the standard of both written and spoken English is getting from bad to worse. Remember, the boo boo made by one of the Universities in an Englisy daily in their write up about their newly appointed Chancellor not so long ago? If a University could come up with such atrociously written piece and if one of our leading English newspaper could publish it without editing or correcting the error filled piece, I am not surprise with the examples you gave.

To quote an ex state bigwig 'I am interesting to know, what is the because?' - can't he just say it in Bahasa without showing off his English language skill!

3yearshousewife said...

Oldstock,
Maybe the keropok is a farce after all with so much flour and so very little fish...
Touching the displaying side? Nak cari nahas?

D said...

Oldstock,
It's a sorry sight :(. It's either:1)an overseas grad was trusted to do the translation, with the assumption that he/she must have good English, or 2)someone who claims to be an English major (by qualification) did it - unfortunately, he/she can't translate well.

I've got friends that fall in both the categories above. For the former, I'd blame the employers; for the latter - go and change your profession! :)

Chahya said...

Have you seen the subtitles in some movies? Hilarious!

Once I saw a movie where there's a scene of a surprise bday party. The translation done for the exclamation 'Surprise!!!' was 'Hairan!!!'

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Oldstock,

Bet all of us had seen worse from other non-English speaking countries,especially China is atrocious when it comes to public service announcement info signs.

In this particular case, the idea was there..hehehe, it's a matter of close enough is good enough, no? Not from an engineer's point of view I supposed. Or perhaps it's a delibrate mistake to show that we r truly uniquely M'sia & this is how we like it, shaken not stirred :)

Cheers,
Tommy

HLiza said...

Same here Pak..I see poor translation everywhere..sedihkan..I wish our standard will be much better than this.

masterwordsmith said...

Hi Oldstock

Swinging by to wish you and yours the very best for 2010.

Thanks for this post. You have written it with much grace and most diplomatically. Keep up the wonderful blogging!

Take care and I pray for good health, happiness and love for you and yours always.

Salam

Snakebite said...

waa..itu salah ka? suda tuka ka? i always the thought, english itu macam the like?

heard this from somebody when i was in sarawak. a yb was delivering a speech. "we must all copulate (cooperate)wit eech ahdder..."

pakmat said...

yeah..so what else is new? how about hair dressing saloon?..which have me conjuring images of gals drinking beer whilst shampooing..so it is not necessary for you to clarify..bad translation is a way of life here in Malaysia..and you can touch my side..this old man doesn't mind..:) cheers..

Oldstock said...

NanaDJ,

I have a copy of a UTHM advertorial, if that's the same university you're talking about. Tak sampai hati nak include in this post.

Oldstock said...

As,

Hahaha... I should have tasted the keropok lekor, to see if it is actually a farce.

Now which displaying side are you talking about ;-)

Oldstock said...

D,

You're probably right... and I feel sorry for the employers and the uni grads. I would like all uni grads to improve and yes, they should be encouraged to write and learn from mistakes. But if they just put up something that they think is right and do not bother to check, then they'll never improve.

Oldstock said...

Chahya,

Subtitles in old movies are classic and hilarious!

I remember this one from a P. Ramlee movie : Ahmad Nisfu was cooing to a baby and saying, `Alahai intan payung...'

The subtitle reads : Ooh, diamond umbrella...

Oldstock said...

Hi Tommy,

The wonderful english translations from the Chinese and Japanese are without comparison. Just check out Engrish.com. But to me, that's hardly surprising because they are not known to be good English speakers in the first place.

It is not that I see it from and engineer's point of view or cannot accept is as being close enough... it is simply that I hate tardiness. I'm sure the signs have been there for quite some time but nobody bothered to correct them. Perhaps they think it is acceptable...

If we, as a nation, are willing to accept such standards, then we are really moving backwards. That would be sad.

Oldstock said...

Hliza,

Just as per my response to Tommy's comment above... someday, such translations are more the norm than the exception. And we'll then join Japan and China and others in Engrish.com.

Oldstock said...

Hi Paula,

With grace and diplomacy, eh? No lah! Blogging suka-suka je :-)

You take care too...

Oldstock said...

Yo snake,

Where got like that one... Aiseh, how to copulate wit eech ahhder. One on one, can laa..

Oldstock said...

Pakmat,

Err... which side are you allowing us to touch? Sure you don't mind aa?

Andrea Wh@tever said...

Dear Oldstock,

A few years back, I was at this negotiating table with a client from China. He had wanted us to bookrun his IPO but I was extremely sceptical of the profit forecasts that he was throwing around. Exasperated, he looked and me and said "Let me show you my virginity"

Of course, I was very shocked. But that quickly turned into great relief when I realised that what he meant was "Let me show you my SINCERITY" *laughs*

NanaDJ said...

Oldstock,
Yes thats the one I was referring to. If you want to know who said those famous words, will let you know via email, takut kena sue nanti.
Salam

DrSam said...

Language per say, is very intriguing but at the same time can be very amusing as well.

I would love to indulge myself at Bbeteng restaurant with a round of deep fried fish 'farce'. My all time favourite is 'farcing' around in Kuala Terengganu:)

Oldstock said...

Andrea,

I wonder what would've happened if he really showed you his virginity *winks*

Oldstock said...

NanaDJ,

I think it is not necessary for me to know more. I just hope the uni learned something from the episode.

Oldstock said...

Dr Sam,

Farcing around Kuala Terengganu sounds like fun! I'd like to join :-)