Well, it is rather embarrassing indeed considering English is our second main language since we got the Independence from the British in 1957.
Unspun, well known Indonesian blogger writes:-
There was once upon a time when it was universally accepted that Malaysian had a better command of the English language than Indonesians.
It wasn’t arrogance then, just a fact of life because of Malaysia’s British colonial history. For all the sins of the Brits Malaysians could be grateful to them for leaving behind an efficient civil service and a love for the Queen’s English.
But much has changed since those days. The hypocrite Mahathir Mohamad, in trying to display his nationalistic credentials changed the medium of instruction in schools from English to Malay. That, and other misguided nationalistic sentiments since then has seen the steady deterioration of the use of English among Malaysians.
One can safely argue that a certain work ethic also went out the window with the need to learn and master a language. So it seemed inevitable when Malaysia’s Ministry of Defense was red-faced recently because the language skills were so bad that they relied on Google Translate to render their copy into English.
And if one thinks that the worse is over, Nuraina A Samad further writes:-
In fact, the entire English version of its website – as of 12 noon today – is in BM. As a way of “explaining”, you’ll find the articles and writings with a preceding note: There are no translations available.
Perhaps, it’s still being done manually as explained by its minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Hard work, I reckon. What gives, man? Google translation all this while? I suggest the ministry gets the right people to do the job…Kalau tidak, one word: Malu (shame).
As much as we want to promote and defend the national language (which is a must for national unity and national identity), we seemed to have missed the greater point of the need to learn and master one of the main languages in the world – English.
For those who still arguing on using Bahasa Malaysia over the more widely used English on everything you touch, well blame it on our ancestors – they failed to wise up, start the all-important Industrial Revolution, build huge & powerful army and go and colonise other countries in a larger scale. If they have done, the Americans and the Indians would have been speaking fluent Bahasa instead of English right now.
Unfortunately, that did not happen – too bad for those who dislike learning and speaking in English. So whether you like it or not, the English language is here to stay and I think we need not go to the argument of why mastering the English language is very crucial in a global village these days.
And unfortunately despite the overwhelming merits, we have gone the other way and made things worse in this country – we have fooled ourselves and the future generations by deciding to teach Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia instead of the widely used English, setting off another set of problems.
There is already a lack of Science & Mathematics books in Bahasa Malaysia. It seems like we may not have the right people and resources (at least in short term) to do accurate translation from English to Bahasa (or are we going to use Google Translate for that too?).
The impact of this in the near future on our standard of English and the mastery of Science and Mathematics is yet to be seen (thank God for the Discovery channel for a way out).
There is nothing wrong with the Ministry of Defence relying on Google Translate for the translation of webpages in Bahasa to English. But the thing is, even if one had used Google Translate for ease of translating the many webpages, surely someone in their right mind would have at least read the translated pages once, just to make sure that translation does not turn out wrong or false.
Unspun in his follow up a post titled “Did Malaysia’s Defense Minister frame Google?” reported this:-
Malaysia’s Defense Minister Ahmad Zahidi Hamid, whose Ministry became the laughing stock in Malaysia because of the use of outlandish English translations on its website (e.g. Menjolok mata = poke eye) blamed Google Translate for the mistakes.
Blogger Uppercaise further asks – was Google at fault, or the ministry? Was the defence minister telling the truth, or trying to pass the blame to others? This table (sourced from Uppercaise) consists of a few examples and it is evident that something is not right with the Minister blaming Google:-
The embarrassment with the wrong translation at Mindef is possibly a tip of the iceberg. What about the rest of the public administration – starting from the lowest level of a public servant and all the way to the top – Ministers and Heads of Departments and CEOs. Just how many of the politicians heading key positions in the Government can really speak and write good English?
Still, remember this bullshit:-
However, he was forced to resign as Selangor Mentri Besar in April 1997 after he was charged in Australia over currency irregularities amounting to RM3.8mil.
However, he was later found not guilty. Muhammad Muhammad Taib was cleared by the court as he pleaded that he did not understand English and therefore did not understand the currency regulations. However, in a later development, an investigative committee found that the court had erred in its judgment.
If he was not punished for the dubious RM3.8 million, given the fact that he was once the head of a state government, he certainly should have been punished for claiming not knowing the English language when travelling to a country where the main language is English.
Perhaps in the near future, when a politician proposes to run for public office, other than the usual meeting the minimum codes of ethics, they must be able to speak and write Bahasa and English well – no more Bahasa pasar, Manglish and half-cooked languages.
In the meantime, hopefully, this embarrassing incident will pass over soon and Mindef is more cautious when it comes to translations in future and engages and trains its people in the proper use of the language.
And oh yes, next time when the Ministry screws up things, please don’t do any cover-ups – just admit that there is a weakness and work on a real solution to overcome them. The world is not so dumb as it used to be.