Critique of translation in Indonesia

Definition of Translation

Translating consists in reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source-language message; first in terms of meaning and secondly in terms of style (Nida & Taber, 1974). According to Nida and Taber, the translation should be aimed at reproducing the message instead of the similarility between the source-language and target-language messages. A good translation, in their opinion, is a translation which does not look like a translation. Meanwhile, Newmark has defined eight “methods” of translation which are not based on the “objective”, besides “for whom” the translation is made. Four of the eight methods are “source language-oriented”, the other four “target language-oriented”. Newmark described the eight translation methods in a so-called diagram-V. The eight methods are : (1) word by word translation, (2) literal translation, (3) loyal translation, (4) semantic translation, (5) adaptation, (6) free translation, (7) idiomatic translation, and (8) communicative translation. In his opinion, only the methods no. (4), (7), and (8) which can be called translation (see Benny Hoed, Op.Cit).

The main issue in translation, as stated by Benny Hoed, is a problem to search definition. Even if the definition has been found, every element that we define is still open to various interpretation. Thus the meaning of the “right” translation mostly depends on the outside factors. The first factor is the “text writer”, whose writing is not influenced by his/her education, readings and other outside factors. He/she has been in an intertextual network. The second factor is “translator”, who, in his effort to transfer the message of the source language is also not free from the said network. He/she has a central role in the process of translation, thanks to the decision he/she has made to choose whether he/she uses a foreignization of ideology, i.e. emphasizing the source language with all its implications and domestication ideology, i.e. emphasizing the the source language with all its implications. The third factor is the “readers”, as they are in the same network, they can have various interpretation of the texts they read. The fourth factor is the difference of “norms” prevailing in the target and source languages. The fifth factor is the “culture” behind the target language. The sixth factor is the “topics” of the text which can be comprehended differently by the text writer and translator, as well as the readers.

From the above description, we may jump to a conclusion that the translators are the most responsible persons because they must be capable of understanding the world of the text in the source language and the world of the readers in the target language, and that no translation is completely right or wrong (Benny Hoed, Loc Cit).

“Right or Wrong concept in translation

The relativity of the right or wrong in the translation results in a difficulty in judging a translation. Newmark divided this issue into six points of views about the translation. The first is translation as a science. In this point of view, a translation is considered as right or wrong based on linguistic criteria so that the fault is absolute. The second point of view is translation as a craft. In this case a translation has a readible level which is better than other translation. This is not absolute. The third one is translation as an art. This view is related to the translation of literature or lyrics. “The art” will be reached by searching the words or saying having a close meaning. The fifth one is translation as a taste. Thus the first point of view may have a “definite” right or wrong judgement. However, in the remaining point of views, we may have to question the reason made by the translators behind their preference. (Report of the Discussion on Relativity in Translation : the Issue of Right or Wrong accross the language, No 19/VIII/12, 2000, 1).

The first thing to note is the definite mistake in translation, found in various translation works.

Some samples of careless translation

1. Movie Dialogues

Retmono, in his writing, pointed out a wrong translation in the dialogues of some movies broadcasted in the television, such as:

* “Get me a shredder”. Translation: “Beri aku baju hangat.” Suggestion: Beri aku penghancur kertas.

* “He wrote a book about chivalry”. Translation: “Ia menulis buku tentang kavaleri”. Suggestion: Ia menulis tentang sifat-sifat ksatria.

* “A whole school of poetry”. Translation: “Sekolah-sekolah puisi”. Suggestion: Suatu aliran puisi tersendiri.

2. “Booklet” of Anniversary Party

A famous private company released a bilingual booklet during its anniversary containing the company’s profile. Below are the excerpts of some sentences in English.

*To be an excellence institution…

* It started for sale to the public…

*The vision that Indonesian future lives in tourism and believed…

* the title books sold were…

*Total omzet 2002:…

3. Translated Book

The following are some books with good translation. However there are some unnecessary mistakes.

a. Umberto Eco dan Cardinal Martini, 2001, Translator: Yudi Santoso, Beriman atau Tidak Beriman, Sebuah Konfrontasi, Pustaka Promothea, Surabaya. The original book is entitled “Belief or Unbelief, A Dialogue, Arcade Publishing”, New York, 2000.

*Saya melihat tak satu kitab suci pun yang rasional (p. 54). Translation: I see no scriptural rationale.

Comment: “rationale” is differred from “rational”.

*Perintah kesembilan melarang iri hati dengan istri orang lain (p. 55), which is translated from: The ninth commandment prohibits coveting another man’s woman.

Comment: the definition of “covet” is “sangat mendambakan”.

* …etika yang penuh dengan penghargaan yang dalam terhadap (p. 96), which is translated from: worthy of respect for…

Comment: “to be worthy of” is defined as “patut dihargai atas”

b. Ruth McVey (Ed) 1998, Translator: A Setiawan Abadi, Kaum Kapitalis Asia Tenggara, Penerbit Yaasan Obor, Jakarta. Orig. title: South East Asian Capitalists, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, 1992.

* “…the Thai economy is now dominated not only by large firms but also that these have combined into…” (hal 37). Translation: “…perekonomian Thai kini bukan hanya didominasi oleh perusahaan-perusahaan besar ini telah bergabung menjadi…” (hal 57).

Comment: The sentence of this translation is not flowing.

* Liem had made a highly publicised takeover of the government’s Semen Madura…” (hal 79). Translation: “Liem mengambil alih, yang menjadi berita besar, Semen Merdeka…”

Comment: It is strange to separate the object (Semen Merdeka) from the predicate (mengambil alih).

* “…Indonesian owned and managed oil service companies…” (p. 101). Translation: “… perusahaan jasa perminyakan milik dan yang dikelola oleh orang Indonesia…”

Comment: Strange translation. Suggestion: “…perusahaan jasa perminyakan milik orang Indonesia dan yang dikelola oleh orang Indonesia…”

c. Rhoda E Howard, 2002, Terj: Nugraha Katjasungkana, HAM Penjelajahan Dalih Relativisme Budaya, Penerbit Pustaka Utama Grafiti, 2000. Orig. title: Human Rights and the Search for Community, Wetsview Press, 1995.

* “States that nowadays protect human rights are perforce liberal societies…” (hal 2). Translation: “Negara-negara yang sekarang melindungi hak asasi manusia dipaksa oleh kondisi masyarakat liberal…”(hal 2).

Comment: This translation produced a far different meaning from the source text due to the interpretation of the word “perforce”.

Suggestion: “Negara-negara yang sekarang melindungi hak asasi manusia merupakan negara liberal karena terpaksa.

* “Equality of status is protected in the UN human rights regime” (hal 11). Translation: “Kesetaraan status dilindungi dalam rezim hak asasi manusia PBB…” (hal 16).

Comment: The word “regime” in the source text means “system of organizing something”, while the word “rezim” in Indonesian means “pemerintahan yang berkuasa.”

* …”Two social trends…encourage disregard for the poor…” (p. 20). Translation: “Dua kecenderungan sosial… mendorong dilakukannya degradasi terhadap kaum miskin…” (hal 31).

Comment: “disregard” (sikap mengabaikan) is not identical to “degradasi” (decrease in quality, etc.).

* The very possibility of debate is resented… (hal 215). Translation: Kemungkinan besar terjadinya debat tidak disukai… (p. 340).

Comment: The phrase “the very possibility of” means “Kemungkinan debat itu sendiri …”

d. Karen Armstrong, 2001, Terj: Zainul Am, Sejarah Tuhan, Publisher: Mizan, Bandung. Orig. title, A History of God, Vintage, 1999.

* …bukanlah sekadar sebuah ideal yang ke arah itu manusia harus menuju (p.30). This sentence is translated from : ” …was not just an ideal toward which men and women should aspire…(p 5).

Comment: This is an foreign structured sentence writte in Indonesian.

* …berbicara dalam bahasa Semitik Barat, yang mana bahasa Ibrani adalah salah satunya (hal 37). Translated from: “..spoke West Semitic languages, of which Hebrew is one” (hal 11).

Comment: The use of the phrase “yang mana” in the translated sentence makes a non-standard structure.

* “…allah yang kepadanya nenek moyangmu telah beribadah… (hal 53). Ini translated from: “… the gods your ancestors served… (hal 24).

Comment: This is also an foreign structured sentence writte in Indonesian.

* This book frequently uses the word “risalah” (for example in pages 75, 76) which is translated from the word “message” (p.42, 43).

Comment: “Risalah” means “a short composition of an issue in science”. The definition of “message” is “pesan”.

e. A Dale Timpe (ed.), 1991, Terj: Susanto Budidharmo, Seri Ilmu dan Seni Manajemen Bisnis, Kepemimpinan, Leadership, Publised by PT Elex Media Komputindio, Jakarta.

* I decided that one way to find out would be to study… (hal 33). Translation: Saya putuskan bahwa salah satu jalan dengan mempelajari…’’ (hal 41).

Comment: The translator has missed translating the word “to find out” and the addition of the word dan “agar” causes to mislead the meaning in the source text.

* … restating in your own words what you think you understand (hal 36). Translation: “… mengulang lagi dalam perkataan anda sendiri apa yang anda pikirkan adalah pengertian anda sendiri.

Comment: translating “what you think you understand” into “apa yang anda pahami menurut anda” is clearer and more simple than the above translation.

*…That is not because half of an executive’s life I necessarily involved with trouble (hal 42). Translation: Hal itu tidak berarti bahwa setengah dari kehidupan eksekutif terdiri dari permasalahan (hal 51).

Comment: The translator has changed the meaning of the sentence and missed translating the word ““because”, and added the word “berarti”.

*…the application of the Pareto Principle to your lifes… can help you to become more effective… manager (hal 37). Translation: “…dengan menerapkan prinsip Pareto dalam hidup Anda …dapat menjadikan Anda manajer yang lebih efektif (hal 45).

Comment: The addition of the word “dengan” in the beginning of the sentence causes the sentence to have an unclear subject.

*…it is much harder to spot those few who have the will to manage (hal 39). Translation: …lebih sukar lagi untuk menilai manusia dalam jumlah sedikit dan memiliki kemauan untuk mengelola (hal 46).

Comment: The measning of the word “to spot” is “mendeteksi.” The sentence “those few who have the will to manage” has obscured the meaning of “manusia dalam jumlah sedikit dan memiliki…”

There are some samples of the mistake in the translation which we must avoid if we want to speak Indonesian in a good and right way.

What should we do?

In order to improve the quality of translation, the translators should motivate themselves to study continuously in line with the Translator’s Code of Conduct. The translator should have a professional excellence and intellectual-moral integrity. For this purpose, the translators’ associations and centers of translation are expected to work together with any book associations and universities providing the translation teaching and editing to improve the quality of such learning facilities as seminar, discussion and training on translation and editing.

Alfons Taryadi, Chairman of Indonesian Translators’ Association (HPI)

(This writing is an excerpt of the writer’s working paper, Kualitas Terjemahan, Siapa Bertanggung jawab? he presented during a discussion on Indonesian Translators’ Association, 11 Oktober 2003, held in Pusat Bhasawa Depdiknas, Rawamangun, Jakarta).

Copyright ©, 1999-2011. All rights reserved.

Tulisan ini dipublikasikan di Uncategorized. Tandai permalink.