Translating Names: Indonesia Case

Not so long ago in a land far away called Indonesia there lived a powerful man renowned as the Minister of Education, who with his grasp turned all names (buildings, shopping centres, apartments etc) from its origins into Indonesian. Like most powerful supremacy it was only for a short while but the impact was pervasive at least in the language world we translators come to know of it.

This turn of event came after a spell that shocked Indonesia in which most commercial names on billboards and advertisements along the street of Jakarta, its capital, were in utterance other than its own, Indonesian. It was wise, then, to take drastic measures to Indonesianize the English or other foreign tongue for that matter. Many pros and cons were being talked about in the press, radios and television. Experts from renowned institution, university and other shared their views.

What came out of this: Park Royal /Taman Puri/; Holland Bakery /Bakeri Hollan/; Artolite /Artolita/; Mulia Tower /Menara Mulia/ and many more.

Decent and appalling results were expected out of it all. There appears names that in its origin were just a strange name, but when Indonesianize it was perfect. Some turned out awful, so bad that it was unrecognised as a trade name until you see for what it truly is. This is of course bad for some industry.

Not only that, the television industry had its share of load. It had to voiced-over films in English into Indonesian. A new industry was born. Many companies in the television related industry sprung up. It just literally appeared as if it was an old-timer in the field. Like nature the best ones survived and the bad ones trashed in the waste-bins.

It was a blessing in disguise for the translators, though. Many translators turned dubbers, a profession fit for actors, yet it still was in the comforts of a translator, back-staged out of the lime-light. Whether dubbing in Indonesian for children’s animation or voice-overing in English for a Hindi film, it was a new experience. The bargaining power for cash was still less than it was expected and the hours, it was tiring.

Now, all this is history. But, it seems that it’s going to repeat itself soon. Nobody knows when, but sure signs are noticeable.

Hence, what can we say about an event such as this especially for us translators in Indonesia? Do we really need to turn Pizza Hut into Kedai Pizza? Do we really want to turn Rasuna Apartments into Rusun Rasuna? Do we really need another headache?

Do translators have a say in all this? One translator may not be heard. But, an association of translators might? Can we really make a difference? Does the HPI, Himpunan Penerjemah Indonesia (Indonesian Translator Association) reach out for younger generation of translator?

Can we as Indonesian translators in this cyber-forum as translators that reside in Indonesia (or anywhere else) do anything about this? I think we can, but how? Let’s talk and gather round and ‘kopi-darat’.

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