“…with 24-hour Bahasa Malaysia subtitles”


Channel-surfing brought me to the multiple advertisements of the upcoming movies planned on the holy trinity of HBO, Cinemax and Star Movies. The clicker, apparently, is the added benefit of 24-hour Bahasa Malaysia subtitles. Is it really an added value to the customers to read these?

Channel: 52 (NatGeo). Program: Alexander the Great – The Man.

Narration: Alexander’s army was outnumbered by the Persians.

Subtitle: Tentera Iskandar lebih ramai dari tentera musuh.

Meaning of subtitle: Alexander’s army outnumbered the Persians

Narration: Alexander’s army was outnumbered more than 3 to 1.

Subtitle: Tentera Iskandar 3 kali lebih ramai.

Meaning of subtitle: Alexander’s army outnumbered the Persians 3:1

Narration: Alexander’s erratic behaviour…

Subtitle: Sikap erotik Iskandar….

Meaning of subtitle: Iskandar’s erotic attitude / behaviour…


Is it really a good idea to market the subtitles as an added value to the viewers then? A lot of the subtitles are misleading and in the case of the documentary above, factually incorrect. One of my friends who worked in the establishment that provides these round-the-clock multi-channel entertainment told me once a long time ago that the team who are responsible for subtitling programs were among the lowest-paid ones. I dont know how much this has changed after 10 years. He told me that when I highlighted this to him and asked if I could go in and do this work.

How about offering documentaries to schools as language project? Familiarizing the students with both languages by getting them to come up with the subtitles. It could be a pilot project thing, using a few of the ‘Best of’ programs for instance – the ones that have been aired. It could be one more way to make education more multi-media and interactive, as language is a world that needs to be experienced. How many of us have learned a foreign language and, armed with our phrase books, get confunded by how different the language is spoken in real life, outside of the clasroom? Sure, we can say to ourselves now that we dont give a rat’s ass about the subtitles. Who reads them anyway, right? Well, there are people who read them. And currently, there’s a risk that someone out there, after watching the documentary about Alexander the Great, is thinking that his greatness is no big deal. His army outnumbered the enemies – of course he would win, right?



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