Why do I want to translate for TED? The truth is in here.

Q1) What language do you want to translate into?
A1) Bahasa Malaysia / Malay.

Q2) Is this your native language? If not, how and where did you learn it?
A2) Malay is my native language & I also learned it in school.

In uni I took Translation as elective papers & I was the professor’s pet after I translated the Mark Antony ‘friends, romans, countrymen – lend me your ears’ speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar & reminded the class that correct interpretation of the tone, context and intention of the message is as important, if not more, than working on the words. I can’t prove that claim of being her favorite though, because I have had no contact with my professor since graduating. She might still be upset with me for not translating the whole bloody play.

Q3) How often do you speak this language? Do you use it professionally, personally, or both?
A3) I speak Malay daily. Almost.

More personally than professionally, however – about 35:65 of Malay:English – because most of my work & life is in English. My friends call me a Rowan Atkinson-loving geek because I roll about in giggles watching Black Adder, Keeping Mum AND Mr. Bean & I have problems appreciating Shia laBeouf’s smoldering looks. They also say I’m more BBC than BBC. Surely they jest.

Q4) How often do you read in this language? Do you read news? Novels? Personal correspondence?
A4) I read it often enough, I hope.

Mostly non-fiction. Some Malay news (http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/ and http://www.bharian.com.my/), some novels & poetry (a good friend writes Malay poems that don’t give me nightmares) and out of personal curiosity & professional interest, journals / instructional material. At the growth rate of the Malay-language gossip rags and the high hit-count on websites of former TV hosts of some Malay-hit songs-chart-programs who spout nonsense in CAPS LOCK & use exclamation marks instead of the SPACE bar, I’d be happy to translate instructions on condom packets to distract people’s attention. Those already come (forgive the pun) with translations, you say? Bugger.

Q5) How often do you write in this language?
A5) I write in Malay at least once a week since Jan 2009, mostly in personal correspondence & journal entries.

Work-wise, I’ve been translating user guides / training manuals from English to Malay since early 2008. For shits & giggles, I work on subtitles for episodes of my favorite DVD box-sets. I have an extremely high capacity & capability of enjoying my own company. My tolerance for ongoing dialogues in my own head is limitless.

Q6) If English is not your first language, how and where did you learn it? How often do you speak, write and/or read English?
A6) My parents told me I started reading the New Straits Times since I was 3 years old.  I don’t believe it.

I do have childhood memories of enjoying Yes, Minister, Fawlty Towers & Mind Your Language with my father. I  remember writing & conversing in English since before kindergarten days, and studied it in school and university. Thanks to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’, I now worship ‘Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White and do my best to follow their guidelines.

In school, I passed the Univ of Cambridge’s 1119 English paper. In uni, I passed with merit the Reading / Writing /Listening / Speaking tests of the same uni’s Business English Certificates exam. Not many opportunities to say ‘no’ back then in 1989 & 1995 cos they were compulsory.  I remember having a nice chat with the examiner too. He educated me on the wonders of Cornwall & didn’t quite get why I had turned down an offer to study  in England only because my mother could not stomach being away from her only daughter.  Frankly, the logic escaped me also. It’s just that at the time, 20 years ago, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

Q7) Do you have other colleagues, family or friends who can assist you on the translation of tricky or culturally-specific words and phrases?
A7) Yes.

I normally refer to colleagues at work, friends who are language teachers, my writing class mentor and my father. I wrote my father’s Malay & English speeches when he was head of the association of assistant pharmacists.  I  learned about a job’s non-monetary rewards through observing my father’s passion in his work. He may still keep the newspaper articles quoting his speech on the domino-effect of pharmacists who stop learning and don’t care about developing themselves.  Convincing people on the importance of lifelong learning was quite something then. 15-20 years ago, not many people said things like ‘glocal’, ‘Melayu Baru’ & whatnot. Say tweet and people might think you’re referring to a bird. Or a twit.

Q8) What is your profession?
A8) I’m a content development consultant & a project manager.

  • I write & design tools (e.g. stakeholder syndication worksheets, tempates, toolkits for train-the-trainer, training materials).
  • I scope & manage training & leadership development projects.
  • I analyze data & write reports on program effectiveness.
  • When necessary (when all the other consultants are down with bird flu for e.g.) I conduct training sessions in either English or Malay, depending on client preferences. My areas are Train-the-Trainer and Brand Internalization – from brand strategy to brand behavior. My favorite workshop opening lines are “Today, I’m going to give you my complete focus & best effort to help you get the best & most out of your time today. I need your help though, cos I cannot make you want to learn this stuff. You’ve got to want to learn, in the first place. Be open to see a different point of view that may be beneficial to you. If you are not prepared to at least meet me halfway on this, just go ahead and leave now. I’ll clear it with your bosses, don’t you worry.”  As you can probably guess, my fellow consultants make it a point to be in the pink of health at all times .

Q9) Why do you want to translate for TED?
A9) I want to connect Malaysians to great content on Tech, Entertainment & Design.

I want to continue to spark thinking & encourage learning, starting with myself. In my HR practitioner years, I interviewed at least 300 university graduates for job openings & internship programs. About 80% of the people I met could not understand the basics of business / workplace English, let alone use it. Their command of the national language was equally appalling.

Also, I only realised very recently that I’m guilty of too much complaining and ranting about that & the misleading subtitles of TV programs so I’ve started taking actions. Translating for TED is another channel for me to do something more beneficial than watch in horror as the subtitle to “Alexander [the Great]’s erratic behavior” reads “Sikap erotik Iskandar”. Erotic? Er – maybe not in this context – that segment was referring to how Alexander had allegedly seemed to be more eccentric as he neared his death. In the same NatGeo documentary:

  • “Alexander’s army was outnumbered by the Persians”.  Subtitle:  Tentera Iskandar lebih ramai dari tentera musuh. Which means Alexander’s army outnumbered the Persians.
  • “Alexander’s army was outnumbered more than 3 to 1”. Subtitle:  Tentera Iskandar 3 kali lebih ramai.  Which means Alexander’s army outnumbered the Persians 3:1.

Ack! Wrong facts are beamed into our children’s classrooms as you are reading this.

So here’s hoping against hope that TED will let me translate Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success.

I’m seriously crossing all fingers and toes it’s a mystery how this post was typed. Really.


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