Friday, January 13, 2012

Lost in Translation – Malaysians, Bad Subtitles and the Government

We all suffered through old foreign movies with bad lip synching and grammatically improbable subtitles before (e.g. most of Jackie Chan’s old films, like the picture above).

Apparently, this is a universal phenomenon as Malaysians are graced with subtitles like “clothes that poke eye.” The Malaysians joke that it isn’t even “Manglish”. Sadly, as far as the Malaysians are concerned, the bad subtitles aren’t movie exclusive— they’re encroaching into real life.

Earlier this week, the Star Online reports that the Malaysian Defense Ministry’s official site was littered with horrible, garbled translations.

Prime examples were located on the site’s guidelines for “ethical clothing.” It included gems like “collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three”, “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar/mongoose fight made in Malaysia” and “shine closed”.

When these mistranslations made it onto the social media circuit the Defense Ministry reacted immediately by taking down pages, posted a clarification and promised to make corrections. However, the damage was already done.

And according to Star Online, this isn’t the first time that Malaysian government eschewed the use of professional interpreters/translators either.
In April of last year, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and his entourage were greeted with a welcoming banner rife with Chinese syntax and grammatical errors. The translation read: “Official welcoming ceremony, with him Wen Jiabao His Excellency’s official visit Malaysia.”

Malaysian officials apologized to the Premier and the incident was subsequently widely reported in China.

Bad subtitles in foreign movies are hilarious, if albeit cringe worthy, but it sure doesn’t translate well in real life.

*Source – The Star Online