Thursday, March 12, 2009

BM vs English: An Apolitical View (I mean not so political) :D

Be forewarned. This is a very long crap. :D

Jeremiah Mahadevan’s The Politics of Language is an interesting article. However, certain points in the article raised my eyebrow. ;) For example: it’s very hard to find, for example “English equivalents for geram and dengki” due to its (BM) rich vocabulary and “unbelievably intricate and precise in its expressions”; “and the quirks of its agglutinative apparatus allow one to shape any given verb or noun to express a wide variety of nuances — try using English to say terbeli or berkasut with similar brevity.” (Emphasis and underlined are mine.):p

If my memory has not failed me. English has evolved from smaller vocabulary to current very impressive one. Of course, we can say the same for BM, from a two words vocabulary (someone must correct me if this is wrong; it is just something I heard ages ago; perhaps this link will help.) to thousands of words. If English does not have equivalents of any “intricate and precise” expression/word – except for a very long explanation – she (it?) will just import or transliterate the word to become her (its?) own. Again, this is almost the same with BM, “Air boring, anyone? (Bore water, anyone?)”. ;p

I guess I should give more examples: (1) geography (transliterated to geografi, previous favoured term was ilmu alam), (2) mathematic (becomes matematik, previous favoured term was ilmu hisab, ilmu and hisab is actually an Arabic term meaning “knowledge” and “to calculate” respectively. If we are to revert to BM this (ilmu hisab) is the term we should use!), (3) chorus (you know, the part that is most repeated in the whole song, usually catchy and favoured, transliterated to korus), (4) chalet (becomes chalet, the term and sound are imported as whole although it should be written ‘shele.’), (5) T-shirt (becomes T-shirt, wait, that is English! ;) The proper BM term is kemeja-T, and even kemeja was of Portuguese origin.), (6) laser (imported whole as laser, even the proper English term is abbreviated from Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation which is supposed to be written L.A.S.E.R. but due to its wide usage the term “laser” becomes accepted as a word.); (7) RAM (imported as RAM, in English it means Random Access Memory, in BM it should be Ingatan Capaian Rawak, not a bad translation IMO, even elegant and high class! However, due to the brevity (borrowed from JM) and “pronunciability” of the term as opposed to ICR, RAM is chosen. Besides, it is more readily accepted and easier to recognise.) I could add more but I am a bit lazy. :D

So what if English doesn’t have equivalents of geram (Pissed off? Or not-so-pissed-off? Or simply “geram”? I’ll take this opportunity to introduce the Sabahan word gerigitan which means “geram” to the point of almost shaking – hands, fist, fingers, body, heart (hati not hepar or jantung) and usually associated with love or fondness. E.g.: “Comelnya baby tu, gerigitan aku dibuatnya.” That baby is so cute, I am so gerigitan (to hug, smell, kiss, pinch etc.)! ;)) or dengki (Jealous? Envious? Resent? How about "amusedly" envious? And again, how about simply “dengki”?)? English doesn’t have equivalents of many words or terms or even “quirks of its agglutinative apparatus” of all the languages in the world! Of course we can say the same for BM. Only that BM is our National Language. It is our identity, our pride, and personally, as a sign of my patriotism to be able to converse fluently in BM. Besides, what is inadequate in any language (including BM and English) is solved by transliteration or import of whole word if translation is impossible or too wordy.

Similarly, English, like BM, is not without her own “quirks of its agglutinative apparatus allow one to shape any given verb or noun to express a wide variety of nuances” (again, borrowed from JM), even though – I will allow my vanity to be spoilt ;) – BM has superior “agglutinative apparatus” which is, IMHO, appropriately termed imbuhan (Reward? Imbursement?). :)

Bush hampir terkasut.[The start of “similar brevity series”:] So what if English could not translate terbeli (bought by accident? misbuy? bought the wrong thing? Or simply ‘already’ bought 'but...'? How about terbuy?) or berkasut (wear shoes? on shoe? shoe-ed? Fortunately JM didn’t use terkasut (e.g. Bush hampir terkasut sewaktu lawatannya ke Iraq?) LOL) with similar brevity(1)? In fact, English could not translate all words/terms in any language in similar brevity(2). Some of English terms especially transliterated terms cannot be translated into BM in similar brevity(3).

For example: misadventure (pengalaman pengembaraan yang buruk), paged (dipaj? dipanggil melalui pager, or pajer?), matters (yang penting? jirim? perkara?), resort [or re-sort?] (mengambil tindakan? tempat peranginan? menyusun semula?), etc. I know, few of them have more than one meanings (like BM’s mereka: (1) they, them; (2) to create or to make) and some even are their own word themselves e.g. insight is not from in+sight which can be translated loosely in BM as pandangan (sight) dalaman (internal). I know too the meaning of the word depends on the context of the sentence, hence the difference in translation. ;)

So, what is the point of my long winded (if this was a speech) discussion? What I’m getting at is, it doesn’t matter if other languages lack our BM superiority in certain aspects because they will be or can be compensated by other means e.g. better translation, transliteration, import the word or other word with similar meaning, etc. Likewise, if BM encounter difficult or new terms, our vocabulary enrichment is in order.

Someone will eventually ask the soalan cepumas (golden question?), what is your opinion on PPSMI (BM’s Pengajaran Dan Pembelajaran Sains Dan Matematik dalam bahasa Inggeris, or in English, Teaching Science & Mathematic in English)? I would like to say, this is neither the time nor the place to throw my points. ;) Yes, I’m evading the question and I’m not ashamed of it. Yet, I could give some gleams of what I thought. I learn science & math (S&M, please, this is not porn talk!) in BM, even excelled in them. English, I learn through newspaper, comics, story books and novels, later internet.

When I learn S&M in higher level (college/university), to my disappointment, there are lacks of BM publications in S&M. The meagre supply of BM publications are written secara selamba, bagai melepas batuk di tangga (like an after thought? not seriously enough?), numerous printing errors, a bit outdated (only a bit), not concise and sometime with confusing and inelegant terms, IMO, even shame our national language! Even the teachers/lecturers were using the English term in their BM lectures. While English versions of S&M publication are difficult, many new terms and words, sometime confusing and very frustrating to learn new subjects, BUT, they are plenty, very few printing errors, almost up to date, you can find many recent journals in English but very little in BM, you can even photocopied them without as much fear as if you tried to photocopied BM version of S&M publications, haram (forbidden)! ;) So, there you are. My evasive self-asked-question reply. ;)

While I like to complain, I think it is my right and responsibility as a patriotic Malaysian to give a (stupid you say?) suggestions: Remember the series Backyard Science in Astro TVIQ channel 552? First we can buy the copyright and make our own BM version of Sains Belakang Rumah. So what if we plagiarise the whole episodes? You don’t bargain with our children’s future. The point is to make them fall in love with science, but we must not forget art, history, language etc., even patriotism! It should be made compulsory in all primary schools to have them. Yes, the Ministry should pay for it! ;) Alternatively, we can make our own full-fledged episode like that, also the Ministry will pay. What? We already have those kind of stuff? So, why didn’t I know about it? Ah well, I guess that’s it for now. I leave you the BIGGER suggestions as there have been discussed exhaustively else where. ;)


DeePo said...

envy if im not mistaken, there is no equivalent/suitable word in BM for it...

this language-issue just nothing, it's about the system itself....

KY Chua said...

Deepo, you find the equivalent/suitable word in BM from the context. So while the word is used in other context, the meaning changes, hence different translation.

However, I agree with you. There's no one word to have exactly the same meanings (plural) of every word e.g. your example: envy. ;) Something always lost in translation... ;)