Friday, 21 September 2012

Why I'm not a good translator at all

I'll be honest. When I read classic, in language and vocabulary so distant from the one I usually speak with, sometimes I translate them in the most vulgar and barbaric means that even scenes where people are supposed to cry (and I do cry when I read it), may sound so comical that they incite people to laugh.

I have a habit of telling stories to people after I read them, and traslate them to Bahasa, my first language. So here's what happened when I told a friend about Faramir's word to Eowyn before he said that he loved her.

“You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, the greatest that now is.”

My translation
“Eowyn, kamu sebenernya ga cinta sama Aragorn. Kamu cuma nge-fans aja.”

And the same thing happened when I related the scene where d'Artagnan tried to write a letter for Lord de Winter under Athos' censorship.

“Monsieur and dear friend —”
“Ah, yes! Dear friend to an Englishman,” interrupted Athos; “well commenced! Bravo, d’Artagnan! Only with that word you would be quartered instead of being broken on the wheel.”
“Well, perhaps. I will say, then, Monsieur, quite short.”
“You may even say, My Lord,” replied Athos, who stickled for propriety.
“Well, then, we will put simply, My Lord, do you remember a certain little enclosure where your life was spared?”
“My dear d’Artagnan, you will never make anything but a very bad secretary. Where your life was spared! For shame! that’s unworthy. A man of spirit is not to be reminded of such services. A benefit reproached is an offense committed.”
“The devil!” said d’Artagnan, “you are insupportable. If the letter must be written under your censure, my faith, I renounce the task.”

My translation (in Bahasa)
D'Artagnan: “Tuan dan kawanku”
Athos: “Bagus, ya! Temennya orang Inggris. Kamu mau cari mati ya?”
D'Artagnan: “Oke, kalo gitu, 'Pak,' cukup pendek.”
Athos: “Bilang kek setidaknya 'Tuan,' gitu.”
D'Artagnan: “Tuan, apa Anda ingat kejadian waktu nyawa Anda diampuni?”
Athos: “Kamu bener-bener ga bakat jadi sekretaris. 'Waktu nyawa Anda diampuni' itu apa maksudnya coba? Mau bikin dia malu? Mau bikin dia ngamuk?”
D'Artagnan: “Udah ah. Mending nyerah kalo disuruh nulis surat tapi kamu yang sensor.”

My greatest sin in translating is perhaps against Shakespeare, because I ruin his beautiful lines into horrible phrases.

Text from Hamlet
Guil. Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.
Ham. Sir, a whole history.
Guil. The King, sir-
Ham. Ay, sir, what of him?
Guil. Is in his retirement, marvellous distemper'd.
Ham. With drink, sir?
Guil. No, my lord; rather with choler.
Ham. Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to
the doctor; for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps
plunge him into far more choler.
Guil. The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit
hath sent me to you.
Ham. You are welcome.
Guil. Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right breed.
If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer, I will do
your mother's commandment; if not, your pardon and my return
shall be the end of my business.
Ham. Sir, I cannot.
Guil. What, my lord?
Ham. Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseas'd. But, sir, such
answer is I can make, you shall command; or rather, as you say,
my mother. Therefore no more, but to the matter! My mother, you
Ros. Then thus she says: your behaviour hath struck her into
amazement and admiration.
Ham. O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother!....
O, the recorders!….I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
Guil. My lord, I cannot.
Ham. I pray you.
Guil. Believe me, I cannot.
Ham. I do beseech you.
Guil. I know, no touch of it, my lord.
Ham. It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your
fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will
discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.
Guil. But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I
have not the skill.
Ham. Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You
would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would
pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my
lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it
speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd on than a

My translation
Gui: Tuan, kami mau bicara sama Anda
Ham: Boleh, boleh
Gui: Yang Mulia Raja..
Ham: Kenapa dia?
Gui: Gelisah di kamarnya.
Ham: Kebanyakan minum?
Gui: Nggak, kaya ketakutan gitu.
Ham: Ya bilang ama dokternya lah. Ngapain bilang ama gue?
Gui: Mamahmu ngirim saya ke sini.
Ham: Selamat datang.
Gui: Bukan gitu maksudnya, ni kamu ngomongnya mulai ga bener. Jawabnya yang bener lah.
Ham: Gue ga bisa.
Gui: Ga bisa apa?
Ham: Ga bisa bener lah, gue kan gila.
Ros: Kelakuanmu udah bikin ibumu geleng-geleng kepala.
Ham: Hebat dong gue, anak yang bisa bikin ibunya kagum. Oh, ada rekorder. Main dong.
Gui: Ga bisa, Tuan.
Ham: Plis.
Gui: Beneran, aku ga bisa.
Ham: Gampang kok, kaya orang boong aja. (nunjukin caranya)Gui: Aku ga bisa tekniknya.
Ham: Nah, jadi kamu anggep gue serendah itu? Kamu ga bisa main rekorder tapi berasa bisa mainin gue? Emang gue lebih gampang dimainin daripada rekorder?

You see, even Shakespeare sounds so crazily messy in my mouth, and yet I wanted to make a translation of classic from English into Bahasa. Really doubt my skill now.  


  1. Nyahahahahaaaa.... to be honest this is the first time I'm laughing because of your post. Usually reading your posts leads me into deep thoughts and contemplation... :-P

    This is a very entertaining post indeed. Thanks for sharing!

  2. @Melisa and Fanda: Sometimes I feel guilty for doing this to Shakespeare, but most people can't understand the jokes in his play, and that is even sadder. So I translate them thus to make people understand that they are actually funny.

  3. Oh my ... just like seeing 'dubbing' on television haha, but the important thing you capture the meaning of the story and makes them more entertain (at least for me :D)

  4. Thanks. Yup, I like doing that. It makes people understand that old classics are actually entertaining.