The translation challenge

Mint Wilson, the lady responsible for the Indonesian translation of Mantra yang Rusak, which was published today in epub format since Amazon does not sell books published in Bahasa Indonesia, has been maintaining a blog about the translation process. It makes for interesting reading for anyone with an interest in languages:

As I translated A Magic Broken, I tried to translate VD’s word choices as close to Indonesian root words as possible. It’s not hard but it is sure often to find that I translated words into its Indonesian form only to realized Indonesian has borrowed it from English word. For example:

 With the precision born of many hours of practice, the sleeve knife slid into his hand as he stepped behind the man rushing past him.

precision – presisi
practice – praktik

It will be all right using these loan words to translate the English ones, but Bahasa Indonesia also has some of the same meaning words that are not any where close enough in form to their English counterparts. Though I suspect they are also loan words.

precision- presisi- ketepatan
practice – praktik- latihan

Bahasa Indonesia has many loan words from other languages. The origin of Bahasa Indonesia is Malay Polynesian that has been used as lingua franca in the Indonesian archipelago for centuries.  Bahasa Indonesia underwent several developmental process before becoming a modern language; the most influential of these was it’s contact with other languages. Such language contact influence language system lexically, phonologically, and grammatically.

The languages that influence Bahasa Indonesia are :

  • Sanskrit, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms that reigned in Indonesian archipelago brought by Indian results in many Sanskrit words in Bahasa Indonesia.
  • Arabic, Persian and Arabic traders introduced the religion and as Indonesia became the country with largest muslim population in the world, over the centuries results in an extensive Arabic loan words.
  • Dutch, Dutch colonization and administration, lasting from the 17th century to the 20th, had an extensive impact on the vocabulary.
  • Portuguese, The Portuguese were among the first westerners to sail eastwards to the “Spice Islands” in the 16th century as they traded and then colonized later.
  • Chinese, Chinese traders and significant number of immigrants made their contributions on Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary.

Some interesting fact: for ‘god’ Bahasa Indonesia Bible translate it with 4 loan words: ‘Tuhan’, ‘dewa’, ‘ilah ‘and ‘Allah’. I think ‘Tuhan’ and ‘dewa’ are from Sanskrit, ‘ilah’ and ‘Allah’ are from Arabic. For God Creator Bahasa Indonesia bible translate ‘God’ into TUHAN (when the origin mention Jehova or Yahwe) and Allah (when the original word might be ‘ADONAI’). ‘Dewa’ and ‘ilah’ are for lesser gods.

There is a scene in A Magic Broken, where the word ‘gods’ appear when Nicolas the main character trying to get pass the gate guard:

 The friendly smile suddenly disappeared from the man’s face, and the guide was staring at him as if he’d suddenly turned into an orc. “You some sort’o wizard?” the guard demanded, even as he stepped back a pace and put a hand on his sword handle.

 “Gods, no, I’m a soldier,”Nicolas lied easily. The guard wasn’t the problem. It was the red robe he had to worry about.

Here, I translated the word into ‘dewa’ as I don’t think ‘Allah’ will fit nor the original meaning permit ‘Allah’ in a plural form.

In addition to publishing Mint’s first translation, I’m pleased to be able to say that Castalia House has another 11 translations currently in progress. The Blue SF revolution continues.