Translating from Indonesian into English: Problems and Challenges

Oleh: Ferry “Fei” Antony

Abstract

Translating from Indonesian into English is not an easy task as Indonesian is used more loosely than English is to express ideas. By loosely it means that the use of Indonesian often violates the rules outlined by Tatabahasa Indonesia Baku. This even occurs in its written form, where the language should actually be formal following all the rules. As a result, an Indonesian text must oftentimes be “edited” first before being translated into English. This paper reveals problems in translating from Indonesian into English with the focus being translating reports and documents, formulates problems in translating from Indonesian into English in general, and proposes some solution to overcome theproblems.

Introduction: On Translating

Of all the many definitions on translating, it can safely be defined as substituting a text in a source language (SL) with that in a target one (TL), the result showing similar semantic and pragmatic aspects. This causes the readers of the TL text to understand the text the same way the readers of the SL text do. And in order for the translator to be able to do this, he has to master the TL into which the SL text is to be translated, in addition to mastering the SL, the content to be translated, and the techniques for translating (Directorate General of Higher Education as quoted by Adjat Sakri 1984 cited in Musthafa 1990; adapted).

In reality, the process of substituting the text—that is, translating it—is faced with problems. This stems from the fact that languages are used differently by their own speakers to express themselves in oral and written form. There is something cultural about the speakers using their own language differently. Not only does this mean that speakers express proverbs, idioms, clichés, nominal or adjectival phrases, and the onomatopoeia of animal sounds differently in their language (Leonardi 2000), but this also suggests that speakers use their language differently with regards to such grammatical and discoursial aspects as word choice, word collocation, sentence patterns, discoursial patterns, and discoursial rules.

A good and professional translator will take all those aspects above into consideration when translating a SL text into a TL one. He will make sure that his translation conforms to the rules of the target language understanding that his translation will now be read by the TL readers, while at the same time trying to be faithful to the original text not changing anything but the wording and form of the text.

Using the approach of examining the phenomena found in translation to discover regularities that can be stated to then form the science of translation (Gutt …..; adapted), in this paper I discuss the issues on translating from Indonesian into English following this order: use of Indonesian, translating from Indonesian into English, transferability of problems discussed to other types of text, solution, and conclusion.

Indonesian: How It Is Used by Its Users

From my experience (both in teaching and translating), it is obvious that Indonesian is used loosely by its users both in oral and written form. This means that the use of the language in practice deviates from what is prescribed by the Tatabahasa Indonesia Baku. This violation also occurs in written form, where the language used must actually be formal. This deviation applies in word choice, word collocation, sentence patterns, and discoursial patterns. Even if the use follows the rules, there are still other problems, one of which is ambiguity as asserted by Gunarwan (2001). A good example given by him is when they say “anak perempuan presiden yang kaya itu.” When English-translated, it can be either “the rich daughter of the president” or “the daughter of the rich president.” Another example he gives is Indonesian “tembus cahaya.” English-translated, it can be either “translucent” or “transparent.”

As for discoursial patterns, there are many cases in which Indonesian users trying to express themselves in written form follow what is described by Kaplan (1966) in Brown (2001: 337) as circular pattern, meaning that that Indonesian users do not get straight to the point of what they are trying to say, but instead building too much on what is around  the topic before really hitting it.

Although Kaplan’s theory has ever since been much debated and criticized, “there was and still is a ring of truth to Kaplan’s claims” (Brown 2001: 338). This is especially so for one who has oftentimes dealt with Indonesian users’ writing. I find that to be true too.

Translating from Indonesian into English

Problems in Translating from Indonesian into English

The problems I encounter in translating reports or documents resemble those I found in Advanced 4 students’ essays (Antoni and Radiana 2001). One hypothesis that can be raised out of this is that students translate even when they speak and write. This means that they write in Indonesian first what they want to say in English. Then they translate it. This of course produces problems in their translation as their Indonesian is itself still bad. An example is “Between family, legal, paramedics, or society and the victims can make cooperation for each other” (attachment p. 2), which is literal translation from “Di antara keluarga, hukum, paramedis, atau masyarakat dan korban dapat membuat kerjasama satu sama lain.”  One can easily see how badly the sentence is constructed in Indonesian in the first place, this resulting in the translation being also wrong. This practice of writing on the part of Indonesian users—that is, writing in Indonesian first and then translating it—is also confirmed by Alwasilah (1993: 60) when investigating Indonesian students and their academic life in the US academic setting.

With Bahtera Foundation’s (2003) report on non-formal education being sampled, the problems I encounter can be classified into problems at the sentential level, and those at discousial level. Discussed one by one, they are as follows:

1. Problems at the sentential level

At this level, problems are usually concerned with loose sentence construction, meaning that it does not follow the rules prescribed by Tatabahasa Indonesia Baku with regards to use of predicate, conjunctions, etc.

e.g.

Negara yang telah meratifikasi KHA, maka Negara tersebut terikat, baik secara Yuridis maupun politis (p. 1).

(unclear predicate, inappropriate use of conjunction)

Dampak lain masa depan anak tidak menentu serta menjadi “Unskill Worker” sehingga mereka akan menjadi beban negara di masa mendatang (p. 2).

(run-on sentence, ineffective sentence)

Hal itu mengakibatkan kurangnya fasilitas sekolah yang memadai, rendahnya kualitas guru, sehingga pelatihan teknis administrasi dan profesionalisme di bidang pendidikan kurang terjamin (p. 3).

(run-on sentence, ineffective sentence, no logic)

Perhatian yang kurang dari orangtua dan ketidakharmonisan komunikasi yang terjadi dalam keluarga telah mengakibatkan anak merasa dikucilkan dalam interaksi sosial keluarga, sebagai akibat anak menjadi terlempar ke jalan (p. 7).

(run-on sentence, ineffective sentence)

membuat batas usia minimum atas tanggung jawab pelaku kejahatan (p. 8).

(no logic)

Child to child approach adalah sebuah model pendekatan antar anak yang berbeda usia (cross-age peer tutoring) pola ini adalah alternative pengajaran yang mengandalkan peserta didik yang lebih tua mengajar peserta didik yang lebih muda, dan banyak memberi kesempatan pada peserta didik untuk berlatih (p. 9).

(run-on sentence, ineffective sentence)

2. Problems at the discoursial level

At this level, problems are associated with the way sentences are loosely connected in the text, this producing no apparent coherence and cohesion. There is little attempt on the part of the writer to make use of transitional markers and other cohesive devices to connect ideas together. It may also happen that some ideas stand irrelevantly among other ideas in the text.

e.g.

Indonesia telah meratifikasi KHA melalui Keppres No. 36/1990. Negara yang telah meratifikasi KHA, maka Negara tersebut terikat, baik secara Yuridis maupun politis (p. 1).

(missing transitional marker, ideas loosely connected)

Anak yang putus sekolah adalah anak-anak yang kehilangan hak pendidikannya dan tidak memiliki kesempatan untuk mengembangkan dirinya secara maksimal. Kondisi seperti ini adalah kondisi yang sangat menyedihkan. Dampak lain masa depan anak tidak menentu serta menjadi “Unskill Worker” sehingga mereka akan menjadi beban negara di masa datang (p. 2).

(missing transitional marker, inappropriate use of ‘lain’)

Munculnya anak yang hidup di jalanan adalah salah satu akses ketidakberdayaan Masyarakat dalam memenuhi kebutuhan dalam keluarga khususnya kebutuhan yang diperlukan oleh anak. Perhatian yang kurang dari orangtua dan ketidakharmonisan komunikasi yang terjadi dalam keluarga telah mengakibatkan anak merasa dikucilkan dalam interaksi sosial keluarga, sebagai akibat anak menjadi terlempar ke jalan (p. 7).

(lack of focus, ideas loosely connected)

Kondisi kehidupan yang sedemikian keras tidak menutup kemungkinan munculnya tindak kekerasan yang ditimbulkan oleh orang-orang dewasa yang notabene sebagai orang yang harusnya melindungi. Perlakuan salah yang dialami anak-anak di jalan dapat berupa kekerasan fisik, mental, eksploitasi ekonomi, kekerasan seksual (pemerkosaan, sodomi dan pornografi). Masalah lain yang Dihadapi anak-anak di jalanan adalah beresiko tinggi terhadap berbagai masalah kesehatan dan korban penyalahgunaan obat-obatan terlarang (p. 7).

(ideas loosely connected, missing cohesive device)

Challenges in Translating from Indonesian into English

A translator, having mastery of both source and target language, is challenged to be able to find flaws in the SL text, edit them, and translate the text into the TL. In the words of Leonardi (2000), the translator—given the possible above flaws to occur—must “recode the ST message first then s/he has to transmit it into an equivalent message for the TC [TL].” This is done both at the sentential and discoursial level.

Next, when rendered to the target text, oftentimes “…the form of the original text is changed; but as long as the change follows the rules of back transformation [above] in the source language, of contextual consistency in the transfer, and of transformation in the receptor language, the message is preserved and the translation is faithful” (Nida and Taber 1982: 200 in Leonardi 2000).

The extent to which both above can be done is the translator’s professionalism and intention to make the SL message remains clear in the TL without any bias in meaning except for the different form and wording devised.

In the case of my translating Bahtera Foundation’s (2003) report some example lines of which are given above, what I do is I recode the lines the following way, after which I translate them into English.

1. At the sentential level

Negara yang telah meratifikasi KHA terikat secara yuridis dan politis untuk mengimplementasikan semua butir KHA tentang hak-hak anak.

Any state which has ratified CRC is bound legally and politically to implementing all items stated in the CRC regarding children’s rights.

Mereka mungkin menjadi tenaga kerja tidak terampil, yang lebih menjadi beban daripada asset bagi negara.

They may end up being unskilled workers, who may turn out to be much more of a burden than asset to the country.

Ini mengakibatkan kurangnya fasilitas sekolah yang memadai, dan rendahnya kualitas guru. Kondisi ini juga menyebabkan ketidakmungkinan dilaksanakannya pelatihan teknis, administrasi, dan profesionalisme di bidang pendidikan secara memadai.

This results in the shortage of proper school facilities, and low teacher quality. This condition also makes it impossible for the technical, administrative, and professional training to be carried out properly.

 Kurangnya perhatian kepada anak-anak dan harmoni dalam keluarga menyebabkan anak-anak merasa terisolasi, dan ini membuat mereka berpaling untuk hidup di jalan. Tentu masih ada banyak alasan lainnya yang membuat anak-anak memilih hidup di jalan.

Lack of attention on the part of children and harmony in the family cause the children to feel isolated, all resulting in the children’s dumping themselves to the street. There are many other reasons, of course, that may contribute to children’s turning to the street.

menentukan batas usia minimum di mana anak-anak mulai bertanggung jawab penuh atas semua tindakannya.

set limit of minimum age at which children assume full responsibility for their actions.

Child-to-child approach adalah metoda tutorial beda usia di mana anak-anak yang lebih tua ditugaskan mengajar anak-anak yang lebih muda. Metoda ini terbukti efektif karena memungkinkan lebih banyak anak dapat belajar.

Child-to-child approach is a cross-age peer tutoring method by which elder children are assigned to teach younger ones. This method proves to be effective in that it allows for more children to be able to learn.

2. At the discoursial level

Indonesia telah meratifikasi KHA melalui Keppres No. 36/1990. Dan negara yang telah meratifikasi KHA terikat secara yuridis dan politis untuk mengimplementasikan semua butir KHA tentang hak-hak anak.

Indonesia has ratified CRC through Presidential Decree No. 36/1990. And any state which has ratified CRC is bound legally and politically to implementing all items stated in the CRC regarding children’s rights.

Anak-anak putus sekolah adalah anak-anak yang kehilangan hak atas pendidikannya dan kesempatannya untuk mengembangkan potensi dirinya secara maksimal. Tentu ini adalah kondisi yang menyedihkan, yang dapat berakibat kepada masa depan mereka yang tidak pasti. Mereka mungkin menjadi tenaga kerja tidak terampil, yang lebih menjadi beban daripada asset bagi negara.

School drop-outs are children deprived of their right to education and chance to fully develop their potential to its maximum extent. Indeed, this is a sad condition, which may result in the children’s uncertain future. They may end up being unskilled workers, who may turn out to be much more of a burden than asset to the country.

Munculnya anak-anak yang hidup di jalanan menunjukkan ketidakmampuan keluarga dalam memenuhi kebutuhan anak-anak. Kurangnya perhatian kepada anak-anak dan harmoni dalam keluarga menyebabkan anak-anak merasa terisolasi, dan ini membuat mereka berpaling untuk hidup di jalan. Tentu masih ada banyak alasan lainnya yang membuat anak-anak memilih hidup di jalan.

The existence of children living in the street is due to the inability and incapacity of families to fulfill their children’s needs. Lack of attention on the part of children and harmony in the family cause the children to feel isolated, all resulting in the children’s dumping themselves to the street. There are many other reasons, of course, that may contribute to children’s turning to the street.

Kondisi kehidupan seperti itu memungkinkan terjadinya kekerasan terhadap anak. Ini bahkan dapat dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang seharusnya melindungi mereka. Kekerasan yang mungkin terjadi kepada anak-anak di jalan dapat berupa kekerasan fisik dan psikis, eksploitasi, dan penganiayaan. Resiko lain yang mungkin dihadapi oleh anak-anak jalanan adalah masalah kesehatan dan penyalahgunaan obat-obatan terlarang.

That kind of life makes it possible for violence against children to take place. This may even be done by the very adults who are actually supposed to protect them. Violence that street children may experience ranges from physical and psychological violence, exploitation, and abuse. Other risks faced by street children are health problem and drug abuse.

Transferability of Problems to Other Types of Text

It can be argued that the problems I encounter in translating Bahtera Foundation’s (2003) report into English also prevail in other types of text. The difference will lie only on stylistics and registers or terms used. This means that the translator is still exposed to the same challenges.

Solution

Some solution that I can propose to overcome the problems I exposed earlier at this point are as follows:

  • know Tatabahasa Indonesia Baku
  • know English rules and English types of text
  • stick to translating texts you are best at translating
  • understand the whole text you are to translate
  • know what you should “recode” before translating the text
  • translate the text
  • proofread your translation to make sure that it reads fluently
  • try translating other types of text to add to your repertoire of content knowledge
  • revise your own theory of translation based on your practice and experience

(Beaugrande 1978 in Apte 2002)

Conclusion

Translating from Indonesian into English poses some problems. And this makes up the challenge that a translator has to take. Through constant practice and experience he will realize that translating is a creative endeavor (Weaver in Apte 2002), with him building his own theory on how to best translate. This is the reward of translating in addition to the financial gain that follows.

 

 

References:

  • Alwasilah, A. A. (1993). Dari Cicalengka sampai Chicago: Bunga Rampai Pendidikan        Bahasa. Bandung: Angkasa.
  • Antoni, F., & Radiana, I. (2001, September). Common Mistakes Students Make and What It May Suggest We Should Do to Fix the Problem: An Account of Advanced 4 Students’ Essay-Writing Workdrafts. Paper presented at LIA International Seminar 2001, Jakarta.
  • Apte, M. (2002). Translating Poetry: Interface with Emily Dickinson’s Poems. Retrieved April 10, 2003 from http://www.anukriti.net/TT.
  • Bahtera Foundation. (2003, March). Pendidikan Non-Formal bagi Anak Kategori CNSP. Bandung: Hadi Utomo.
  • Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy (2nd edition). NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  • Gunarwan, A. (2000, October). The Minimalist and Maximalist Approaches in the
  • TEFLIN: Towards the Empowerment of the General Indonesian Learners of English. Paper presented at TEFLIN Conference 2000, Jakarta.
  • Gutt, E-A. (…..). A Theoretical Account of Translation without a Translation Theory. Retrieved October 12, 2002 from http://cogprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/archive/00002597/01/THEORACC.htm.
  • Leonardi, V. (2000, October). Equivalence in Translation: Between Myth and Reality. Retrieved July 22, 2003 from http://accurapid.com/journal/14equiv.htm.
  • Musthafa, B. (1990, April 18). Kualifikasi dan Penyiapan Tenaga Penerjemah. Gala, p…

Resume:

Ferry Antoni, S.Pd. Graduated from IKIP Bandung in 1997. Presently works as an academic supervisor at LBPP-LIA Bandung, Jalan Martadinata 20 A, Bandung  40114, Jawa Barat, telp. (022) 422-1117 ext. 114, e-mail address: ferryaar[at]yah00.com, http://www.geocities.com/ferryaar/intro.html. Is now taking his graduate program at UPI. Has presented some papers at LIA-held seminars. Is to present papers at TEFLIN Conference in Bandung in October and—hopefully—Conference on Teaching English to Young Learners in Bandung in February.

One Response so far.

  1. jimmy h berkata:

    i think it’s need culture because the culture and habit is important things when we talk about english learning usual and habit social media

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