Lost in translation


Lost in translation

Lost in translation

Friday, January 6, 2012
  • poke eye
...clothing not allowed at the Ministry of Defence included...“Clothes that poke eye”.

KUALA LUMPUR: A poorly-translated page on the Ministry of Defence website became the centre of attention when news of the gaffe went viral on January 5.


The English version of the Ministry of Defence’s dress code guidelines was found to contain several translation errors, such as the suggestion that men wear “collared shirts and tight Malay civet berbutang three”. The page also advised men to wear “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar / mongoose fight made in Malaysia on every Thursday and also when attending official functions that do not require the use of certain types of clothing”.


The page listed “long-sleeved shirts and skirts with exquisite” and “Shine closed” among clothing suitable for women.


The list of clothing not allowed at the Ministry of Defence included “Dress up that thought it seems to want to attend a party or picnic” and “Clothes that poke eye”.


The page caught the attention of bloggers before January 5, but it was on that day that it went viral on Twitter, with hundreds of tweets poking fun at the above examples within just a few hours.


“Dunno whether to laugh or cry at the translation,” read one tweet.


Bloggers got in on the action as well, with one saying, “If MinDef meant to destroy our enemies by making them laugh till their sides split, congrats, they have succeeded.”


Blogger Uppercaise called the translations “hilarious”.


Another blogger published screenshots of the page and wrote, “My English isn’t perfect but it’s not as bad as (this).”


By late afternoon the English translation had been removed from the Ministry of Defence website, though screenshots continued to appear online. A statement on the website said that the translation would be down temporarily and that corrective action was being taken.


A similar statement, purported to be from the Ministry’s Corporate Communications Unit, was posted on the Facebook page of defence journalist Dzirhan Mahadzir around the same time, with the addition of an apology.


Dzirhan had taken issue with some of the comments made by Twitter users, saying some of it amounted to “hysteria” and “snobbery”. He explained on his Facebook page that the Ministry does not have people doing full-time translation and could not simply hire people to translate web pages into English. Even allowing volunteers to do it for free is out of the question, he said, “due to civil service regulations”.


Not everyone was willing to accept these explanations.


“If they dont have the manpower to translate why do it?” asked one commenter on Facebook. “Doesn't seem very important. Better stick to a Bahasa Malaysia website instead of making silly errors.”