It all started with an earnest Facebook status by the brilliant Zuhairy, my good twin:komplikasi That status spawned a long discussion in the comments, with a number of people echoing his sentiments, including yours truly.

In the past decade, Malays have been notorious, insisting on using loan words when there exist more beautiful words already in the Malay vocabulary. The government, for instance, has bafflingly adopted the use of word “bajet” for “budget” in place of the previous “belanjawan”.

I think that TV3 is the worst offender of all. One can just listen to Buletin Utama and try to catch them inventing new loan words with no justification every so often. The worst thing is that no one is calling them out, and soon enough, the words get accepted into normal usage.

It was then that I remembered about the Facebook translation project. I used to join the Bahasa Melayu translation project, up until the point I quit because the glossary that has been agreed upon and voted for by the project members is just simply ridiculous.

Want proof?

Facebook - Bahasa Melayu Glossary

(click for high res full list)

If you are too lazy to read, here’s a selection of translated words:

  • “bid” – “bida”
  • “click” – “klik”
  • “it’s…complicated” –  “ianya agak komplikasi”
  • “privacy” – “privasi”
  • “photo” – “foto”
  • “record” – “rekod”
  • “profile” – “profil”

Whatever happened to “tawaran”, “tekan”, “peribadi”, “gambar” and “rakam”? Most importantly, what the fuck is “ianya agak komplikasi”?! What’s wrong with “rumit”?!

A bit later on, Zuhairy asked me if there is a Malay word for “profile”. I have been wondering the same thing too, so I decided to check on an online Indonesian-English dictionary (simply because I couldn’t find a Malay one, let me know in the comments if you know of any).

“Profile” was translated as…


Hell yeah, pretty bad ass, huh? Much better sounding than wussy “profil”.

* * * * *

Which led me to the next day, with the announcement of PPSMI (or ETeMS: English Teaching in Maths and Science) abolition effective 2012.

Some people might point out that because of the new teaching in English, the people who voted for the translations in Facebook have a horrendous grasp of Malay.

WRONG. The people who voted for the glossary are mostly from the age before that, when teaching was in Malay. So why the crappy Malay?

It’s mindboggling really, but do go take a look in an official Kamus Dewan Inggeris-Melayu (Dwibahasa) by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. It’s horribly useless. I was required to have one during high school (boarding school regulations), but frankly I’ve never used it. Instead, I look for the meanings of English words in an English dictionary.

You know why I did that? Because in Kamus Dwibahasa, words like “oxygen” do not translate into “gas yang dibebaskan oleh tumbuhan ketika proses fotosintesis, dan diperlukan oleh haiwan untuk pernafasan” (that’s from the Malay Wikipedia by the way) or something like that.

You look up “oxygen” in Kamus Dwibahasa, you will get “oksigen”:

Oxygen in Kamus Dewan


Updated: 09/07/2009: Zuhairy had so kindly clarified to me that:

…the whole point of bilingual dictionaries is not so much to define a word, but to search for the exact term in the output language.

Trouble is, we’ve borrowed so many loanwords/calques from the english language that most entries in the standard kamus dwibahasa become completely redundant. Especially the technical terms.

Thanks, dude!