I Hate Translations

“Translation is like cruelly mutilating a human’s body into parts and rejoin them afterwards.” Jean Paul Sartre, Les Mots

Let’s skip the ‘this-might-not-make-sense-to-you’ appetizer and get to the main meal. Translation, as how Sartre (paradoxically rendered from French) opened this post, is a highway shortcut for people who don’t have the high-motivation to take the long, winding road a.k.a. ‘comprehend literatures–or speeches–in the purest form’. These are people who don’t have time to learn languages, who don’t care if they might misunderstand some part of it as long as they have the raw apprehension.


“Insert beautiful shapes and I’ll transform them into new, shapeless ones!”
said the machine.

Surprisingly, I’ve met several exceptional minds who prefer to take hard lane. A teacher of mine, Mas Iqbal, spent at least 6 months studying German in order to understand Marx’s Das Kapital. Many others probably go to Kairo University, learn Arabic and everything before they have the holistic comprehension when they read the Quran.

Translation, my friends, is a semantic crime. No two words in different languages are ever completely interchangable. I hardly understand how translators have the heart to kill a sentence’s truest meaning and offer some shallow substitution. To my eyes, translation is like breaking a sentence into pieces and trying to rebuild them with weak glue. I always believe that there are cultural and historical aspects behind vocabularies–which mostly aren’t comparable in other nations’ chronicles.

However, getting your ideas translated to a number of languages (let’s call Dee’s Supernova or Ayu Utami’s Saman) is inevitably an honor for writers. To that we–I–can’t deny. (Not to mention the fact that I first met the magic world of Harry’s at my 3rd grade through bahasa Indonesia and not English.) Translation, hence, is an addictive yet destructive drug.

Make Your English More Powerful, With:

(Was once was one of The Jakarta Post I.M.O.’s top blogposts)

1. Better dictions

Choice-of-words is very crucial in composing a good writing. Do not even dare to think of belittling its influence.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should sophisticate every single word and force people to think that you’re that knowledgeable. In picking one of those words on the thesaurus list, consider these points:
(1) What you’re writing about.
(2) Who’s gonna be your readers.

If you want to talk about global warming to first learner kiddo, ‘melting ice cream’ would explain much better than ‘leak in the ozone layer’ or ‘increasing temperature’.

Dictions matter especially when you play with emotion. Consider this stupid confession:

“You can make me laugh out loud like a crazy lunatic or make my heart beat faster because of your sexiness or simply melt me with your cuteness and I love you. All of you.” (courtesy of a friend)

To this uber-literature English one:

“Other men said they have seen angels, but I have seen thee, and thou art enough.” (courtesy of Mr Moore)

Mr Moore has did a very good job there, using super ancient English and everything, but unless you’re an English literature student, I guess you’ll understand my friend’s love to his girlfriend better than Mr Moore’s to Mrs Moore. Am I right? The way you convey your message does matter. So, dictions.

2. Correct tenses

This is what most people think: How can Dad expect me to conquer those 16 crazy tenses! They’re made for non-humans!


This is what you should think: Tenses are made to help your readers understand what is happening when, sometimes beyond what is there, to another dimension.

a. Bull kicked Bill’s butt.
b. Bull kicks Bill’s butt.

The first sentence, using a past tense, infers that Bull once happened to kick Bill’s butt. Accidentally or in purpose, but the activity was never repeated unless you add ‘again’. In sentence B, ‘kicking Bill’s butt’ apparently has become Bull’s regular habit and I have my deepest condolence to Bill for that.

By just putting ‘ed’ in place of ‘s’ in that sentence, you can make your reader understand Bull probably better than he understands himself. Befriend tenses!

You can also see how saying ‘I love you’ would give a different effect from teliing people ‘I loved you’.

3. Priorities

Decide what you want to say first and then after. Priorities make dynamics to your writing. Sample of priority options:

a. Share a story and give lessons afterwards.
b. State an idea and give a story to support your argument.

4. Spelling check

Spelling is probably not that important because people will eventually understand as long as your structure of sentence is correct, but some pedantic or spelling-nazis may hate you forever when you misspell. Plus it’s not that hard to have a spell-check. Leave the burden to Microsoft Word or Google Chrome.

5. A talking keyboard

Just kidding (it’s not even funny, blamey). I meant jokes. Tickling lines will encourage your readers to continue and and finish until your very last sentence.

“Now open a new document on Microsoft Word and start typing down!”

Les Beaux* Portmanteaux

A couple of days ago, I was tickled by Jack’s conception of ‘language sandwich’ in Emma Donoghue’s Room where he made up two-fold words like ‘hugermous’ (from huge and enormous). Just a night before, I tweeted something about ‘extrhausted’ (from extra and exhausted) to give more weight on the worn-out state. Later, Nico Novito enlightened me by popping-up with the correct label for such self-made products and it’s called ‘portmanteau’!
(Originally a French word, we could guess?)

A portmanteau, as elucidated on Wikipedia, is a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes into one new word–usually both sounds and meanings. Take smog, for instance, was coined by collaborating smoke and fog. Funny thing, ‘portmanteau’ is also a portmanteau, derived from the word port(e) in French (means ‘door’) and ‘manteau’ (means jacket)!
(Surprising how semantics can always surprise you, eh?)


“Hey, Mom, I can’t eat my breakfast without the spork!”
(Spoon and fork, that is correct.)

The following examples are probably familiar to our ears (although a bit rarer to our eyes):

  • Blaccent: black and accent (when a non-black tries to sound black)
  • Bootylicious: booty and delicious (who doesn’t know this Destiny’s Child song?)
  • Bromance: bro(ther) and romance
  • Brunch: breakfast and lunch (the regular two-in-one meal for mahasiswa)
  • Camcorder: camera and recorder (a very helpful appliance)
  • Cocacolonization: Coca-Cola and colonization (a phenomenon that is also learned as an issue of international relations)
  • Cyborg: cybernetic (whatever that means) and organism
  • Linguogasm: lingua and orgasm (the sensation that comes up when you’re awed because of the hidden maze inside languages!)
  • Frenemy: friend and enemy (SBY might want to borrow this one in explaining our foreign policy, don’t you think?)
  • Mathlete: math and athlete (two subjects that would make a guy experting in both as some sort of god for the ladies)
  • Newscast: news and broadcast

How did you guys find it? Interesting? I believe that in the world of language, another word for ‘art’ is ‘portmanteau’. It may also be referred as the art of ‘creating’ with language. (Bear in mind that it’s ‘with’ language and not exactly the ‘language‘ because unless you’re the government in charge of a newborn nation like Soekarno or Ataturk, you can never ‘create’ language.) Good night!

*Credits to Adisty for the correction and interesting facts 

The Color of Language

Alright, this post is totally going to be freakish and preposterous.
Kindly bear with it.

Imagine ‘language’ as a concrete, vivid being. What would it be like? Is it transparent? What color does it come with? If defined in French, would it be a male noun or a female one?

The language (or languages, since we actually have more than one) I’ve claimed as my best friend for years has always been in a form of remarkably clever young lady that kindly spares hours on my working desk during semester breaks. ‘She’ surprises you every now and then with unexplainable dimensions of grammar rules, metaphors, and oxymorons.

Another form of language that is awkwardly engraved in my mind would be a box of riddles. This box is, somehow, blue. See, language is obviously not a humble being. Instead, it is a conceited creature that doesn’t care if you don’t understand what it tries to convey. Thenceforth, I imagine that the box would always be self-centric in the manifestation.


Blue is, whether or not you realize it, the color that is mostly used in language metaphors. ‘Out of blue moon’, ‘I’m feeling blue’, or ‘darah biru‘ (‘blue blood’, a metaphor for royal offsprings) are just a number of examples. There are probably more, not just in English but also in other exotic languages on the land of Arab and Africa.

Err–the point of this post would be, that if language had a color, it shall be blue.

Probably I shouldn’t have posted this. And you shouldn’t have read this.
This post is just some random bull crap in a Monday morning.

Wkwkwk Or 555?

(With courtesy of Guinandra L. Jatikusumo)

Laughing used to be an active verb that requires you to lively–sometimes overratingly–shout ‘Hahaha!’ with your head moving back and forth according to your unique rythm. Yet once these genius came up with live chat programmes, i.e. Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, Skype, as well as other similar appliances, you have to laugh virtually. Now we can actually laugh without really laughing.

There comes the problem: how should we laugh in texts?

Let’s stop there and look backward a little bit. Who invented words like ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, ‘woof’, or ‘moo’ to imitate the noise made by animals? To observe the pattern, these words were created according to the sound it produces. This is also why, these animals seem to have different way of communicating in different parts of the world. For instance, an Indonesian chicken cries ‘kukuruyuk!’ and an Indonesian dog yells ‘gukguk!’ instead. There are also some special Turkish words for the voice of cats and frogs yet I couldn’t remember.

Now imagine yourself as the someone who lived decades ago, sitting on your desk and frowning because you couldn’t find the rhyme-word to explain that a girl is laughing in a direct speech. How would you consider writing it down? Probably you’d in the end pick ‘hahaha’ because it’s the easiest, first thing that come up to your mind as that’s how it actually sounds.

Today, several people think that it is simply ineffective to write ‘hahaha’ on a chat window when you can compact it down to ‘LOL’ (the same notion goes to ‘be right back’, ‘talk to you later’, and many other familiar phrases), although, there are some conservatives who still prefer to use ‘hahaha’ for a more natural effect it yields.

Just when I thought that these were the only possible ways to laugh virtually, a friend of mine–with no serious purpose–put a Facebook status asking how people from different countries laugh in their texts.


I was like, “WOOOOT?!” How on earth can I not know about it?
Very intriguing, eh?

I start thinking that it apparently is possible to create a thesis on ‘Language and Identities through Globalization’.

Another interesting fact it that Oxford has now acknowledged ‘LOL’ as one of English words. It is, then, not impossible that ‘555’ can one day be put in a Thai dictionary.

I mean, who knows? Language is sexily very, very dynamic.