... the translator lacks the curiosity to decipher the cryptic 'State Board', then just resort to perform literal translation, word for word, without understanding its meaning, let alone do the necessary research and proper investigation.
Curiosity killed the cat, but lack of curiosity may be hazardous for a translator's career. Several months ago, I was asked (1) to evaluate an existing translation that had received negative feedback from in-country reviewers in Indonesia, (2) to analyze what went wrong, and (3) to provide solutions. The English source document is part of a continuing education (CE) program for healthcare professionals, and the target document has been tested in Indonesia. To protect confidential information, I cannot elaborate too much about the document and have to conceal some key facts. Suffice it to say that it contains several paragraphs about which authority agency a healthcare professional should contact, if he/she notices an ethical violation committed by a co-worker. One of the options is to report it to the 'State Board'.
For Americans, 'State Board' sounds simple and straightforward. As we know, it refers to 'Medical State Board', a state government agency that licenses physicians, investigates complaints, disciplines physicians who violate the medical practice act, and refers physicians for evaluation and rehabilitation when appropriate. Each state in the union has its own independent Medical State Board; for example the Medical Board of California, the Wyoming Board of Medicine, and the State of Idaho Board of Medicine. The Federation of State Medical Boards represents 70 Medical Boards of the United States and its territories and works to protect the public through licensure and regulation on a national scale. That's within the United States.
Outside the United States, it's not that simple. Authority agencies that regulate healthcare professionals varies widely from country to country, and each country has its own different governmental structures and inter-jurisdictional regulations. For example, whereas the United States is a decentralized federation of autonomous states, Indonesia is a centralized republic of semi-autonomous provinces. Whereas in the United States, seventy Medical State Boards hold jurisdiction over ethical violations committed by healthcare professionals, in Indonesia it is a completely different story. To begin with, there is not a single Medical State Board in Indonesia … simply because there are no states, only provinces. Therefore 'State Board' may be a foreign concept in other countries.
During the evaluation process, I discovered at least two problems. First, the English source document had not been internationalized properly and assigned to a seemingly inexperienced translator in a raw, American-centric, version. Had it been internationalized, the abbreviated and generic 'State Board' would have been replaced by the more descriptive 'Medical State Board'. Second, the translator lacks the curiosity to decipher the cryptic 'State Board', then just resort to perform literal translation, word for word, without understanding its meaning, let alone do the necessary research and proper investigation.
I had suspected that the translator simply used a suggestion provided Google Translate. Indeed when I put the word 'State Board' in the Google Translate box, my suspicion was confirmed. The provided Indonesian translation is — surprise! — 'Dewan Negara', the very same term used in the evaluated translation. Unfortunately, 'Dewan Negara' does not mean anything in Indonesian. Instead, it means the Upper House of the Malaysian Parliament in Malaysian (another language spoken in another country). Thus the translator's lack of curiosity, ignorance, laziness and overreliance on Google Translate had conspired to produce an Indonesian translation that says something like: "If a co-worker commits an ethical violation (In Indonesia), you have to contact the Upper House of the Malaysian Parliament." Indeed Google Translate + ignorance + laziness - curiosity = ridiculous translation.
[To be continued …]
Johannes Tan, English <> Indonesian Translator & Conference Interpreter
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