Thursday, April 3, 2014

B ... is for Books

 This post is about RAAAAAGGGGGEEEE.

There is a lot of swearing.

You have been warned.

I was from the national school system that taught maths and science in Bahasa Malaysia. I only started reading in English at eleven years of age, so all of my encyclopaedia (triseratops! Zaman Gunung Jura!) was in BM.

I don't get it when people insist that English is THE BEST medium for teaching science. I terrorised my Alam dan Manusia teachers in Primary School and my science teachers in high school, courtesy of science references in BM.  I did go on to study science stuff in university. My decent command of English meant that I didn't suffer unduly studying in uni (if only I actually did study harder), unlike my smarter comrades whose English usage was rudimentary. When you're too smart in high school, failing in uni is a real rude shock. Lucky I had practice since primary school, no?

I am a huge supporter of science and technology reading materials in BM. Hence, you may picture my rage when I encountered the following at the Kedai Koperasi Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.

 Looks kinda okay ... industrial reference books ...
... Economics reference books ...

... Engineering books ....

 Look at the fucking date of publication. It is over twenty goddamned years old.

 I barely scraped a pass for this paper ...

 This book was printed while I was in high school. Yes, I am old, but goddamn it don't you want your medical students to know things that are actually discovered in this fucking century?

Glossaries help you pick up terminologies that may not be in the dictionary ...

If this glossary was a kid, it would now be eighteen years old (and can lawfully have sex).

How the fuck is our automotive industry supposed to progress with this kind of reference material?

This is not a second hand book shop. Why are they selling books that are more than a decade old?

The book is so old that it's fading and peeling.

Look! It's got liver spots!


The Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka is a government agency tasked with upholding the national language in its rightful place as indicated in the Constitution. It is given an annual budget and a large number of staff to draft and enforce policies concerning the national language, organise programmes to expand the national language and literature as well as publishing books.

As a child, I have had lovely books published by the DBP. They had fabulous children's books and young adult novels. They published marvelous abridged translations of world literature.

But alas, it is no more.

For the love of God, a huge proportion of the population have poor command of English. How are they supposed to pick up knowledge relevant to science and technology and other subject matter if the books available in the language they can read are usang (decaying), obsolete and hideous? Okay, the books published in the last five years look better. But DBP, you are a government agency,  please have some standards. I mean, look at the books by the Institut Terjemahan dan Buku Negara, a government-liked company specialising in publishing translated and new material.

 Yes, people judge books by its cover.

We have talented graphics people, goddamnit.

 See? Pretty.

Don't get me started on the staff service or the condition of the book store. They have staff lolling around doing nothing but the books are arranged haphazardly and with little logic guiding the arrangements. Only the displays right in front of the payment counter was sensibly arranged. The magazine racks have gaps. There are stacks of semi-opened parcels of textbooks on the floor.

While I was there, a woman bought a few large posters, the kind you put up at kindergartens, you know? The counter staff asked her if she'd like him to roll it up for her to bring back. What the fuck kind of question is that? Do you think she should bring it home like gigantic kites under her arm? And the size of the posters' roll  ... it's like the diameter of a drainage pipe. Not to mention the struggle to cut off pieces of cellophane tape with blunt scissors caked with adhesive. It was all I could do not to throw myself over the counter and throttling that inept man.

Apart from the great rage, this experience made me really sad. The 19th and 20th century blazed past in explosions of technology-propelled dynamism.  How are my people supposed to be trailblazers of technology and knowledge economy without the support of good, cutting edge reading material? How are the students supposed to enjoy reading out of date materials that are only good as historical reference?

The DBP should strike off the Pustaka (books/book collection/library/knowledge repository) at the end of their name and replace it with Petaka (catastrophe) instead.


Sunflower said...

I personally think DBP is falling down on the job and that's why we have so many English words getting directly translated into BM instead of having, you know, actual BM words. And sometimes there are BM words but people still use the English version!

The lack of materials in BM was one of the major reasons some people supported studying science and maths in English. Coz at tertiary level, almost all the resources are in English and in some courses in public unis, I have heard that students read English texts, then have to translate to Malay to answer the exam questions. I'm sure DBP could learn something from their Japanese equivalent... the Japanese don't seem to have any shortage of specialised texts in their own language, whether original or translated.

Snuze said...

Hello Sunflower!

Thank you for dropping by and commenting. A thousand apologies for not replying sooner.

I agree with everything you post in your comment and I do agree that we need to do more to generate knowledge content in the national language. It will go beyond making knowledge accessible to the people but also to promote Bahasa Malaysia as an international lingua franca.

Don said...

Really hate direct translation in not only medical terms, others too.
Ekstraksi DNA? Purifikasi? Where have Pengasingan and Penulenan go?

Snuze said...


I miss the Malay science reference books in the 80s. They use a lot of original Malay words and were not lazily Malaycising English terminologies.