The ‘Poke Eye’ English by MINDEF

I rarely read news articles on my Blackberry because I’m those kind of conventional writer who needs to see the large fonts on a bigger screen, however, when I saw the headline which reads, “Mindef blames Google Translate for ‘poke-eye’ blunder”, I just had to. I am very dumbfounded by the Minister’s statement to this issue.

First and foremost, let me just state why I take this issue personally. I am a writer, translator, and also, a daughter of a retired army Colonel. When we were all amused and laughing our ass off while reading the silly translation of Ministry of Defence (MINDEF)’s Ethical Clothing section last Thursday morning, I was actually embarrassed and outraged.

I have done a lot of translation works, copywriting, and not to mentioned, I have been a Corporate Communications personnel myself, never ever would I allow this to happen under my watch. What surprises me is how the Ministry actually take these kind of things for granted. Who is in charged of this? Why is the Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi even admitted that MINDEF, a Ministry that spends billions of Ringgit to buy armament that we might not even ever use, to use Google Translate to translate their website, just to save the cost of acquiring the help of a professional translator to do it. (Just to note, MINDEF, I’ve translated a whole website of 20 pages for only RM1,050).

I immediately texted my dad when I read the news and website. He explained that MINDEF’s management are mostly civilian PTDs who might not even understand the Military Ethical Clothing code themselves. I guess my dad missed the point, it’s all about language, and COMMON SENSE. What surprises me when I heard the word “PTD” was that these are supposed to be officers who are employed after 3 stages of screening process and a 6-months training course upon recruitment. Trust me, I know the selection process. I was part of it in 2006, and was not selected for the final interview stage. Apparently not good enough for civil service. BUT, if these very highly selected graduates can’t even THINK and opted to use Google Translate, imagine the level of their work quality.

This shows how our Government civil servants work. I’ve had enough listening to my mom ranting about her colleagues. We are talking about my mom, who is 55 years old, just waiting for her retirement age (56), complaining that her 24-28 year old colleagues, refused to follow her orders, took for granted of their work, and often missing from work without even notifying her. Once, an audit officer (apparently my age) came to her office and scolded her and challenged her to report of his attitude to his boss.  I’m not even gonna state that my mom works at Ibu Pejabat Polis Daerah Gombak. Okay, I just did.

But this is the quality of majority civil servants. Please, don’t get me wrong. I am not about dissing them. And there are minorities – civil servants who works ethically, and delivers quality output. Unfortunately, we don’t have excellent people on the job. I went to a government position interview last June 2011. Sadly, out of 60 people being interviewed for that position, I was saddened by the fact that I wasn’t even competing with anyone of my league and expertise. One girl even told me, she doesn’t know what the job requirements were, but she just needed a government job.

But back to MINDEF’s website. We have spent a lot of money purchasing armament, weaponry, jets and submarines that doesn’t work or was stolen, but at the end of the day, the Minister had to tell the press that, “Yes, we did use Google Translate.” I’m sorry Sir, but even with a doctorate degree, you shouldn’t allow your spin doctors to provide you such statements to tell the public. If I were your PR officer, I would’ve told you to say something like this, “I’m sorry that most of you catch the test-site that was up. Our webmaster was testing the page and what was shown wasn’t a real finalised page by the Ministry. We are now QC-ing the final website and it will be up soon.”

Unfortunately, you can’t hire me, because my principle is that I will never write for a politician.

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