Bahasa Melayu is the common language (lingua franca) in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, certain states of Thailand, Cambodia and Philippines. It has been the language for more than 300 million people, half of the population in South-east Asia, more than English speakers in England and almost equal to Arab speakers in all Arab countries. By collective experience, we find that Bahasa Melayu is also the language in some markets in Saudi and China!
My point is simple, you want to understand the Bahasa speakers, you learn and speak Bahasa. You want to understand your patients who speak Bahasa, you learn and speak Bahasa. You want to campaign to voters who speak Bahasa, you learn and speak Bahasa. Do you know in what language Dr Scott, a Germany doctor, serve his patients in Kampung Lasah Sungai Siput, back in 1960s? English? No. Bahasa.
Bahasa is just another language to communicate between one another, to understand its speakers or to gain knowledge. Making the language authoritative won't make it a powerful language. I believe one way to make this language powerful is by making Bahasa Melayu as the language of knowledge through a noble act of translation.
Chronologically, the Muslim civilisation found its greatness through translation of Greek Hellenistic works. Western civilisation found its greatness by translating work of the Muslim scholars. The Japanese and Koreans learnt from the West and translate to their languages.
Civilisation's greatness in science, technology, innovation and philosophy transferred from one region to another region through the noble act of translation. Translation allows a man or woman from remote area who only understand his language, to grab knowledge which previously is accessible only to a certain group of people. From translation, the knowledge enhanced, technology matured and philosophy flourished in the common language.
Let me quote an Indonesian thinker and politician, Anis Matta, who in his speech at Universitas Indonesia said in Bahasa that:
“Mengapa kita mesti belajar Bahasa Inggeris di Indonesia? Padahal jarak kita dengan bangsa Inggeris itu terlalu jauh. Kerana kita semua sepakat bahawa Bahasa Inggeris adalah bahasa dunia.
“Persoalan seterusnya, bagaimana ceritanya Bahasa Inggeris boleh menjadi bahasa dunia? Padahal jumlah orang Inggeris terlalu sedikit, wilayahnya jauh lebih kecil daripada Indonesia. Tetapi kita bangsa yang besar ini, belajar daripada bangsa yang kecil itu tadi.
“Bagaimana pula ceritanya kita belajar bahasa Arab di sini. Padahal kalau 22 negara Arab itu kita kumpul, kira-kira jumlahnya sama dengan jumlah orang Indonesia sekarang ini. Penjelasannya apa?
“Saya kira penjelasannya adalah orang Inggeris tidak bekerja dalam skala negara tapi mereka bekerja dalam skala peradaban. Orang Arab dahulu, di zaman Islam, bekerja bukan dalam skala negara, tapi dalam skala peradaban.”
Lastly, why I wrote this in English and not Bahasa? Because I want to call out all English-educated Bahasa speakers to start translating their knowledge into Bahasa on a voluntary basis. Let's start small. Any excerpts you find as wisdom, do translate. Any sentences you find valuable, do translate. Any paragraphs and articles you gain knowledge from, do translate.
If one of our translations can change one individual in a remote area to be more knowledgeable, from there I think we can change a kampung. If more translations reach more individuals, we can change a pekan. Imagine, if we can change a pekan, we can change a daerah. If we changed a daerah, we can change a state. Change a state, we can change our country. And once we change our country, we can change the world.
I have started translating my favourite articles on my blog Sekolah Sungai Buloh Yasir Tamizi. Any articles that I found interesting, I translate. Not so much, just a few, not so frequent, just when I want to. Share these words, go translate and make knowledge available in Bahasa. Remember this:
“Interpres, key ad civilisation.
Penterjemah, kunci kepada peradaban.”
My salute to all Bahasa translators. You are all the keys to the next greatest civilisation.
* This article was published at The Malay Mail Online with title Bahasa Melayu, Translation and Civilization on 6 July 2017