Monday, March 31, 2008

Vulgar Indonesianism

Some stupid and funny words I noted recently:
  • Vulgar and useless adaptation of foreign (English) words: 'kontestasi' (funny because it is supposed to mean 'competition' and stupid because Bahasa Indonesia already has a good word to mean just the same: 'persaingan').
  • Same as 'koinsidensi'  (Bahasa Indonesia has a better 'kebetulan' -- maybe because 'koinsidensi' sounds more English, as in coincidence?)
  • Or 'distingsi' (for 'distinction', while we have 'perbedaan')
I'm sure there are more out there. I know, I myself am not good when writing in Bahasa Indonesia. But at least, I don't adopt foreign words just because I'm lazy to find the right words. And even if I do adopt them, it is not because I just want to sound cool.


Tau Fik said...

Wow. Where'd you find those?

Aco said...

Fik, I first read them in Kompas. Jacob Oetama himself used "koinsidensi", to my disappointment -- followed by Tajuk Rencana couple of times. Yesterday, Maria Hartiningsih wrote a piece under a rubric title of "kontestasi". And also, read Sukardi Rinakit's review of a book in the same Kompas. I think Kompas is confused, at best: nationalist who likes to sound foreign -- but failed big time. If that is the best newspaper in the country, we're doomed.

Daniel Suryadarma said...

It's not. I read Bisnis Indonesia and Jakarta Post, two of the best national newspapers in Indonesia :P

I think Bisnis Indonesia is especially awesome in the fact that the email address of the reporter is written at the end of each original article.

Aco said...

Thank God, that Kompas is not the best, Daniel. It gives more reason to switch to Bisnis Indonesia. I think the only thing now that keeps me subscribing to Kompas is Panji Koming and to a lesser extent, Benni and Mice. Well, I can just buy the Sunday editions, right? Yes, sometime its Litbang does a good job -- but I'll go online for that.

As for the Jakarta Post, I will keep it. Its editorial has been the most sensible so far, to my view. They have good journalists too: Endy Bayuni, Vincent Lingga, Urip Hudiono and some guys who I know are studying abroad.

Syurkani said...

Mas Aco, I think those big blokes just 'misspoke'the words. They think if Hillary could make it, while she's a presidential hopeful of the most powerful economy on earth, why they shouldn't. Just like my former boss di departemen (you know which one) who refused to correct his mistake for the word 'optimalization' which came from optimalisasi, just because at that time I was not yet a PhD (am still not now...hahaha...)

a.p. said...

Ah, you should also read the sports section, and see how often they used the word 'selebrasi' (for celebration [i.e. after scoring a goal] = perayaan).

And once they used 'okupasi', a direct translation for 'occupying' ("bangunan mewah mengokupasi lahan umum"); while we are used to using 'menguasai.'

Aco said...

Really, Pe'? That's even worse!

Ah, after all, Cinta Laura is not all that bad...

Arya Gaduh said...

Let me go against the grain here and say, I think it's not a bad thing that we start absorbing foreign words -- especially if those words allow us to communicate more precisely.

Of your three examples, I think "kontestasi" is redundant, but the other two are quite useful. "Koinsidensi" refers to an occasion where two incidents coincides. "Kebetulan" is inappropriate.

Meanwhile, "distingsi" is different from "perbedaan". "Pembedaan" is perhaps more accurate, but it sounds rather odd, no?

Ap's example, "okupasi", is also not accurately served by "menguasai". There is a sense of forced legitimacy with "okupasi", one that is nonexistent in "menguasai".

At the end of the day, the market will be able to weed out bad new words ("kudapan", anyone?) and keep good, useful ones. Don't you agree?

Aco said...

Of course Arya no one here suggests to ban those stupid adaptation :-) It's a free country. And I bet the market will eliminate those words, just like what it did to the unfortunate "sangkil" and "mangkus", even though these latter words sound way more Indonesian than "kontestasi" or "koinsidensi" -- or it is the reason it vanished? Time will tell.

a.p. said...

true -- the Indonesian vocabs are too limited to capture some nuances or different levels of intensity related to a word. 'Emerging' is one word that I can't find the most appropriate translation. Meanwhile, English (and Javanese) have different words to explain different types of rain, laughter, size etc.

But in some cases, I don't think we need that kind of 'distingsi' (sic.). Gerimis, hujan, hujan deras can adequately explain drizzle, rain or shower. Besar/besar sekali is enough to express big/huge.

On the 'okupasi' example, I disagree that 'menguasai' poorly translates 'occupying.' When we read the context, then using 'menguasai trotoar' or 'menguasai badan jalan' is more appropriate to explain 'occupying ... [insert word].'

Same thing with 'perayaan setelah mencetak gol' -- one doesn't have to say 'selebrasi seusai mencetak gol.' The context has already explained that this is a different 'perayaan' than 'perayaan 17 Agustus.'

a.p. said...

And one more thing. As Arya said, it's not a bad thing that we start absorbing foreign words. But it is a bad thing if we don't have the appropriate standard and consistency in doing that.

A read Tempo's feature on the late Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana a few weeks ago. I just realized the efforts he made in standardizing the rules, grammars, even constructing most of the vocabs we are using now. And he made it almost from a scratch -- at that time Bahasa Melayu had almost no standardized grammar or rules to construct/transform a word (e.g. from verb to noun).

And that has a point: language reflects the way of thinking of its users. The evolution of language (i.e. the way to having standardized rule in grammar, word construction/transformation and adopting foreign languages) both reflects and affects the evolution of the society who is using it.

A chapter on Diamond's "Guns..." explained the relation between language evolution and progress. And Landes in "Wealth and Poverty..." argued how the European progress was explained by their ability to standardized knowledge and inventions. A society could reach that stage and sustain it only by the help of language(s) that had pretty much standardized and consistent 'rules.'

Arya Gaduh said...

Do we really have to wait for a consistent and comprehensive standard before we absorb new words? Or shouldn't we just experiment with fairly broad rules (one being to phonetically follow the original pronunciation) and let the market of language-users decide?

As for whether further 'distingsi' over various concepts is necessary, I think at the end of the day, it's all a matter of taste. ;-)

Roby said...

ap: come on, even in english there's no "standardized" or "consistent" rules.

if there's one, then there's one giant book contains all the rules.
for example, look at how many different english dictionaries there are.

language deals with meaning. so i don't think it's about whether the person is too lazy or not.

it's more because the person wants to construct a particular meaning with reference to her own context or social position. (as in arya's argument).

Btw, who is "the market"?
last time i heard that "the market" was responsible for the bears-stearns collapse; and now she/he determines what words to use? ;)

Aco said...

Roby please elaborate more. I don't quite understand what social position or social context has to do with words one uses. I guess you mean you ought to use different words to address different (social) groups of people? If so, then I would say in my examples, the newspaper is addressing to snob, lazy, want-to-sound-english-but-nevertheless-proud-to-be-nationalist social group.

Of course that (my utter, subjective judgment) is about taste -- something we here repeatedly said to be of everyone's freedom.

I should probably repeat again: my post has nothing in it suggesting for banning stupid words. Fyi, I am against the idea of standardization, too. That said, I also think what Ape suggested when he talked about consistency is a little different than a mere "standard". It's a framework. Yes, you ought to have a common platform that allows you to convey what you mean to others. Sure, you can push that to the limit, play with the frontier. But the market will later decide if that is "socially acceptable" or not. Roby I can see you grinning, but yes, she will determine. By the way, she told me that kontestasi is ridiculous.

Roby said...

the problem is that even when there is a common platform people still misunderstand each other (i'm sure you have a lot of examples about this while you're running a big organization such as lpem).

that's why language is very tricky, it's continuously constructed every moment; very fluid.

taste is not subjective. it's constrained by social and cultural structures.

Tau Fik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
a.p. said...

Arya -- to my understanding, the Indonesian language actually have some sort of 'rules' (yes, such rules are not equal to a treaty or act) in adopting foreign words. One of the 'rules' is if the current vocab can still serve to explain the term, then go with the current one.

In the particular examples that Aco (and I) gave, I believe the introduction of distingsi, koinsidensi, kontestasi, okupasi and selebrasi is not necessary, for the same reason we don't need to introduce 'skedul' for we've had 'jadwal.' But the introduction of 'komputer' was both necessary and acceptable.

Aco, Roby, yes, I'm referring to a kind of framework. Note that I'm not against the idea about the market sorting out bad words; I'm not a fan of any kind of ban, and I don't think anybody can impose any strict standard to language. But, as Aco said, if we just throw new terms without a kind of framework, then it shows something wrong with our way of thinking.

Tau Fik said...

Well, actually, aren't those "constraints" on individual taste just evidence that the market does determine social acceptability? We can find cool new ways to say whatever we want, but if the market, i.e. social and cultural restraints (or, to simplify, just society in general), doesn't like it, then your cool new words or phrases simply won't catch on.

Arya Gaduh said...

Aco and Ap
On "koinsidensi", try translating this: "Money solves the problem of the double-coincidence of wants" (PS: Aco, I think when you said it is replaceable by "kebetulan" you misunderstood the meaning of the term here)

I think your so-called "rule" is not helpful at all. The example of "koinsidensi" above suggests that the rule of "explainable by the current vocabs" is fairly controversial -- it depends, in Roby's word, on one's "own context and social position" (or, for that matter, expertise).

Roby said...

Q:do we need a common language-framework to communicate?

A:No. That's why, for example, we have pidgin and creole languages. (use wikipedia to find out more).

Q:do we have rules for language?

A: Yes. Grammar. But grammar is not fixed; that's why in linguistic there is the process of grammaticalization.

language is not an equilibrium system (not moving from one equlilibrium to another). it's highly sensitive to context. well, actually language itself creates context through reported speech and metapragmatics.

arya: you're right. if i want to write on Kompas then i follow kompas's rule. if i'm hoping that aco or ape would give me a job, then i will follow their rules.

Roby said...

one more thing.

for me, the most interesting thing about this post is the label "indonesianism" that aco put.

in itself, it's an interesting semantic phenomena: aco sees this translation/grammaticalization in broader social context. for aco, this is more than just linguistic phenomena; it's about nationalism, snobishness, indonesianism.

Anonymous said...

I think:
1. Such words are ok.
2. May suit business report in Bahasa.
3. English is the proxy same as Dutch used to be.
4. There might be some economic impact in the future, worth reading material for the people.
5. It's some way to learn English vocab.
6. Needs some qualified institution to develop vocab from English.


Arya Gaduh said...

Aco and Ap:
Try this link to KBBI and type "koinsidensi". It's proper and its meaning is not "kebetulan".

Actually, with regards to language, I think Kompas tends to be most careful. [I learn about the difference between "memenangi" and "memenangkan" from Kompas]. It takes the notion of using proper language more than any other Indonesian newspapers I know.

Aco said...

Arya, I actually don't want to debate the examples. I made my point and when you agree that "kontestasi" is 'redundant' you confirmed it. But since you are insisting on looking to the examples one-by-one, I'll answer.

You are probably right that my "kebetulan" as a substitute for "koinsidensi" is not appropriate. But surely it's context specific and I can find a context where using "koinsidensi" is an overkill and isntead "kebetulan" serves the purpose better. Here is from Jacob Oetama (obit for Soeharto, 28/1/2008) -- my emphasis:

"Presiden pertama wafat setelah menderita sakit dan diisolasi dari bakat serta kebetahan kepribadiannya, yakni berada di tengah rakyat banyak. Ada persamaan jalan hidup antara presiden pertama dan presiden kedua. Keduanya memerintah dalam waktu lama dan sama-sama jatuh dari kekuasaannya. Sama-sama pula disertai pergerakan dalam kericuhan proses suksesi mereka. Suatu koinsidensi yang masuk akal jika menimbulkan pertanyaan dan pelajaran sejarah yang bermanfaat bagi perikehidupan kita selanjutnya sebagai bangsa
dan negara

Let me ask you. Is Jacob's use of "koinsidensi" here appropriate? I think it's not. Even worse, "coincidence" has a notion of two things happening at the same time. Clearly, Soekarno's and Soeharto's times did not take place at the same time. So, I think "kebetulan" is more appropriate here. It's more general and it does not require fixed time (or so I think).

Now to your question. You asked me to translate this: ""Money solves the problem of the double-coincidence of wants". Well, no, I don't translate that. But I will explain the meaning to the students. The same reason I refuse to translate opportunity cost (and disapprove the misleading "biaya transaksi). How do I explain them? For the double-coincidence issue of money use, I can go with "Uang menjadi berguna ketika saya butuh barang dari Anda namun saya tidak punya barang yang Anda butuhkan" (then I go with examples -- and not forgetting to tell the students that this is called in the literature as the problem of double-coincidence of wants).

Aco said...

Oops, I mean "biaya kesempatan" (not "biaya transaksi") -- a translation I found used in some Indonesian version of econ textbooks for "opportunity cost". What a misleading translation.

a.p. said...

Friends, I think Roby put this correctly and nicely. It's not just a linguistic phenomenon (introducing words to fill the gap where Indonesian vocabs can't serve). I began to think that this has a broader social context, as Roby said. Either for the sake of being cool, just plain lazy to dig the thesaurus, or, again, there is a problem in our way of thinking. I don't know what the real reason is. Bu for me, throwing new terms by just twisting some foreign vocabs is not the best thing.

Arya -- I think 'koinsidensi' has been absorbed in a limited context as a a technical term in nuclear physics ('teknik koinsidensi' -- don't ask me to explain what it is). It may have the same fate as 'komputer' or 'kooperatif', who knows. If that's the case, then I'd take 'koinsidensi keinginan (berganda)' as the appropriate translation. For now, I have my reserve for that term, and hope someone will help digging the local thesaurus for such word.

Anonymous -- may I plead you not to use the term '(in) Bahasa' when referring to Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian language? Someone told me that historically it has a derogatory/racist remark. But at least, it's just plain incorrect. Thanks...

Aco said...

Ah, I forgot. Yes, I agree with Roby and Ape, this all is more than just linguistic problem. My other post this morning might be related. This is getting more interesting than I thought.

Thanks, guys.

Arya Gaduh said...

I don't think Jakob's usage is wrong: He uses the root of the words (in English, which comes from Latin) which refers to "noteworthy alignment of two events". ["Kebetulan" doesn't cut it -- I think Jakob's word choice was perfect].

But now to be honest, now I'm not sure what your criticism is about. Initially, I thought you generally disagree with frequent absorption of English-sounding words -- but you disputed that. So, I thought you disagreed with the particular words, but that again seemed not to be the problem.

So, to follow up on Roby's point, you (and Ap) feel that people who adopt English-sounding words as lazy or snobbish.

But this is an unfair accusation: How can you accuse people who use Indonesian words that are proper and part of KBBI as lazy and snobbish? They are, after all, using properly documented Indonesian words.

So we're left with a matter of taste: You guys just don't like the sound of those words (or the periodical that published them). On this, I have nothing to say. ;-)

Arya Gaduh said...

Actually per your rule (i.e., explainable by existing vocabs), you don't need to dig into the local thesaurus for new words (since it has been explained by an existing word), right? ;-)

Aco said...

Well, I too can't force you to accept my accusation to such lazy adaptation, Arya. I don't care if the words are in the KBBI -- a book I never consult to. If you like Jacob's usage of "koinsidensi" and I don't then yes, it's a matter of taste. I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

a.p. ooooh... :-(, i'm sorry for that. academic and business report in indonesian language could be better if using indonesian version of some english words.

anyway, everyone's here is a degree holder of english speaking/writing education. we know some words are useful.

start adjusting the local educated holders, before them adjusting you.

e.g., there are two indonesian books (fiction/non fiction). one desperately uses 100% indonesian language, one flexibly uses some indonesian version of english words. i may buy the second one.


dendi said...

It may be out of topic but still a bit related to Indonesia language. many times wrote funny abbreviation, for example: Minah (minyak tanah), Gatsu (Gatot Subroto). Wa..kak..kak..kak... :)) We can be stupid since our brain is trained in the wrong way... A common abbreviation and popularly used now is balon (bakal calon), which always make me confused how people can distinguish with another "balon" (balloon in english).