Translation Programs in Indonesia

  1. Introduction

As a developing country, Indonesia wants to increase its quality in technology and sciences. However, the ability of Indonesian scholars in producing books in those fields is limited.  For this reason, Indonesia provides books that have been translated from foreign languages into Indonesian language massively. Most of technology and sciences books are written in foreign language, especially English.

Translation itself, as stated by Munday (2001: 8), is an English term that is first attested in around 1340. In the field of languages, translation today has several meanings; the general subject field or phenomenon (‘I studied translation at university’); the product — the text that has been translated; and the process of producing the translation (translation service).

The study of translation is considered as an academic subject in the second half of the twentieth century, which is then called Translation Studies. Translation studies deals with the systematic study of the theory, description and application of translation, interpreting, and localization.

In this paper, the writer tries to investigate the undergraduate (S1) and graduate (S2,S3) translation programs, or specialization in translation in Indonesia; to elaborate the possibility of translation programs improvement, both in quantity and quality, at the universities in Indonesia; and to provide some suggestions or recommendations for the translation programs to grow well in Indonesia.

2. Content

1. Translation Programs at the Universities in Indonesia

Catford (1965:1) opens his book A Linguistics Theory of Translation by saying, ‘Clearly, then, any theory of translation must draw upon a theory of language — a general linguistics theory. This uncertain relationship between linguistics and translation theory continues to be reflected in the literature. However, Shveitser (1983: 13) rejects the view that linguistics can explain only the lowest levels of translation activity which is then supported by Bell (1991) who claims that translation theorists and linguistics are going their own separate ways.

In fact, Translation Studies at the universities in Indonesia is part of Literature or Applied Linguistics program. At the undergraduate level, it usually becomes a compulsory course in English Literature or English Language Teaching program which is taught for one semester as in Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Indonesia, and Universitas Padjajaran.

In other universities providing translation specialization, students who take translation specialization will learn more deeply about this field. At Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang, for instance, they would attend translation course for four semesters; Introduction to Translation, which is compulsory for all students; Advanced Translation 1 — the students learn to translate various texts; Advanced Translation 2 and 3 — the students learn about how to use Computer-Assisted Translations (CAT) tools, such as Trados. CAT tools are a form of language translation in which a human translator uses computer software to support and facilitate the translation process.

At graduate level, translation is commonly part of Linguistics or English Language Teaching program. Some universities with translation specialization at graduate level are Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Negeri Jakarta, Universitas Sebelas Maret, Universitas Sanatha Dharma, Universitas Udayana, Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta and Universitas Terbuka. In some other universities, translation only becomes an elective course as in Universitas Muhammadiyah Malang.

Compared to other universities in abroad, the number of Translation programs in Indonesia is much smaller. In several official education websites, only Universits Indonesia that is detected as approved Translation and Interpreting Schools in Indonesia while  Australia, for instance, lists many universities such as Adelaide Institute of Training and Further Education, Central Metropolitan College of Training and Further Education, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University, Macquarie University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Institute of Training and Further Education, Southbank Institute of Training and Further Education, University of New South Wales, University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, and University of Western Sydney (Atanet, 2016). However, at Indonesian universities, translation at those universities is mostly part of Applied Linguistics Program, and even sometimes is only an elective course.

Furthermore, some research have been conducted to investigate the quality of translation works in Indonesia. Indonesian people who want to become translator or interpreter in America, will usually unable to compete with Malaysian fellows who also are Malay. Indonesian translators often produce rambling translation works or sometimes missing in translating the important information, the diction and the expressions used are less accurate, and the spelling is sometimes not rechecked. Of course not all Indonesian translators have low quality, but the image of Indonesian translators is bad; slow in thinking, less skillful, and do not want to ask if there is a problem (Kompas, 2003).

Sarjani (2016) also found that the quality of translation work in Indonesia is still very low.  She mentions the lack of provision of textbooks for students as the cause.  The lack of ability in mastering source language (Indonesian Language) and translation technique causes the production of textbooks less than expectation. This is also supported by Direktorat Pembinaan Penelitian dan P engabdian pada Masyarakat who have been evaluating the examples of translation works done by prospective translators in 2016.

In more detail, Alim (2016), concludes his research by mentioning several problems faced by the translation students that include language skills (linguistic problems), problems in dealing with the cultural terms of the source language (extra linguistic problems), problems related to translation resources (instrumental problems) and problems related to how to do a translation work (transfer problems). Some students also seem to have problems related to their insufficient understanding about the nature of translation work (translation knowledge problems).

2. The possibility of translation programs improvement, both in quantity and quality, at the Indonesian universities

As the rapid growth of global life, the roles of translation also become more essential over recent decades. Munday (2001. 11-13) argues that there are four main reasons why translation studies important. First, the demand of translation has soared, so a vast expansion in specialized translating and interpreting programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate level is needed. Second, the past decades have also seen a proliferation of conferences, books and journals on translation in many languages. Third, as the number of publications has increased, the demand for general analytical instruments such as anthologies, databases, encyclopedias, handbooks and introductory texts is automatically growing. Finally, international organizations have also prospered.

Considering the big opportunity in translation field today, this writer believes that translation programs in Indonesia will be growing rapidly as well. Munday (2016:11),  comments that by 2015, the global market for outsourced translation, interpreting and related technologies was estimated to exceed US$ 38 billion, while international organizations such as the European Union translate between 24 languages and spend some €456 million per year on translation and interpreting services. Those opportunities automatically will attract students to involve their selves in translation world. It can be seen in Universitas Indonesia; the number of translation students has increased fourfold compared to last year.

The Deputy Minister of Education and Culture of Indonesia, Prof. Ir Wiendu Nuryanti, M Arch., Ph.D said in her speech at Safari Kebangkitan Literasi Nusantara and Frankfurt Book Fair (FBF) socialization in 2014, there are actually numerous literary works about Indonesian culture and archipelago produced by the talented Indonesian writers. Yet, we have not taken into account at the global level as the lack of literary works that are translated into international languages. Indonesia is left behind in literature, she added.

However, this year, good news came from the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016. Indonesian literary work, Lelaki Harimau by Eka Kurniawan which is translated into Man Tiger by Labodalih Sembiring won the Man Booker International Prize 2016. This international literary award aims to encourage more publishing and reading of quality works in translation, and to highlight the work of translators. It shows that translation works starts to get serious attention and the quality of Indonesian translators start showing a good development.

3. Suggestions or recommendations for the translation programs to grow well in Indonesia.

Based on the elaboration above, several things we can do to increase the quality and quantity of translation programs in Indonesia are: First, evaluating the teaching methods, testing techniques, and curriculum design. Naiman et all (1978) believes that to improve the quality of teaching in any subject areas, including English language, the teachers should understand the characteristics of the learners as well as their learning style. The teachers should find some ways to help their students overcoming their problems, in this case is translation problems; linguistic problems, extra linguistic problems, instrumental problems, transfer problems, and translation knowledge problems.

Second, providing as much as high quality translation textbooks. Germany provides a good example of doing this. Kurnia (as stated in Sarjani, 2016) says that in Straelen, a city in the state of Norh Rhine-Westphalia, there is a Europe Translation Institute in which a giant library with no less than 110.000 volumes of books written in more than 275 languages and dialects. Of course, Indonesia also has a chance to have one in the future.

Third, increasing the frequency of collaboration between universities and translation institutions such as Himpunan Penerjemah Indonesia (HPI) to develop the quality of translators through seminars, discussions, and trainings.

Fourth, in order to attract more people, this field should be more appreciated.  Translators or translation experts should be considered as a professional carrier with proper salary. Actually, the standard rate of professional translators has been ruled in Peraturan Menteri Keuangan PMK No. 53/PMK.02 Tahun 2014 Tentang Perubahan Standar Biaya Masukan Tahun Anggaran 2015 yang mengatur Satuan Biaya Penerjemahan dan Pengetikan. However, in fact, there are so many translators who get paid below the standard. This of course also affects the work quality.  Besides, the role of publisher is also important In order to meet the market demand, many publishers force their translators to get the works done as soon as possible, which then worsen the quality.

Finally, to guarantee and control the quality, translators should get sort of certification or accreditation. In Indonesia, it was held by School of Linguistics and Cultural Sciences Universitas Indonesia (FIBUI). After passing the test, the translator will be then oath by the Governor of DKI Jakarta and officially become sworn translators or certified or authorized translators. However, this program does not exist any longer. So, in 2013, Himpunan Penerjemah Indonesia (HPI) organizes this kind of test called Tes Sertifikasi Nasional (TSN). Other countries also have their own institutions such as South African Translator’s Institute (SATI), Institute of Translation and Interpreting, UK (ITI), American Translator’s Association, National Accreditation authority for Translators and interpreters, Australia (NAATI), Cananadian Translators, Terminologist and Interpreters Council, and Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) by Institute of Linguists, London.

3. Conclusion

Based on the elaboration in the previous parts, we can conclude that the quantity and quality of translation programs in Indonesia is still very low. That is why, universities and translation institutes should work harder to produced high quality translators and translation experts who can compete at global level. Of course, not merely focus on the commercial aspects, which is indeed promising, but the function of translation as academic studies should be also enhanced. Moreover, translation studies can be developed into a more interesting study by relating it to other studies such as postcolonial studies, discourse studies, or cultural studies.

4. References

Atanet (2016). Approved Translation and Interpreting Schools. Retrieved from


Baker, M & Malkmkjaer, K .(ed). (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies.

London: Roudledge.

Catford, J.C., (1965). A Linguistic Theory of Translation. London: Longman.

Himpunan Penerjemah Indonesia. (2003). Tes Sertifikasi Nasional. Retrieved from

Holmes, James S. (1972/1988). The Name and Nature of Translation Studies. In Holmes,

Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies, Amsterdam: Rodopi

Machali, R. (2007). Penerjemahan dan Dunia Global: Pengalaman Australia dalam

Penjurubahasaan. Paper presented at Seminar Nasional Penerjemahan Politeknik Negeri Malang, Malang, Indonesia. Retrieved from

Munday, Jeremy. (2001). Introducing Translation Studies (4th ed.). London and New York:


Pym, Anthony. 2008. Exploring Translation Theories. London and New York: Routledge

Sarjani, F.S.Y.(2016). Kualitas Penerjemahan di Indonesia. Retrieved from

Universitas Gadjah Mada. (2014). Pemerintah dorong Penerjemahan Literatur Indonesia.

Retrieved from



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