23 June 2013


A question that sometimes arises in Malay-English translation is this: Is Malay wordier than English? One way to look into this is to compare comparable texts and see how long they are.

If we look at the Malay version of the daily news summary for 23 June from The Brunei Times (here), it is 3 minutes 3 seconds long, while the English equivalent (here) is just 1 minute 40 seconds long. So, why is there such a large difference?

The first difference is that the Malay newsreader starts with the full Islamic greeting, which takes about 6 seconds, while the English newsreader just says hello.

The second difference is that the Malay newsreader gives the full title for Prince Sufri: Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Paduka Seri Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharajara Permaisuara Pengiran Muda Haji Sufri Bolkiah. This takes about 7 seconds to say. In contrast, the English newsreader just says: His Royal Highness Prince Sufri Bolkiah. This takes less than 2 seconds.

But what about ordinary text? I'll need to analyse that further. But one immediate observation: the Malay version has berkenan berangkat (lit. 'consented to attend') while the English equivalent is the single word graced.