The project by the university on the work of the award-winning veteran journalist took about a year.
It was carried out by a team of final year students who selected the 326-page Penang’s History, My Story to translate as the final year project for their Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpretation.
The result was a 552-page Bahasa Malaysia book titled Nostalgia Pulau Pinang, Jejak Hidupku.
But the translators – Nuraisyahtul Aainaa Osman, Siti Nurhidayah Azami and Tan Yen Han – were not satisfied with merely one translation and produced another, a 207-page pictorial interpretation in Bahasa Malaysia that comes with tens of pictures and dozens of QR codes to guide readers to all the places in Penang described in the book.
“We felt only an extra pictorial book will properly reveal in Bahasa Malaysia what was written in English. Our team went to visit all the places mentioned and took pictures. We logged in all the locations and created the QR codes, so readers can scan it and get there using Waze or Google Maps,” said Siti Nurhidayah.
She said her team also designed an augmented reality presentation to give an interactive experience of excerpts of the book.
Tan said Penang’s History, My Story was one of the three books his team initially shortlisted for their translation work.
“When we read this book, we learned so many amazing things about Penang’s past that we never knew. We then felt that we must translate it so that more people could read it,” he said.
The book was written by Wong and his colleagues from The Star who grew up in Penang. It was first published by Star Media Group in May 2014.
Wong said he was surprised when he was approached by USM to have the book translated.
“I immediately said yes as it was an honour and also we hoped it would reach a wider audience should a BM version of the book be available.
“The aim of the book was to make history interesting and reveal the personalities whose names are on the street signs. Many pass those streets and even live there, but have no idea who those persons named were,” he said.
He cited the late Dr Wu Lien Teh, who was the first person of Chinese descent to study medicine at University of Cambridge and helped fight a plague which killed millions in China in 1910.
Wu, who is Penang-born, is known as the Father of Modern Medicine in China, but this was not mentioned in school textbooks. A residential road behind the State Mosque is named after him.
Wong, who is now the group adviser of Star Media Group, started his career in 1984.
Wong said the book would not be possible without the support of SMG, where he has spent 35 years.
“The book is the work of my ‘Star family’ and the people of Penang, my home town.”
He hoped the Bahasa Malaysia translation could eventually be published for public distribution.
Wong, 58, was chief executive officer and group chief editor of The Star. His Sunday column, “On The Beat”, is one of the top read articles.