A flyer which about the temporary market in Admiralty caught the eye of a resident when she spotted Hindi instead of Tamil script on it.
Ms Vijaya Kandasamy posted a photo of the flyer on her Facebook page on Friday morning and commented,
I think you need more people who can read and write Tamil. What language is that?? Blunders are made continuously by authorities. Itz unacceptable!! It did not happen in 70s, 80s and even 90s but after millennium somethingz not right.
Again n again no one proofread the flyers before mass printing and distributing, please don’t take things too lightly and keep apologizing. It looks very ugly!!…
Please remove the person from your team if they don’t know our very own official languages!
For those who are unaware by now, the four official languages in Singapore are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English.
She also noted that even the information written in Malay does not seem to be correct.
The Facebook post was widely shared and apparently struck a raw nerve with the Tamil community.
In reply to a commenter who noted that the scripts were Hindi, not Tamil. Ms Vijaya wrote, “Tks we majority of Singaporeans only took Tamil as our 2nd Langauge. It includes our Punjabi, Sikh and many other non tamil speaking friends and we could communicate in Tamil very well coz they knew Singapore’s official language is Tamil and they respected that. It’s only now, all these issues are rising!”
A number of commenters also opined that this mistake should not be possible in Singapore, given the exposure to Tamil language by citizens through Singapore’s national education.
A commenter jokingly questioned if the mother tongue has been changed, “Guess many North Indians there or have the state Government have changed our mother tongue?”
A few commenters also noted that the translations seemed as if it was translated via Google translation.
The guess by the commenters happened to be the case as Straits Times found out from the Wet Market Operator which distributed the flyers.
Mr Wayne Neo, the spokesperson of Admiralty Wet Market, said that his team had used Google Translate to produce the translations for the flyers to ensure elderly residents in the area could understand and be notified where the new wet market would be.
But the Google translation resulted in badly written Malay and Neo’s team also mistakenly selected Hindi instead of Tamil as the language to translated into.
Mr Neo apologised for the mistake and said: “It was a bad mistake on our part, there are really no excuses.”
Speaking to ST, MP for Sembawang GRC Vikram Nair said that the flyers were put up by an independent wet market operator, who had not consulted any MPs or the town council before printing them.
He said that the “well-meaning” operator had tried to print the flyers to promote the new location of the wet market.
“He has been fighting hard for the stall owners, to keep the wet market alive given its move to a temporary location,”
Mr Nair said that after being alerted to the mistranslation on Thursday evening by his constituency director, he got in touch with the operator who said the flyers had all been taken down.
“He was very apologetic,” said Mr Nair.
According to ST, Mr Neo said that about 100 mistranslated flyers were given out, before he was alerted to the error on Thursday night.
He also added that he prepared a letter of apology, written in the four official languages, which has been given to the authorities to vet and intends to display copies of the letter on the stalls at the market’s current location.
On Saturday, Mr Nair posted a Facebook post about the incident and said that his team has offered to help the operator to check his translations for any future flyers.
Sembawang GRC MP and Parliament Secretary for Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Amrin Amin also made a post on his Facebook page and said that the mistake was unacceptable.
He wrote that he and Mr Nair has spoken to the operator and there is no malice intended.
Referring to this case, Mr Amrin questioned if the bad translation may be a symptom of a lack of diversity among staff and network of friends.
Well, I would say, Mr Amrin’s question to the team should have, “Do you know that Tamil is one of the four official languages of Singapore?” Because as you can see from the selection screen below, the choice between Tamil and Hindi is a conscious decision, not a misclick on the selection box and then unable to tell the difference between the two script.