Several netizens are expressing outrage after one Singaporean from the country’s Indian community highlighted that a public notice circulating in the Woodlands-Admiralty area bears text in a North Indian language instead of Tamil.
Tamil is one of the four official languages of Singapore. It is the only Indian language among the four official languages, of which the other three are Malay, Mandarin and English. Singapore is one of only three countries in the world to make Tamil an official language. The other countries to have done so are India and Sri Lanka.
As such, Tamil is the most spoken Indian language in Singapore and is taught as a mother tongue language in the majority of local schools.
According to the last (2010) publicly-released census, 54.18 per cent of Singapore citizens and permanent residents who are of Indian ethnicity speak Tamil while the others speak one of more than ten other Indian languages spoken in Singapore.
On Friday, Facebook user Vijaya Kandasamy alerted netizens to the erroneous public notice about the temporary relocation of a market in the Woodlands-Admiralty region. The notice was written in four languages: English, Mandarin, Malay and a North Indian language.
Incensed that the notice bore another Indian language instead of the official Indian language in Singapore, Vijaya wrote: “OMG who is in charge of Admiralty/Woodlands R u ok?
“I think you need more people who can read and write Tamil. What language is that?? Blunders are made continuously by authorities. Its unacceptable!! It did not happen in 70s, 80s and even 90s but after millennium somethings 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!”
Additionally, a second mistake in the notice was picked up by a netizen responding to Vijaya’s Facebook post; the Malay translation in the public announcement is inaccurate and makes it seem like the notice issuer is “again looking for” instead of relocating the market. Malay is the national language of Singapore.
While it is unclear who created the public notice about the market relocation, it could be possible that the notice was commissioned by the Woodlands town council.
One netizen suggested that the flyer was created by a contractor affiliated with the town council as he reported that Admiralty zone town-councillor and PAP MP Amrin Amin ordered the contractor to change the flyer:
In spite of this, several netizens who responded to Vijaya’s picture of the notice shared her outrage and asserted that such a blunder is inexcusable:
This incident could join a plethora of blunders involving the Tamil language by public institutions in recent years. Following major translation misfires in government materials, an official 11-member Review Panel for Government Tamil Translations convened just last year to put an end to such mistakes.
In unveiling steps to eradicate inaccurate translations in Jan 2017, the then Minister of State for Health and Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat had said that the priority is to tighten vetting procedures:
“We will require all government agencies to adopt a more rigorous process to vet and check their translated materials before they are made public.”
During budget deliberations in parliament last year, he had said that such mistakes are “avoidable errors [that] should not have been made in the first place.”