SINGAPORE – Organisers for this year’s Speak Mandarin Campaign and National Day Parade (NDP) were left red-faced after committing linguistic errors in their promotional materials.
A wrong Chinese character was used on a rostrum sign, while there were Tamil typographic errors in NDP pamphlets.
Both organisers have since apologised.
Here are some other high-profile language gaffes that hit the news in recent years.
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Speak Mandarin Campaign video (March 2017)
The video, produced by the Speak Mandarin Campaign and the National University of Singapore Chinese Drama, drew flak for its erroneous teaching.
It showed a woman teaching her friend the right use of classifiers for nouns such as apple, paper and clothing.
She corrects her friend’s use of “yi ge” to “yi li” for apple and ball, saying “yi li” should be used for all round objects.
Social media users were quick to point out that the campaign was promoting the wrong use of Mandarin. The campaign later said it would follow up with another video to address usage of “ge” and “li”.
Bad English used in shopping malls’ signs (March 2017)
Hillion Mall’s KidsZone in Bukit Panjang came under the spotlight for its animal posters, which contained statements with grammatical errors.
A subsequent random check by The Straits Times on seven shopping malls found 11 errors in notices and signs used by merchants, including some advertising tuition services for students.
Earlier the same month, 10,000 copies of a free guidebook covering topics on grammar and highlighting common errors in the use of English were given out by the Speak Good English Movement in an effort to stem the problem, which has been a cause for concern.
Tan Kah Kee MRT station (December 2015)
The Land Transport Authority was forced to apologised for the incorrect translation of the name of one of the Downtown Line 2’s MRT stations.
The Tamil translation of Tan Kah Kee station was inaccurate and read as “paan kah kee”.
Fortunately, the error was spotted early and rectified before the line opened for passenger service on Dec 27, 2015.
SingFirst’s campaign slogan (August 2015)
A photo of the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) party’s press conference during the 2015 General Election drew the wrong kind of attention – after eagle-eyed netizens pointed out that the Tamil text of its campaign slogan on a banner did not form any known Tamil words.
The slogan, “Restore our nation”, was also printed in English Chinese and Malay.
The party was led by former civil servant Tan Jee Say, who also contested in the 2011 presidential election.
STB’s Lau Pa Sat sign (November 2014)
A photo of a sign for hawker centre Lau Pa Sat, which had been incorrectly translated, made the rounds on social media.
“Sat” was translated as “Sani” in Tamil. The latter word can have a negative connotation and can be used to curse people.
Mr Samikannu Sithambaram, president of the Singapore Tamil Teachers’ Union, speculated that the mistake could have come about because the translators thought that “Sat” in Lau Pa Sat was a truncation of “Saturday”.
Following the episode, the Singapore Tourism Board said it will tighten the process of translating its brown signs, which indicate tourist attractions or landmarks.