Honest mistake over Tamil translation must be forgiven: Iswaran

PHOTO: Facebook/Vijaya Kandasamy

Ensuring high-quality translations of Singapore's four official languages is a statement of the nation's commitment to multi-racialism but allowances must be made for honest errors, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said yesterday.

Mr Iswaran noted on the sidelines of the annual Tamil Language Festival: "It is important for all Singaporeans to accord due importance when translating to different languages, as a mark of respect to the other communities that we live with and as a commitment to our multi-racial identity."

The festival, which opened at the Mediacorp Campus yesterday and runs until April 28, celebrates the Tamil language through a range of literary, oratorical, arts and cultural programmes.

Its official opening comes in the wake of Tamil translation gaffes found in information flyers put up by a wet market operator last week.

The original flyers, on the relocation of the wet market at Admiralty Place mall, were meant to be in the four official languages here - English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil - but Hindi was used instead of Tamil.

A netizen pointed out the error on Friday in a Facebook post that went viral.

The wet market operator caught more flak when he issued an apology letter that had another error.

Mr Iswaran said the incident highlighted the importance of having a strong mutual understanding of religious and language sensitivities.

The market operator had the right intentions as he had wanted to translate the message to benefit seniors but he went about it the wrong way by using Google Translate, he added.

"We do need to understand that from time to time, despite best efforts, errors may occur," Mr Iswaran said, noting that the operator has apologised and rectified the mistakes.

When it is an honest mistake, Singaporeans need to find the forbearance as a society to accept such lapses, said Mr Iswaran.

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.