Four JCs to offer translation as subject to boost bilingualism

Hwa Chong Institution (above) is among the four schools that will offer the new subject from next year. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Hwa Chong Institution (above) is among the four schools that will offer the new subject from next year. -- ST FILE PHOTO

Four junior colleges will offer translation as a subject from next year, as part of the Education Ministry's effort to groom bilingual professionals.

The schools are Hwa Chong Institution, Nanyang Junior College, Jurong Junior College and Dunman High School, which offers a six-year programme leading to the A-level exams.

The ministry said the new subject at Higher 2 (H2) level - equivalent to the British A level - will develop interest and proficiency in translation.

It said: "For translation to be accurate, an appreciation of the context and culture of a country is necessary. Hence, students will be exposed to nuances in the contexts and cultures of different countries."

Teachers have been trained to teach the new subject in Chinese. To take it, students must score at least an A2 for English in the O-level exam and either an A2 in Chinese or a B3 in Higher Chinese.

The introduction of the subject was recommended in 2011 by the Mother Tongue Languages Review Committee, set up to review the teaching and testing of mother tongue languages after English was found to be the dominant language in homes here. In its report, it said China's growth has spurred demand for skilled translators.

Translation standards here came under the spotlight last year when the National Heritage Board included a Google Translate button on its website to convert content from English to 72 other languages. There were red faces when Bras Basah was translated into "Bust Basah" in Chinese.

To raise translation standards and promote talent, a National Translation Committee chaired by Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education, was set up in March.

Nanyang Junior College hopes to develop translation as a niche area, said principal Kwek Hiok Chuang.

Since it began offering the Chinese Language Elective Programme 15 years ago, it has attracted secondary school students who are effectively bilingual, he said. Thus, he is confident of drawing enough students - 20, for a start - to take the subject.

Jurong Junior College principal Tay Lai Ling said the new subject would demand mastery of both English and Chinese, and would help nurture "bilingual and bicultural citizens for Singapore".

Said Higher Chinese student Toh Si Ling, 15, who hopes to take the new subject at junior college: "Bilingualism is a key skill. I have friends who are Chinese, but cannot speak Mandarin well."

leepearl@sph.com.sg