Using the wrong character at the Speak Mandarin Campaign launch was a "serious mistake", said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.
In a statement yesterday, she said this was especially so for "an advocate for the proper use of Mandarin".
She was the event's guest of honour and co-launched the campaign from the rostrum that prominently displayed the wrong character.
The sign was meant to show four characters for the fundamentals of learning languages - listening, speaking, reading and writing.
However, the Chinese character for "read" was wrong. It had been replaced with the character that means "to show disrespect", an error the campaign said happened during the production process.
Ms Fu said the Speak Mandarin Campaign organisers assured her that processes will be improved to prevent such incidents from occurring again.
"The Chinese language is wonderfully intricate, and the slightest variation in strokes can result in distinct characters with completely different meanings. These distinctions, which may seem subtle at first glance, represent the rich heritage behind the language."
Ms Fu thanked the public for raising their concerns about the matter, adding that properly using words in any language in Singapore's multicultural society is very important.
She hopes the public will continue to support the Speak Mandarin Campaign which has done good work for almost 40 years. The campaign, in its 38th year, was launched in 1979 to encourage Chinese Singaporeans to speak Mandarin instead of the Chinese dialects.
In launching this year's campaign, Ms Fu said a good grasp of Mandarin is important for one to understand and appreciate the unique Singapore Chinese culture.
She also called on Singaporeans to "start building the foundation of Mandarin from a young age, given how the language has become international".