Getting translations right shows respect

The four official languages - English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil - form the bedrock of our multilingual society and that translations should be correct and intelligible cannot be over-emphasised.

(Language gaffes: Two event organisers say sorry, July 12; Grace Fu: Language error a serious mistake, July 13; and Language blunders - Good learning points for all by Mr Tay Meng How, July 14).

Yet, it is not uncommon to see the Tamil versions of directional signs, pamphlets, posters and other texts meant for a large audience translated poorly, inaccurately and sometimes, unintelligibly. This is surprising and upsetting.

There is certainly no dearth of authoritative sources in Singapore to check the accuracy of the translations, including official translators, court interpreters, Tamil language teachers, the Tamil media, Tamil Language Council and National Library Board.

There are literary forums, elocution contests, debates, speeches and panel discussions to ensure that people read, write and speak good Tamil.

The correct use of language helps to show the purity and richness of the language. It is also a mark of respect.

One would expect the highest standards to be maintained in texts presented in all the official languages.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2017, with the headline 'Getting translations right shows respect'. Print Edition | Subscribe