Bilingual translators get funding support to deepen translation skills

Mr Haniman Bin Boniran translates all English language interpretive, e-posters and e-books into Malay language at the wildlife parks in Singapore. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - He may not be able to talk to animals, but Mr Haniman Boniran is using his knowledge of them to communicate and teach the Malay language to visitors of wildlife parks in Singapore.

The 42-year-old senior manager of education at park operator Mandai Wildlife Group translates all English language signs, e-posters and e-books to Malay at the Singapore Zoo, River Wonders, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park.

He is one of six 2022 recipients of the Translation Talent Development Scheme launched four years ago by the National Translation Committee, which is under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).

Selected recipients receive funding support of up to $10,000 to offset 90 per cent of the costs of their professional courses, seminars, and conferences, conducted locally or overseas. 

With the funding, Mr Haniman, who has a bachelor of science degree in psychology from the Singapore Institute of Management, is studying part-time for a bachelor of arts in Malay language and literature at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.  

He currently specialises in scientific explanation of animal facts and Malay names for animal species on display at the parks, and has translated more than 500 animal signs, e-posters as well as children’s e-books.

He also plans, develops, and executes all Malay-language programmes conducted at the Singapore Zoo and River Wonders, and assists with collaterals requiring Malay translation for school engagements.

Mr Haniman partners the Ministry of Education and had collaborated with various pre-school operators to conduct Malay language workshops for early childhood educators. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he was conducting about 100 programmes for Malay students and teachers a year.

“Teachers often give the feedback that mother tongues are hard to teach and there is a lack of resources,” he said. 

“Over here, we have a treasure trove of relatable and appropriate content to stir up and sustain the students’ and teachers’ interest.”

Ms Jocelyn Ang, a 30-year-old freelance photographer, videographer and translator with five years of experience, is another recipient of funding under the scheme. 

She is enhancing her knowledge and experience in translation and interpretation between English and Chinese by pursuing a master of arts degree in translation and interpretation at Nanyang Technological University.

“I hope that this will allow me to better serve the wider community, by making content such as news, literature and art accessible to more people,” said Ms Ang.

The scheme is offered to selected Singapore citizens who are translation and interpretation practitioners from the private sector.

Applicants must have at least one year of combined experience in translation and/or interpretation, and must be working in the following language pairs: English and Chinese, English and Malay, or English and Tamil. 

Mr Tan Kiat How, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and chairman of the National Translation Committee, said more than 1,800 members have also stepped forward to partner the Government and public agencies in improving translations for public communication materials since the Citizen Translators project was launched in January 2021. 

The project harnesses the expertise of volunteers from the community to raise the translation and language standards in Singapore.

Next came the launch of the SG Translate Together Web portal in June 2022. As at August, there were more than 70,000 translations generated online via the portal, which features localised translations and acts as a one-stop repository of translation resources here.

Mr Haniman, who has 10 years of experience in translation, has a four-year-old daughter who is learning English and Mandarin in nursery.

“Bilingualism allows the child to have a head start in school. They are able to code-switch and think critically,” he said.

“If you are looking at bilateral and business relations or understanding of cultural nuances, your language ability can make or break you.”

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