Chee Hong Tat launches English-Tamil glossary, first of its kind with more than 4,000 terms

(From left) Mr A Palaniappan, head of the National Translation Committee’s Tamil Resource Panel , Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat and Mr R Rajaram, Chairman of the Tamil Language Council at the launch of the English-Tamil glossary at the Indian Heritage Centre on Feb 3, 2018. PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD
Copies of the English-Tamil Glossary that were launched on Feb 3, 2018, at the Indian Heritage Centre. PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

SINGAPORE - An English-Tamil glossary, the first of its kind with more than 4,000 common English terms and their corresponding Tamil terms, was launched on Saturday (Feb 3) by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat.

In his speech at the launch of the glossary at The Indian Heritage Centre, Mr Chee said "there is some unevenness in the adoption by government agencies" of tapping a list of experienced translators and vetters provided to enhance the vetting of materials published in Tamil.

"Some have implemented it well, others I suspect, pay lip service and just go through (the) motion," he said.

"I had to knock some heads over the past year, something which I did not particularly enjoy doing, but until we see consistent improvement across the public sector, we have no choice but to continue enforcing the standards to hold agencies accountable for the quality of their translations."

The 200-page glossary is available in PDF format at and contains a glossary in alphabetical order, a compilation of names of Government organisations, as well as lists of educational terms and titles of statutes.

Words in the glossary range from the Tamil terms for "a la carte" to "zebra crossing".

The glossary was produced by the Tamil Resource Panel under the National Translation Committee (NTC) in collaboration with the Tamil Language Council, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said in a statement on Saturday.

It aims to be a guide for practitioners of the Tamil language, including the media, teachers, students and government agencies who need to translate public communication materials to the Tamil language.

Mr Chee, who chairs the NTC, said he hopes that the glossary, along with the use of such terms and their Tamil translations, "can be standardised in Singapore for more effective communication".

"The Resource Panel will continue to update the glossary to keep it relevant and to add more terms over time," he said.

Hard copies of the glossary will be distributed to students and teachers in primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges which offer Tamil as a mother tongue language.

MCI said the NTC conducted two briefings last year to address the issue of erroneous Tamil text due to software and printing errors.

The briefings, conducted with government agencies and printing companies, were about the use of correct encoding and compatible computer operating systems.

Last year, pamphlets used in National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsals contained errors in Tamil translation.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament in August that the original Tamil translation submitted was correct but errors were made by the printers.

The NTC has identified a list of experienced translators and vetters for government agencies to tap to improve vetting of Tamil translations.

In addition, it is building an e-network of Tamil-literate officers within the public sector who can foster a learning community and promote sharing of best practices.

In May this year, NTC will work with the Civil Service College and the Singapore University of Social Sciences to conduct a translation workshop for public officers.

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