Speak Mandarin Campaign apologises for using wrong Chinese character

(From left) Mr Roland Ng, Mr Seow Choke Meng, Chairman, Minister Grace Fu and Ms Chang Hwee Nee, at the launch of the Speak Mandarin Campaign on July 10, 2017. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

SINGAPORE - The organisers of the Speak Mandarin Campaign have apologised for using the wrong Chinese character on a display at an event on Monday (July 10).

A sign at the launch event was meant to show four characters for the fundamentals of learning languages - listening, speaking, reading and writing.

However, the Chinese word for "read" was wrong, and a word that means "to show disrespect" was used instead.

Both the characters sound the same when spoken.

In written Chinese, the two characters look similar, but have a unique element that changes each of their meanings.

Only the rostrum display used the wrong character, The Straits Times understands. The error was not repeated in any of the campaign's other promotional material.

The Speak Mandarin Campaign, in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday (July 11), said it regretted the "erroneous rendering" of the characters.

"We sincerely apologise for the gravity of this oversight, and will take steps to address this," it added.

The statement, posted in Chinese - with an accompanying English version - said the mistake was introduced during the production process.

In an e-mail statement issued several hours later, the campaign said the mistake was noticed only during the launch.

The campaign did not respond to media queries on what led to the mistake.

Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore president Tan Siah Kwee, speaking to The Straits Times, said if somebody were writing the character for "read" or "to show disrespect" quickly with a pen or a brush, it is possible for them to get mixed up because the characters look similar.

However, since the characters were typed out, he said he did not know "how the campaign was so careless".

"You cannot excuse it," added Mr Tan, 69.

In March, the Speak Mandarin Campaign drew flak for posting a video where a group of words known as classifiers was used incorrectly.

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