Wet market operator draws flak for flier translation error

The fliers by a wet market operator to inform the public about the relocation of the wet market at Admiralty Place mall had used a Hindi translation instead of Tamil.
The fliers by a wet market operator to inform the public about the relocation of the wet market at Admiralty Place mall had used a Hindi translation instead of Tamil.PHOTO: VIJAYA KANDASAMY/FACEBOOK

Team using Google Translate mistakenly selects Hindi instead of Tamil; apology also hits a snag

A wet market operator whose fliers drew flak for using a translation in Hindi instead of Tamil has apologised for the error.

But his attempt to make amends by putting up apology letters at stalls also hit a snag.

The fliers were meant to inform the public about the relocation of the wet market at Admiralty Place mall. It will move to a new site next to Woodlands East Neighbourhood Police Centre on June 11.

The fliers were supposed to be in the four official languages, but instead of Tamil, a Hindi translation was used.

On Friday, a photo of one such flier was posted on Facebook by user Vijaya Kandasamy. She wrote: "I think you need more people who can read and write Tamil... Please remove the person from your team if they don't know our very own official languages!" The four official languages of Singapore are Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English.

Netizens also pointed out that the information was poorly translated in Malay.

Mr Vikram Nair, an MP for Sembawang GRC, told The Sunday Times that the fliers were put up by a "well-meaning" independent wet market operator without consulting any MP or the town council.

"He has been fighting hard for the stall owners to keep the wet market alive, given its move to a temporary location," he added.

Mr Nair said that after he was alerted to the mistake on Thursday evening by his constituency director, he contacted the operator, Mr Wayne Neo, who was "very apologetic" and told him all the fliers had been taken down.

Mr Neo, 33, who is also a spokesman for Admiralty Wet Market, apologised repeatedly for the mistake when contacted by The Sunday Times on Friday night.

He explained that he and his team produced the fliers to ensure customers would know where the new wet market would be.

"The renovations will last about a year, you can't expect the tenants to go without income," he said.

The team initially planned to print the fliers in English, but was concerned that some elderly residents may not be able to read it. A decision was then made to use the four official languages.

However, Mr Neo and his team used Google Translate for the translations, which led to the poorly translated Malay section.

"We also mistakenly selected Hindi instead of Tamil," he added.

Mr Nair said he told Mr Neo that while the MPs were supportive of his efforts, he should print fliers only after getting all the necessary government approvals, and ensuring the translations are correct.

To make up for the error, Mr Neo prepared a letter of apology, written in the four official languages, which he gave to the authorities to vet. But an error was found after the letters were put up.

A Tamil character had an extra circle symbol before it, which was added when the text was copied into Microsoft Word. The letter's text, which was vetted via WhatsApp, did not have the error, said Mr Neo.

Corrected copies of the letter are slated to be put up today.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amrin Amin, who is also an MP for Sembawang GRC, in a Facebook post, wondered whether the incident could be "a symptom of a lack of diversity among staff and network of friends"."This is worth reflecting. We have to continue to work on diversity and inclusion," he said.

• Additional reporting by Goh Yan Han

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 24, 2019, with the headline 'Wet market operator draws flak for flier translation error'. Print Edition | Subscribe