Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Chinese Translation Shows the Ugly Side of the PAP

free and reliable translation?

The problem of Chinese translation gets into another embarrassment and another dilemma for the People’s Action Party again! This time it is the turn of National Heritage Board #1 and its museums. They simply use Google to do the translation and pretend that everything is ok and readable in ‘standard, normal and acceptable’ Chinese.

This is not the first time and will certain not the last time the PAP engaging in this type of embarrassment and dilemma. Instead of blaming NHB for the mistakes, the real root problem in fact is the PAP’s mindset behind the whole issue.

In one way or another, it is a display of the mindsets, attitudes and mentalities of the PAP. Let me explain it with some examples.

Double Standard

If you recall not long ago, there was a clarification of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Lee Hsien Loong’s speech in Tokyo and the ministry even criticized the Chinese media –Global Times#2.  The clarification statement is in both English and Chinese. The readable and understandable Chinese in the statement, of course, is not translated directly from Google.  

Oh! One may conclude the MFA has a fat budget and NHB has no manpower and budget to do the translation.  Furthermore, the MFA statement is a piece of official document and representing the state viewpoint on a particular issue. While the NHB translation is a local issue and perhaps caters only to local and foreign visitors visiting our museums.  So, NHB’s Chinese translation is less important and can be handled lightly.  

Do you see the double standard here? One is official and the target audience is foreign government and the other one is less official and targeting less important people. Foreign against local, foreign is treated better.  

If we cannot handle well and emphasize on small things in the beginning, what will be the consequence later? This is the problem of the Chinese translation and bilingualism education here. From a very small mistake, we allow (and agree) it to happen.  When it becomes a norm, then we say only a small percentage of population can master two languages. Not only that, we further allow the situation to deteriorate and coming out with all kinds of excuses and solutions (e.g. Chinese B).

If we sidetrack a bit to the foreign talents and population issues, we will see this ‘double standard’ clearly display in government publication and the population white paper. The PAP has itself created this ‘double standard’ either intentionally or unintentionally. Singaporeans in general are not anti-foreigners. We know and understand the contribution of foreigners to our economy. However, because of the PAP’s intentional or unintentional ‘double standard’, just like the case of Chinese translation, they are not able to solve small local issues. If they have looked at the issues of lower income groups, housing, health care and education 10 or 20 years ago, then our society will not be so divided and ends up appearing like so anti-immigration.  

Cheap and good value creation

By using Google translation, NHB is showing people they are engaging in cheap and good service. And they believe Google can give them the value, accuracy and even efficiency that they are looking for.    

Unfortunately, this turns out to be a big mistake. This practice in fact works against the PAP meritocracy principle.  The PAP believes in paying high reward high return, not cheap ministers. Now, NHB is saying value creation can be very cheap, even free, and yet good.  Where can we find such a good deal in the world?

Perhaps, this is a general belief in the minds of the PAP. Hence, we can find similar Chinese translation problems in NHB, in some public organizations and services, in some town councils, or even in some university activities in Singapore.  

NHB’s case is not an isolated incident!   

So, this is another type of double standard. We demand cheap goods and services but refuse to pay a little more. This is the case of the stagnation of wages of lower income workers in the past 10 years. We expect them to work harder with no hope of pay increase as their productivity has not improved.  

PAP mentality results to
Lack of competitive and qualified bilingual workers

This mentality of dependence on cheap things has a long term effect. First, we are not able to produce relative cheap and qualified bilingual workers to even edit or verify the Google contents.  Second, even we can import foreign talent to do the job, due to local cultural difference; the translation still needs further editing and improvements.  

Third, the most frightening consequence is we are educating and producing future generations of Singaporeans with no respect of our own culture and value.  Since Google can do the work without a fee, why then should we learn and study mother tongues?

This is the cost we are now paying for the “Right Politics, Right Economics” policy of the PAP. We will have to pay even more in future if these PAP mindsets continue.  

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