In an ironic twist to the launch of the Speak Mandarin Campaign 2017 at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre on 10 July, the Mandarin-worded sign which the guest-of-honour, Ms Grace Fu, Minister of Culture, Community and Youth stood behind, had a wrong Chinese character written on it.
While the intended character and the character that is printed on the sign look similar in appearance but the meaning is vastly different. The sign in its correct form should have been, “听说读写” which stands for “Listen Speak Read Write” but it was printed with the characters, “听说渎写” which meant, “Listen Speak Disrespect Write”.
As if fate had a role in adding injury to insult, the descriptions associated with the character are largely negative.
When the image was first circulated online, there were some who questioned if the word is really the wrong word. One took the hassle of making it clear that the word shown on the sign was clearly not the word it meant to be, indicating that the word in the intended font is definitely wrong.
Just this morning, The Speak Mandarin Campaign posted an apology on the error on the sign at the launch on its Facebook page. It wrote:
“The Speak Mandarin Campaign regrets the erroneous rendering of the character “读” as “渎” at the Official Launch yesterday, as these are two distinct characters with different meanings. We sincerely apologise for the gravity of this oversight and will take steps to address this.”
Lee Keng Kok, a regular Chinese commenter on social media said to TOC, “Basically this is an error that is hard to forgive. There are many various Chinese fonts to choose from, why did they choose a font that is seemingly artistic in appearance? This is not the first time that they committed error in promotion of Mandarin, this shows that the people leading the campaign have a low level of language. Although I am only primary school educated but not to that level.”
Some asked on Mr Lee’s Facebook post, “Didn’t anyone realise the mistake on site? Is this the Singapore’s version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?
On March this year, Speak Mandarin Campaign posted a video of how to use Mandarin classifiers. In the video, it is said that anything that is round should be used with “粒”. This drew criticism from many including Chinese teachers that the classifier should not be used in such a manner. Eventually, it produced another video in April which corrected this mistake.