Google’s too literal, say translators who turn to new Web portal to translate Singaporean terms


Veteran translator and educator Ms Low Meow Siang (left) using the new SG Translate Together Web portal with MCI assistant manager Foo Yong Xiang. — DESMOND FOO/The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE: Retired teacher Low Meow Siang used to depend on Google and media articles for her translation work. She translated English textbooks to Chinese when she was working at the Ministry of Education and also helped with translation tasks in school.

She now has a new source of help – the SG Translate Together (SGTT) Web portal, which was launched on Monday (June 27).

The portal translates uniquely Singaporean terms such as “Community Development Council vouchers” from English to Chinese, Malay and Tamil and vice versa.

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It is a tool that she played a part in building as she was one of five pilot users who helped to test the SGTT portal before its launch.

Low, who is in her 60s, has a masters in translation and interpretation from Nanyang Technological University.

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“The SGTT has higher accuracy because it is contextualised locally,” she said.

“It is very well organised, and the resources given in the portal serve as a good guide,” added Low, who is a citizen translator helping to raise the overall translation and language standards in Singapore.

They review translated materials by government agencies and report translation-related errors in government communication materials.

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Freelance translator Zulkifli Rahmat, 67, uses SGTT when he needs to translate government communication materials between English and Malay, and turns to SGTT for local terms.

“I like that the translated words and terms are those more commonly used in Singapore, instead of Malaysia or Indonesia,” he said.

The retired veteran journalist added that there is room for improvement in translations here, which tend to be too literal without taking in local nuances.

He hopes that more Singaporeans can contribute to the portal to enhance its accuracy.

Saravanan Tasiveran, who runs a business doing translation-related work, finds the resources page particularly helpful as it serves as a one-stop centre for the translations of many government-related terms.

It is a go-to place for translations for local phrases such as “NDP fun pack”, said the 49-year-old, who translates between English and Tamil.

Tay Meng How, 33, who is a part-time lecturer in translation at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, finds the localised translations and glossary of Singapore-related terms useful for him and his students.

As a freelance translator and interpreter for English and Chinese, he also uses the portal to translate and proofread texts in domains such as the arts, business, legal and public communications, among others.

Aisyah Lyana, a freelance translator who also writes Malay short stories, said SGTT helps her with official names of ministries and government agencies.

The 25-year-old likes that it has Malay terms grouped by themes and context.

“I hope that in future, SGTT can include more features such as accurate transcriptions of colloquial speech and translations for creative writing.” – The Straits Times (Singapore)/Asia News Network

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