Google is too literal, say translators who turn to new web portal to translate Singaporean terms

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SINGAPORE — Retired teacher Low Meow Siang depended on Google and media articles for her translation work. She translated textbooks from English to Chinese when she worked in the Ministry of Education and also participated in translation tasks at school.

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

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

It is a tool that she helped to build since she was one of the five pilot users who participated in the test of the SGTT portal before its launch.

Ms. Low, who is in her 60s, holds a master’s degree in translation and interpretation from Nanyang Technological University.

“SGTT has greater accuracy because it’s locally contextualized,” she said.

“It is very well organized and the resources provided on the portal are a good guide,” added Ms. Low, who is a citizen translator helping to raise overall translation and language standards in Singapore.

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

Freelance translator Zulkifli Rahmat, 67, uses SGTT when he needs to translate government communication documents 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 Malaysian or Indonesian,” he said.

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

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

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

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

Mr. Tay Meng How, 33, a part-time lecturer in translation at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, finds the localized 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 fields such as the arts, business, legal and public communications, among others.

Ms. Aisyah Lyana, a freelance translator who also writes news in Malay, said SGTT helps her with the official names of ministries and government agencies.

The 25-year-old likes that there are Malay terms grouped by themes and context.

“I hope that in the future, SGTT can include more features such as accurate transcriptions of colloquial speeches and translations for creative writing.”

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