Mandarin is hard.
Organisers of a Speak Mandarin campaign in Singapore were red-faced after they debuted a banner with a slogan, to encourage people to use the Chinese language more in reading and communicating.
However, instead of using the Chinese character for “read” (), it instead chose one that meant “showing disrespect” ().
So basically, the slogan ended up saying: “Listen, speak, disrespect, write.”
The committee unveiled the banner at the launch of the government-funded campaign on Monday:
The two characters look similar, and are pronounced the same way.
But the word “” means ditch, disregard, or neglect.
Posts about the error went viral, forcing organisers of the 38-year-running campaign to apologise for the “gravity of this oversight.”
Organisers wrote in Chinese that they made a mistake in selecting characters during the production process.
Naturally, people dragged them for their ignorance:
“You say they sound the same, but ignore the fact that they don’t look the same, and that their meanings are far apart,” said Siew Hin Choo. “As the organisers of a Speak Mandarin campaign, how can you paper over this with an apology? The people of Singapore learn from you this isn’t a place where you can learn.”
“The word for ‘read’ has become the word for ‘disrespect’,” said Sean Goh. “38 years of campaigns have still resulted in failure.”
“These words aren’t the same, they’re entirely different,” said Jovin Lim. “Why don’t I run the campaign for you instead?”
“If you can’t tell the two words apart, do you think you’re still worthy of promoting Mandarin?” said Kue Chan Chong.
Singapore where three-quarters of the population is Chinese has for more than half a century adopted a bilingual standard where English is taught as the lingua franca in schools, while a second language (like Malay, Tamil or Mandarin) is taught as a second subject.
The country launched its Speak Mandarin campaign in 1979.