Mistranslated Chinese words on MRT sign left Boon Lay commuters confused

Mistranslated Chinese words on MRT sign left Boon Lay commuters confused

Mothership.SG·2018-02-06 11:10

The Chinese-speaking part of Facebook in Singapore found itself in a tizzy on Sunday, Feb. 4, when famous Singaporean writer and Cultural Medallion winner Tham Yew Chin, who writes by her pseudonym You Jin (尤今), flagged a rather disturbing-looking instance of the language.

“[Gravely Ill]

I happened to receive this notice from a friend, who told me it was taken at an MRT station in Singapore. One look and I almost blacked out — is this what the linguistic standards of our island have become?

(I also sincerely hope this is not the result of a mischievous prank)”

Here’s what the sign says — and we certainly wouldn’t blame commuters who can’t read English if they ended up scratching their heads:

English: TOP UP UNAVAILABLE HERE

Chinese: Cannot tidy up here (在这里不可收拾)

The other Chinese translation also seems suspect.

English: SMALL CHANGE UNAVAILABLE HERE

Chinese: Small one cannot change here (小的更改无法在这里)

Note also the regrettably hideous English (in the sign below that reads “with effective from”), as well as the fact that the language below the mangled Chinese is Hindi (instead of what was likely intended as Tamil).

We checked with SMRT and sure enough, they have confirmed that this sign is real, and was put up at Boon Lay MRT station by a station manager who was trying to be proactive and helpful to commuters.

Unfortunately, we understand it’s possible he side-stepped internal protocol that should involve him getting approval from his superior to ensure his idea is appropriate and the translation is accurate — and regrettably, his keenness to help commuters likely had the opposite effect.

Thankfully, however, we’ve also learned that the manager took the sign down on Saturday, Feb. 3, as soon as he realised it was, well, horribly wrong.

Mistranslations becoming a norm?

Even though it’s still early in 2018, this isn’t the first time words have been mistranslated this year.

also that the English translation for the Year of the Dog luck forecast at Hougang Mall was a mixture of gibberish.

Image via

The first line read:

Year is Benming, guilty of being too old.

Additional reporting by Jeanette Tan

Here are some other Singaporean epic translation fails:

We break down NDP’s completely bungled Tamil translation for #onenationtogether tagline

Translation gaffe on Mediacorp’s notice banner

Top image

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Singapore Boon Lay MRT