Further Recognising Contributions & Building Capabilities of Citizen Translators
Since the soft-launch of the Citizen Translators (CT)1 project in January 2021, more than 770 members of public (660 Chinese, 60 Malay, 50 Tamil-speaking) who are passionate about language and translation have registered to partner the Government in raising translation standards together. The CT project is a first in Singapore involving members of the public, and aims to harness the expertise of the community to crowdsource the best translations for Government communications materials.
Thus far, Citizen Translators have been helping to report translation-related errors in Government communications materials and reviewing translated materials by Government agencies.
To further recognise their contributions, enhance their volunteering experience as well as help them level up their translation capabilities, a Recognition and Training framework for CTs will be introduced in November 2021 by the National Translation Committee (NTC). Minister of State for Communications and Information Tan Kiat How, who is also the Chairperson of the NTC, announced this at an engagement session on 10 November 2021 with some 180 CTs and potential CTs (see Annex A for more information on NTC).
A tiered recognition framework encourages CTs to participate more frequently across a wider range of activities by recognising them accordingly based on their level of contribution. Under the Basic Tier, Citizen Translators who have participated in any three activities in 2021 (attending a dialogue, taking part in a contest, participating in a feedback exercise or reported translation errors in Government communication materials) will receive an e-certificate of participation. From calendar year 2022 onwards, under the Basic Tier, CTs who participate in at least three activities in a year, including at least one dialogue and one feedback exercise, will also receive an e-Certificate of Participation for the year.
From 2022, Citizen Translators who are involved in at least five activities for the year will be eligible for the Enhanced Tier, and can additionally look forward to receiving e-vouchers. If CTs meet the requirements under the Basic Tier for three consecutive years, they can also enjoy the same recognition as those on the Enhanced Tier in their 3rd year.
Citizen Translators on the Enhanced Tier of participation can also apply for training subsidies to attend translation courses or take translation-related certification. More details on the training opportunities will be announced later.
1 Citizen Translators had suggested and voted for the following translated names for the project:
• Chinese name: 民译达. The preferred name refers to the group of Citizen Translators who share the common objective of putting across public opinion and collective wisdom to further improve the accuracy of translations, and promote smooth communication of messages from the Government to the people.
• Malay name: Penterjemah Kita. In the name, ‘Kita’ means “we”; this name refers to passionate volunteers doing this for ‘kita’ (us), members of the public.
• Tamil name: மொழிபெயர்ப்பில் குடிமக்கள் திட்டப்பணி. The name refers to Citizens who are involved in a translation project, which explains that the citizens are playing a role in this translation project.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL TRANSLATION COMMITTEE (NTC)
As part of efforts to strengthen government communications, MCI set up the National Translation Committee (NTC) on 1 March 2014. The NTC is a collaborative effort involving the People sector (academics and the general public), the Public sector (government agencies), and the Private sector (media & translation industry players) to address translation-related issues. Members of the NTC comprise representatives from local mainstream vernacular media, veteran translators/interpreters, academics, professionals, and representatives from government agencies.
The Committee oversees short-term and long-term plans to enhance Whole-of-Government (WoG) translation capabilities. The committee is currently chaired by Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Ministry of National Development. More information on the NTC members is at go.gov.sg/ntcmembers.
The NTC aims to enhance translation capabilities in Singapore through:
a) Promoting best practices among public sector agencies on procuring/producing translation;
b) Creating a collaboration platform among the public, private and people sectors, to promote and raise translation standards; and
c) Nurturing the next generation of translation talent for Singapore.
The NTC also works alongside three Resource Panels (RPs), namely the Chinese RP, Malay RP and Tamil RP. More information on the RP members is at go.gov.sg/ntcrp. The RPs will:
a) assist and support the implementation of the NTC’s initiatives, aimed at raising translation standards for the particular language; and
b) help standardise the translations of terms in the official languages in Singapore, and to advise on the appropriateness of terms in the official languages adopted by the media and government agencies.
The NTC has introduced several initiatives to promote best practices, strengthen collaboration among the public, private and people sectors, and nurture the next generation of translation talent. Some of these include:
• As part of promoting best practices in the public sector on producing and procuring translation services, the Whole-of-Government Period Contract and Framework Agreement for Translation Services was rolled out on 7 May 2015. This framework shortlists a pool of translation vendors who have been pre-evaluated for quality and price competitiveness. With this framework, government agencies are able to procure quality translations at a fair rate within reasonable turnaround times. To date, 63 government agencies have utilised the framework to procure translation and related services.
• MCI’s Translation Department worked closely with the Resource Panels (RPs) to launch the Government Terms Translated Database, a collection of standardised translations of policy-related terms in the four official languages, on 1 July 2015. Members of the public can access the database via https://www.translatedterms.gov.sg. The database contains over 10,000 terms currently, and MCI works with government agencies to ensure the database is updated periodically.
• The Community-in-Translation (CiT) initiative was launched in 2016 to bring together like-minded partners from various sectors to organise events and activities that aim to raise awareness and interest in translation, as well as to equip participants with useful translation skills. Under the CiT, the Community-in-Translation Events Grant (CiTEG) provides funding support for individuals and organisations to organise community-driven events with a strong translation element, such as competitions, exhibitions, seminars, talks and workshops. More than 18,000 teachers, students and members of public have benefitted from the events and activities organised and/or supported under the CiT initiative.
• To nurture the next generation of translation talents for Singapore, MCI introduced the Information Service (Translation) Scholarship in 2015. It aims to identify and groom young Singaporeans who have a strong interest in translation, a deep familiarity with the local context and an interest to work in the Public Service. The scholarship is awarded to students who are about to enter universities and mid-course undergraduates. Eleven students have received this scholarship since its inception. Separately, in-service officers also have opportunities to do postgraduate or short-term courses to deepen their knowledge and skills related to translation.
• The Translation Talent Development Scheme (TTDS) was set up in 2018 as a co-sponsorship grant to encourage Singaporean translation and interpretation practitioners from the private sector to further develop their capabilities and attain mastery of their skills. TTDS has sponsored up to 90% (95% in 2021) of fees associated with capability development programmes such as local and overseas courses, workshops, seminars, webinars and conferences subject to a cap of $10,000 per participant. To date, 25 T&I practitioners have benefited from the grant and they serve as NTC ambassadors to share and pass on experiences with the next generation of translators.
• The Government customised machine translation (MT) engine, SG Translate, was jointly developed by MCI and A*STAR’s Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), and the project is supported by TRANS Grant. This project aims to leverage technology to produce good first-cut translations quickly, while ensuring consistency in the rendering of government terms and messages, to meet the increasing demand for effective Whole-of-Government (WoG) communications. The MT engine was launched to the WoG in July 2019. With the addition of the Tamil engine to SG Translate in October 2020, the MT engine is now complete and is able to provide translations in our four official languages.
• The success of SG Translate within the public sector prompted the idea of SG Translate Together web portal, aimed at rallying Singaporeans to improve the performance of the MT engine together with the Government. MCI has invited a preliminary group of users, including translation practitioners and members of the media, to use the SG Translate Together web portal for first-cut translations as part of its beta launch on 21 July 2021. Users will get to refine the machine-translated text and submit their post-edited copy to the web portal. The edited text will then be reviewed before the final text is consolidated for the further training of SG Translate. This method of gathering translation data will allow MCI to tap on the expertise of Singaporeans to improve the accuracy of SG Translate. To further support CTs in their translation, CTs will be gradually invited to come on board the SG Translate Together web portal by March 2022 as beta users.