4th February, 2014
Education Bureau Admits Using Computer Software to “Translate” Statement, but Denies Official Documents are Written in Simplified Chinese First – Yet Evidence Shows Otherwise
The Education Bureau recently published an article on its website saying that Cantonese is not an official language in Hong Kong. Such article caused a lot of criticism. The clarification statement issued by the bureau in response to the public outcry contain a number of errors that could only be caused by simply using computer software to translate Simplified Chinese to Traditional Chinese – which means the Education Bureau, a HKSAR Government body, writes in Simplified Chinese (the written form of Chinese used in the PRC after the CCP imposed a law to use such form of written Chinese in 1950) first instead of Traditional Chinese (the written form of Chinese used in Hong Kong for over a hundred years). Computer software caused errors include (these are Traditional Chinese characters):
“法院程序 (legal procedure)” became “法院程式 (legal equation)”
This is a type of error commonly seen as some terms used in Hong Kong refer to different things in China. From Traditional to Simplified, software are generally capable of managing the task, but if one is to translate from Simplified to Traditional characters, software often fail as those terms exist in Traditional Chinese but mean a different thing
“精準 (accurate)” became “精准 (an incorrect term)”
Second character 准 is the Simplified version of 準. However, the character 準 carries the meaning of correct/exact when pairs with the character 精, the terms means accurate. In Traditional Chinese, 准 carries the meaning of allow/approve. When 准 pairs with the character 精, the term does not mean anything, it is simply wrong – in a nut shell, in China/Simplified Chinese, 准 refers to two different characters with very different meanings.
The bureau denied that the statement was originally written in Simplified Chinese and said that the error in the Traditional Chinese version was caused by the use of computer software. However, if the statement was originally written in Traditional Chinese, the error above should have appeared in the Simplified version (or no error at all). In any case, an official statement by a government body should not be taken so carelessly – at least it should not be “translated” by a computer software without proofreading.