Laneway (SG) 2013 Survival Pack

Tomorrow (26 January 2013) marks the third year running of the Laneway festival in Singapore. I had massive fun the past two years, and have now considered sharing some survival tips to make it through a music festival.

1. Schedules (I recommend taking a screenshot of this link on your phone.)

2. Dress light (While maintaining your personality)

3. Wear comfortable footwear you can trash (Or just go barefoot.)

4. Stay hydrated (H20)

5. Bring a mat (Or sitting device. Standing is hard work.)

6. Smuggle sammiches (Festival food is expensive.)

7. WATERPROOF EVERYTHING – Including yourself (All electronic devices in ziplock bags)

8. Alcohol (Hip flasks come in handy)

9. If you’re not enjoying yourself, drink more. (Can’t stress this enough.)

10. Capture your memories:

From 2011

Laneway 2013 Singapore Poster


SMRT Station Name Translation.. You’re Doing it WRONG!

So this was brought to my attention by, “Train announcements in English and Chinese only – SMRT explains.”

As part of the explanation by their Customer Relations spokesperson, the following reasons were given (Please take special note of the translations.):

We had also considered the need for the announcement of station names to be in four languages. During our review, it was clear to us that most station names, when pronounced in English, sound similar to that in Malay and Tamil. Stations names in Mandarin, however, sound different. Take for instance, some examples are as follows:

1) City Hall, 政府大厦 (Zheng Fu Da Sha)

2) Somerset, 索美塞 (Suo Mei Sai)

3) Redhill, 红山 (Hong Shan)

4) Lakeside, 湖畔 (Hu Pan)

5) Pioneer, 先驱 (Xian Qu)

Has anybody explained to these dolts that when it comes to communicating, it’s about being UNDERSTOOD, not simply having a translation?!

For context: ENGLISH is the first language in Singapore. Singapore is multicultural, but we universally understand each other regardless of race, when we speak English (Or one common language.)

Did it not occur to anyone in SMRT that if a person who could only speak Mandarin, might need help identifying where he/she was and the only other person around DID NOT speak Mandarin?

To make my point, I will be using Station Example 3: “Redhill, 红山 (Hong Shan)”

Here’s how the conversation would go:

Mandarin Speaker: “How to go.. 红山 (Hong Shan)?”

Non-Mandarin Speaker: “Sorry? I don’t know what ‘Hong Shan’ means.”

Mandarin Speaker: “红山 (Hong Shan)..” (Draws mandarin characters, or spells ‘Hong Shan’)

Non-Mandarin Speaker: “Sorry.. I really can’t help you.. I don’t know what ‘Hong Shan’ means..”

And so on and so forth.

Yes, that Mandarin speaker probably doesn’t have to ask a non-Mandarin speaker for help, but it’s the principal of the matter. In this instance, your translations are further distancing diverse cultures, this policy ultimate divides people rather than brings people together.

Also, while my rudimentary understanding of Mandarin will allow me to know what 红山 (Hong Shan) is.. I will be at a loss because I would never have guessed that 湖畔 (Hu Pan) was Lakeside station or that 先驱 (Xian Qu) was Pioneer station. I’m not proud that I can barely speak Chinese, but there’s also a reason why we all have a common first language.

So what should SMRT have done?

They should have phonetically translated the English names into Chinese names. I can’t write the Chinese version of “Pioneer station”, but it should sound pretty damn close to “Pioneer” and not “先驱 (Xian Qu)”

To help SMRT since they’ve been such numbskulls in the press lately, I’ll give you an example of how the Japanese do it. (Damn, SMRT should be paying me a consultation fee.)

Japanese Kyoto Train Station Sign
Image credit: Musings

1. The four top-most characters are the Japanese phonetic-language known as “Hiragana”. It reads, “Kyo-oh To-oh”

2. You can read “KYOTO” in Romanised-English in the middle of the sign

3. Lastly, is the traditional pictograph-based language that the Japanese and Chinese use called “Kanji”. It also reads.. you guessed it! “Kyoto!”

No matter how much you want to run away from this sign, it will say “KYO-TO” in Hiragana, Romanised-English or Kanji

One Pronunciation, Two Languages.

Not the system that SMRT have come up with of Two Languages, Two Pronunciations. Seriously, do the people that come up with these ideas get transplanted with the deep fried brain of a donkey?

On a side-note: It’s blatantly obvious that station names in Mandarin are targeted at non-native Chinese speakers of Singapore who can only communicate in Mandarin. Even calling “City Hall” – “Shitty Ho-Ru” is more understandable than “Zheng Fu Da Sha (政府大厦)”

Here’s my last piece of advice to you, SMRT, next time you do “translation” work, remember what the universal language of your countrymen is, so that other languages can be integrated into it, and not the other way around. In Japan, people speak Japanese, so even when we get instructions in English, the important signposts are at least pronounceable in Japanese.

Here’s a video that shows what I think of you now (Even though you hold me hostage by forcing me to take your trains.)


Nicholas Chim sings “1-2-1″ from Eating Air OST

Here’s a beautifully, haunting version of the Boredphuck’s humorous song, “1-2-1″ from the Singapore movie, Eating Air, done by Nicholas Chim. Credit goes to Robin Chua (Shelves) for taping this particular video.

Dear Nick, thank you for reminding me why I exist to create music, especially in Singapore.

This performance was organised by KittyWu Records, for their exhibition, “No Finer Time To Be Alive”, which was a look back at the CD art of Singaporean bands who were active in the nineties. The exhibition was held at The Pigeonhole, a book and arts creative space and cafe.

Nicholas Chim