Gan Eng Seng heritage-trail marker reads like a tribute not to the man, but to bad English

National Heritage Board spends/spent lots of money to put up physical heritage markers all over Singapore. This is a good thing, as locals and tourists often walk by landmarks without knowing their histories.

But then again, we know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?

I had just walked by the Gan Eng Seng School  heritage marker on Telok Ayer Street (click here for location). It reads like this:

In 1885, Gan Eng Seng founded a free school for poor boys in Singapore. Initially named the Anglo-Chinese Free School, it was among the earliest schools to offer a bilingual education. The school moved to its first new building about 50 metres behind Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church in 1893. It became known as Gan Eng Seng School in 1923.

After World War II, its principle Percival Frank Aroozoo, was determined to re-open it. The school found a home in 1951 at Anson Road. It was re-sited to Raeburn park in 1986, where it stands proud to this day, much beloved by generations of students who pass through its portals.

I’ve underlined the errors (which appear both on the sign and on the website). The sentences should read “…its principal, Percival Frank Aroozoo, was…” and “…students who had passed through…”. Note that in the few short sentences, there is/are not one but two glaring mistakes. Good money was not only paid to someone to copywrite AND proofread the text, but there must have been several pairs of eyes in NHB that had also seen and ‘approved’ the text before it was cast in stone.

But the screw-ups here are so complex, I can’t stop with just the copywriter or NHB who is in-charge of these signs. Hundreds of teachers must have led students on these heritage-trails and none of them had spotted the mistakes? Surely teachers know a ‘principal’ from a ‘principle’, right? And you mean after all this time, no senior management from NHB, who in their surfing of their own corporate websites, had seen the errors? All the many layers of nonchalance have resulted in one thing: Thousands of students who had read this sign (and what is still hosted on the website) must have assumed that the English is tip-top, when it is obviously not.

The GES sign looks like it is several years old, but yet the mistakes remain uncorrected. I wonder if this is because 1) no one had complained about the mistakes to NHB before, or 2) NHB has yet to take action despite of feedback.

OK, let’s see how long it takes for them to correct the text (both on the physical marker and on the website). The clock starts now!

LATEST as of 18 Dec: The website – that hosted the errors above – is offline and has been so for quite a few days already. I wonder if it was pulled off for re-editing?

LATEST as of 1 Feb: I walked past the marker yesterday. It has been changed. The ‘principle’ is now ‘principal’. Thanks for reading my humble blog, NHB.


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4 responses to “Gan Eng Seng heritage-trail marker reads like a tribute not to the man, but to bad English

  1. Anonymous

    You’re right about the first one, but the second one seems fine to me. Students are still passing through its portals. I think “pass” is the proper word.
    Hey, but why don’t you ever write about things you like? You are always complaining; isn’t there anything in the Singapore art scene that you like? Reading about how much you hate all this stuff is such a drag.

    • haha. there are lots of people who write about things they like; go read those la. well, i hope i don’t just ‘dislike’ stuff and not explain why. it’s very easy to say i ‘like’ this and i ‘hate’ that without giving clear reasons to support your stand. i’d like to think that i am critical about stuff i dislike, and thereby sparking others to think or take action to improve things. but if you read some of my posts closely, i do point out the things i like, such as National Museum’s 2-track interpretations of its perm galleries. whatever the case, making you read my stuff may be a drag, but if i had engaged you to ‘think’ a bit after reading my stuff, i win!

  2. Pingback: Of Grim Rivers and wires-who-like-poetry: Heritage Trail markers and the funny info contained within | 23princessroad's Blog

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