Diwali safety guide translation “incomprehensible”

28/10/2013 | Hayley

Police officers have apologised following complaints that a translation of a leaflet providing safety guidance on the Hindu festival of Diwali was “incomprehensible”.

Leicester police worked with the fire service and City Council to produce thousands of greeting cards as part of the Festival of Lights, which included safety tips. The guides were translated into Gujarati, Hindi, and Punjabi; however, readers have complained the Punjabi translation is full of errors and makes no sense.

According to the Leicester Mercury, there are tens of thousands of Punjabi speakers living in Leicester. Professor Shingara Dhillon, a member of the Panjabi Arts, Cultural and Literary Council UK, told the newspaper that an “awful job” had been done of the translation. He explained that the resulting translation was not written in the “proper Punjabi language”.

“It looks like it has been done in a huge rush. It is very bad because the safety information is very important,” he claimed. With a thorough proofread, the mistakes might have been spotted. Professor Dhillon observed that the errors should have been obvious immediately.

A spokesperson for the city’s police force said an external language services provider was used to produce each of the three translations, and that the force now acknowledged the Punjabi was poor quality. No further copies of the leaflet will be handed out, although the majority have already been sent.

The spokesperson apologised for any offence caused, but noted that the greetings card was made with “good intention”. She explained the decision had been made to translate the content on it into three languages in order to reach a wider range of readers.

Diwali begins on Sunday (November 3rd) this year, on what is Dhanteras. It lasts for five days, during which the whole family will come together to celebrate. One of the central traditions is the lighting of oil-filled clay lamps, which are left to burn overnight to symbolise the triumph of good over evil. The light is also used as a way of guiding Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, into the home.

Wherever Diwali is being celebrated, preparation includes cleaning the home and then decorating it for the holiday to symbolise new beginnings. Patterns can be drawn on the floor in an effort to attract Lakshmi to visit. To increase the light, even more, it is not unusual for artificial lights to be strung up on the facades of homes, while evil spirits are kept away by letting off firecrackers.

Leicester’s Diwali celebrations are among the largest outside of India, and around 35,000 people attend the city’s Lights Switch-On each year. To celebrate this year, the city is putting on a fireworks display and there will also be live entertainment at Cossington Street Recreation Ground on November 3rd.

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