The mayor of Leicester and the local police have apologised for a leaflet that contained incorrect translation in Punjabi of fire and safety advice for Diwali celebrations in the east Midlands town that has a large minority population of Indian origin.
Describing the advice mentioned in Gurmukhi as “absurd, rubbish and incomprehensible”, local resident Shingara S Dhillon told HT that Leicester mayor Peter Soulsby and the police had apologised after he raised the issue.
Dhillon, convenor of Punjabi Arts, Cultural and Literary Council UK, was among thousands of local residents who received the leaflet alongwith Diwali greeting cards from the local authorities. There are nearly 36,000 Punjabi-speakers in Leicester.
The advice in the leaflet is written in Hindi, Gujarati and Gurmukhi, reflecting the major Indian-origin languages spoken in the multicultural town. The Gujarati and Hindi versions are accurate, but the advice in Gurmukhi has several errors.
Dhillon said that of the 300 words in the Gurmukhi version, 52 words had been misspelt, while 12 words did not belong to the language. Sentence construction was wrong, unprofessional, incomprehensible and “completely ridiculous” in several places, he added.
“It is a good idea to issue fire and safety advice in view of the Diwali celebrations and the potential of accidents due to fireworks, but this seems like a waste of taxpayer’s money. The leaflets were distributed to homes in thousands”, Dhillon said.
He added: “The Gurmukhi script has been used for composition but the translation is a mix of Hindi, Sanskrit, Gujarati and English; it cannot be recognised as a true Punjabi translation. For example, there are some words used in the translation such as ‘niche’, ‘udelo’, and ‘krahi’ - these words cannot are even not found in Punjabi dictionaries”.
Local authorities had written to him apologising for the errors, assuring him of an investigation and ensuring that this did not happen again. As many as 12,000 leaflets with the incorrect translation had been distributed before being stopped.
A police spokeswoman admitted that the translation done by an unnamed company was "of a poor quality".
She said: "The leaflet was produced with good intention and we sincerely apologise for any upset or offence this may have caused. We will ensure that no further copies of the translation are distributed and will take the matter up with the company which provided the translation.
"This year the decision was made to translate the safety advice and greetings into three languages – Punjabi, Hindi and Gujarati – to ensure the information was accessible to a wider range of people whose first language isn't English.
"Leicestershire Police arranged for the text to be translated through an external company. The translated text was then produced as a leaflet which was inserted into the greetings cards."