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Singpass Features Multiple Languages

Image credits: app.singpass.gov.sg

More users are now experiencing the convenience of conducting transactions in their native language as Singpass features four of Singapore’s official languages – English, Tamil, Malay and Chinese. By selecting their preferred language in the app’s settings, more users can experience the convenience of conducting transactions in their native language.

As more features are onboarded, this will better support citizens who are more comfortable transacting in vernacular languages.

– Josephine Teo, Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-Charge of Smart Nation and Cybersecurity

The legal divisions and other government departments were also tasked with ensuring that the texts comply with existing policies. Approximately 60,000 words had to be translated into three languages across two platforms immediately. Multiple rounds of checks were conducted to guarantee that nothing is lost in translation and to avoid translation errors.

The words were placed into a spreadsheet and delivered to a team of hired translators by the Government Digital Services (GDS) branch of GovTech. The translators are provided with mock-up screens to provide context for the content they are attempting to translate.

The team also helped the translators by developing a variety of technologies, such as locking worksheets to prevent accidental alterations and colour coding cells for readability, to decrease human error and continuously enhance the processes for producing high-quality translations. In addition, the spreadsheet is intended to automate key procedures and improve the efficiency of translating various strings to be included in the programme.

The initial translations were then sent to an external vendor for review. After that, the translations were imported into the app, and multiple rounds of testing were carried out to ensure that the user interface across different devices could accommodate the new words, especially since most of the translated text takes up more screen space than the English version. Internal native speakers were also given test builds of the translated app to correct contextually incorrect word choices and review the accuracy and design.

Finally, Citizen Translators – native speakers and writers who volunteered with the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) to review translated materials and help raise the translation standards of public communications in Singapore have provided feedback to further refine the translations. Their feedback was reviewed by the same team of internal translators, and some changes were incorporated into subsequent app releases as part of ongoing efforts to improve app usability.

While the multilingual feature has been released successfully, additional development remains. The usage of a spreadsheet to facilitate translations prevents translators from having a side-by-side comparison of how the app appears and what is being translated, which can delay translations.

In addition, for each batch of translations, engineers must manually insert or export new word strings into the system, limiting scalability. Furthermore, users may also still encounter untranslated content via the Singpass app. While the data labels in a user’s profile are translated so that monolingual users may locate the relevant data, the data values provided by the respective government agencies are only available in English to prevent mistranslations and maintain the agencies’ data accuracy.

The GovTechies from the National Digital Identity team who worked on the translation project are Zheng Yurong, Associate UX Designer; Law Xun Da, Associate Software Engineer; and Tay Li Soon, Lead Product Manager -all are continuously collecting feedback from multiple agencies to enhance translation quality.

Singpass is one of the eight national strategic projects managed by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and supporting Singapore’s Smart Nation objective. It is the digital identification of a Singaporean resident that enables convenient and secure access to over 2,000 government and private sector services online and in person.

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