Mari Kita Berbual-bual: Forum on Chinese-Malay Intercultural Exchange

24 – 25 Sep, various timings | Glass Room, National Gallery Singapore

TranslateSingapore 2016 presents a 2-day main forum that looks at the cultural interflows between the two largest language communities in Singapore – Chinese and Malay. The festival shines a light on the lives and contributions of our pioneer Chinese-Malay translators, with participation in the forum from leading practitioners and scholars in the field. The translators have devoted their lives to bridging the two worlds through translating literary works, building dictionaries, compiling journals and publishing scholarly research. Even as English increasingly became the main language of work and social interaction in Singapore, they have remained passionately involved in providing the means for the two cultures to connect more directly.

Two of the pioneers, Yang Quee Yee and Chan Maw Woh, shared about how they started learning Malay and working in translation. Watch the video below:

Panel 1

Voices and Choices: Chinese-Malay translations in early Singapore

24 Sep, 11am – 12.30pm | Glass Room, National Gallery Singapore | Free admission by registration here | In English and Mandarin

Featuring: Chan Maw Woh, Raman Daud, Goh Siew Poh, Leo Suryadinata, Tan Chee Lay

Moderator: Tan Dan Feng

The Chinese-Malay translators have devoted their lives to bridging the two largest language communities in Singapore – Chinese and Malay. A panel of scholars and experts will look at the significance of their works and their relevance to Singapore and the world.

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Panel 2

Between Two Worlds: Singapore's Chinese-Malay Translation Pioneers

24 Sep, 2pm – 3.30pm | Glass Room, National Gallery Singapore | Free admission by registration here | In Mandarin

Featuring: Chan Maw Woh, Goh Choo Keng, Leo Suryadinata

Moderator: Tan Chee Lay

The pioneer translators share about their motivations, experiences and the challenges that they face in their work. With China becoming a major regional power, they also share their views on the possible future for translators working in these two major Asian languages.

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Panel 3

Native Flower: The Beauty of Baba Malay

25 Sep, 11.30am – 1pm | Glass Room, National Gallery Singapore | Free admission by registration here | In English

Featuring: Chan Eng Thai, Nala H Lee, Anne Pakir

Moderator: Frederick Soh

This panel focuses on the beauty and richness of Baba Malay, a hybrid language that is the product of the fusion between Hokkien and Malay. However, is the language facing the threat of extinction? Or is there hope for a renewed flowering as younger members of the Peranakan community and other Singaporeans seek to find something to define their Singaporean identity? The speakers seek to find some answers.

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Panel 4

Sea and Soil: Translating Rawa

25 Sep, 3pm – 4.30pm | Glass Room, National Gallery Singapore | Free admission by registration here | In English

Featuring: Chan Maw Woh, Isa Kamari

Moderator: Kok Heng Leun

Pioneer translator Madam Chan Maw Woh has been a long-term translator of Cultural Medallion recipient Isa Kamari's works. With the latest Chinese translation of his book Rawa coming out soon, the writer and translator sit down for a tête-à-tête to talk about their collaboration, in particular the challenges of translating a specific culture – the Orang Seletar – in Rawa Go to Top

To find out more about TranslateSingapore events, please click here


National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew's Rd
Singapore 178957

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Speakers and Moderators Bio

About Chan Eng Thai

Born to Peranakan parents, Chan Eng Thai has served in the main committee of The Peranakan Association Singapore from 2004 till 2016. Chan was also the association’s Baba Nyonya Convention Committee Chairman, and in 2005 and 2009, oversaw two Baba Nyonya Conventions hosted by the Association in Singapore. An active proponent of Peranakan culture, Chan is a frequent speaker at the Peranakan Museum’s Friends of the Museum. A pantun enthusiast, Chan has written pantuns, which he recited at the many events and The Peranakan Association’s choir, The Peranakan Voices, performed. Chan continuously encourages the Peranakans to speak Baba Malay and endeavours to make Singaporeans appreciate the unique Singapore embodiment that is Peranakan culture and heritage.

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About Chan Maw Woh

Chan Maw Woh or Chan Meow Wah is a writer, a Chinese and Malay language translator and was a journalist for Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese newspaper in Singapore. Chan started her writing career in 1958 when she wrote her first short story "Ah Ngo", which was published in the literature section of the Nanyang Siang Pao. Chan translated Nyawa Di Hujung Pedang (Life in Danger) into Chinese language and published it in October 1959. It was the first Malay novel translated into Chinese in the history of Singapore Chinese literature. Chan has compiled 16 titles of Malay-Chinese, Malay-Chines-Inggeris and Chinese-Malay, Chinese-Malay-Inggeris dictionaries together with her husband Dr Yang Quee Yee (or Yang Kui Yee). In the 1960s, Chan served as the editor of Majallah Bahasa Kebangsaan (National Language Magazine), a monthly publication, for about eight years. She has also written and translated over 10 titles of books, including Wajah Sasterawan Melayu (Faces of Malay Writers) and Arus Melayu Singapura (Singapore Malay Literature and Culture), and Malay novel Satu Bumi (One Earth and others. Chan has received several literature awards, including "Sahabat Persuratan" (Literature Friend Award) given by the Malay Language Council of Singapore, "Anugerah Penghargaan" (Honour Award of Literature), and "Anugerah Bakti Persuratan" (Devotion Award of Literature) given by Angkatan Sasterawan '50 (Malay Writers Association) for promoting Malay language and literature beyond the Malay community. Now, she is the vice-chairman of Singapore Literature Society, life member of Angkatan Sasterawan '50, Tropical Literature and Art Club, Singapore Association of Writers.

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About Raman Daud

A former trainee-teacher, the first full time Malay drama television scriptwriter with the then SBC (now Mediacorp TV), Mohd Raman Daud (@armand or Raman Daud) has been a senior journalist with Berita Harian since 1984. He has written many teleplays, several stage plays, short stories, poems and literary essays which were presented at national and regional conferences. He has edited several books including the late Sage Dr Muhd Ariff Ahmad's memoir, Perjalanan MAS and his masterpiece on Malay culture, Nilam. He has served the Singapore Drama Advisory Committee (formerly with Ministry of Culture), the National Arts Council and a number of Malay organisations.

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About Goh Choo Keng

Goh Choo Keng was born in Singapore in 1936. He and his family fled to Medan, Sumatra during the Japanese occupation and only moved back to Singapore after the Second World War. In 1959, he graduated from Nanyang University, majoring in economics. After graduation, he worked as a journalist for a Chinese newspaper, before becoming a copywriter at an advertising firm. He also wrote papers and short stories for Utusan and Berita Harian, while being a part-time Chinese to English translator for both radio and television. Currently retired, he continues to work as a part-time translator.

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About Goh Siew Poh

Goh Siew Poh was born in Taiping, Perak, Malaysia. He holds a Master of Arts (Chinese literature) from Universiti Putra Malaysia. He is Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Malaysian Chinese Studies, also a columnist for Malaysiakini (Chinese Version) and Nanyang Siang Pau.

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About Isa Kamari

Isa Kamari has written nine novels in Malay: Satu Bumi, Kiswah, Tawassul, Menara, Atas Nama Cinta, Memeluk Gerhana, Rawa, Duka Tuan Bertakhta and Selendang Sukma. Eight, except Selendang Sukma were translated into English. Satu Bumi and Rawa have been translated into Mandarin, Tawassul has been translated into Hindi and Urdu, while Menara has also been translated into Turkish. Recently Isa wrote his first novel in English, Tweet. He has also published two collections of poems, Sumur Usia and Munajat Sukma, a collection of short stories, Sketsa Minda, a collection of theatre scripts, Pintu and a book on Singapore Malay poetry, Potret Puisi Melayu Singapura. Isa was conferred the S.E.A. Write Award (2006), the Cultural Medallion (2007), and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang (2009).

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About Kok Heng Leun

Kok Heng Leun is the Artistic Director of Singaporean theatre company Drama Box, and a prominent figure in both the English and Chinese-language theatres in Singapore. Thus far, he has directed over 80 plays, including Kuo Pao Kun's Spirit Play, Forum Theatre Trick or Threat!, and It Won’t Be Too Long (Singapore International Arts Festival, 2015). A respected Forum Theatre practitioner within Asia, Kok is also one of the foremost theatre practitioners in Singapore known for advocating multi-disciplinary applied and engaged arts. Kok supports community engagement in his works to promote critical dialogues about the world we live in. In recent years, Kok has been actively advocating cultural exchanges and dialogues amongst regional and international artists and cultural workers.

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About Nala H Lee

Nala H Lee is currently a senior tutor at the National University of Singapore. She recently completed her postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, having obtained her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa in December 2014. Lee is interested in language change brought about by multilingualism, and her specific areas of focus are typology, creoles, variationist sociophonetics, and language endangerment. She is better known for her work on language endangerment as a co-developer of the Language Endangerment Index used by the Catalogue of Endangered Languages on the Endangered Languages Project portal (, and for her work on Baba Malay. For her dissertation, Lee produced a reference grammar of Baba Malay, titled A grammar of Baba Malay with sociophonetic considerations. The Peranakan people and language are a matter close to her heart. As a heritage speaker of the language, every new thing she is taught by her elders becomes a new bond that connects her even more resolutely to her heritage.

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About Anne Pakir

Associate Professor Anne Pakir (Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore) is the Director of International Relations (IRO) at NUS. She obtained her Ph.D in Linguistics from the University of Hawaii, Manoa and focused on a linguistic investigation of Baba Malay for her thesis. A Fulbright scholar at U.C. Berkeley and later at Cornell, Pakir also won a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) award to Tokyo and was an ASEAN University Network (AUN) Distinguished Visiting Professor in Manila. She received the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes academiques in 2010 from France. She serves on several editorial boards in the fields of Applied Linguistics, Language Planning, Language Policy, World Englishes and Asian Englishes. Her most recent publication, co-edited with Lisa Lim (University of Hong Kong) and Lionel Wee (NUS), is English in Singapore: Modernity and Management, 2010 (Hong Kong University Press). She received the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) awarded by the President of Singapore in 2014. She was conferred the inaugural Singapore Association for Applied Linguistics (SAAL) Mentoring Medal of Honour in 2015. She will be conferred the Association Internationale De Linguistique Appliquée (AILA) Honorary Membership at the 2017 AILA Congress.

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About Frederick Soh

Baba Frederick Soh has been involved in Peranakan stage productions for the last 16 years with Gunong Sayang Association (GSA), playing the gamut of young male roles in seven productions, including Janji Perot (1999), Kipas Cendana (2003) and Belom Mati Belom Tau (2005). He also appeared in several English and Malay television productions for Mediacorp. In 2009, He was also involved in Bedrooms (Bilik Roda Hidup) by Peranakan Association and National University of Singapore (NUS). Of late, he has been doing more behind the scenes roles. He penned his first script for GSA’s Pagar Makan Padi in 2010 and his directorial debut in 2014 for the Tanda Mata Mak. In 2013, He was involved in the “Preservation of Dondang Sayang” project by the Ministry of Education (MOE). Recently, in 2016, he was also involved in “Digital Dondang Sayang”, a collaboration with NUS and Cosmic Armchair. A fourth generation Peranakan, he is currently the first Vice-President of Gunong Sayang Association.

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About Leo Suryadinata

After graduating from Nanyang University (Nantah 1962), Dr Leo Suryadinata studied at the Universitas Indonesia and obtained a Sarjana Sastra degree. He continued his graduate education at Monash University (Australia) and Ohio University in the USA, and received his Ph.D. from the American University in Washington DC. He taught at National University of Singapore (NUS) for 20 years and was a professor when retired. He moved to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to serve as the Director of Chinese Heritage Centre (CHC) for 8 years. He is currently Visiting Senior Fellow at Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusof Ishak Institute; Professor (Adj.) at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU. When studying at Nantah, he was active in promoting the Malay language and literature. He helped edit the Mimbar Universiti (University Tribune, in Malay), served as the editor of Budaya (Malay journal), translated Malay/Indonesian literary works into Chinese, and introduced Malayan Chinese and China's literature to Malay readers. He often wrote for Berita Harian (Malay daily) and Nanyang Siang Pao and Sin Chew Jit Poh (Chinese dailies). His books include The Major Characteristics of Modern Malay Literature (in Chinese), Selected Modern Malay Poetry (in Chinese and Malay), Classical Malay Poetry (Chinese and Malay), Jejak Kaki dan Lagu Hati (Footprints and Heart Song, in Malay), Singapura: Kotaku, Kampung halamanku (Singapore: My city and my home, Malay and Chinese, co-editor), and Kota Singa (The Lion City, Malay poems).

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About Tan Chee Lay

Associate Professor Tan Chee Lay has lived in Singapore, Taiwan and UK, and has studied Chinese literature, English Studies and Business Administration. He completed his doctorate in Oriental Studies (Chinese literature) in Cambridge University, specializing in Chinese poetry and exile poets. He is currently Associate Professor of Chinese at National Institute of Education (NIE), and is the Executive Director (Research & Development) of the Singapore Centre for Chinese Language, Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

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About Tan Dan Feng

Tan Dan Feng is active in the regional language, translation and publishing sectors. He began working as an English-Chinese translator in 1993. He chairs the annual Singapore International Translation Symposium and has been involved in the translation programmes at Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Institute of Management University as lecturer, course coordinator and academic advisory board member. He is currently a member of the Program Committee of the Asia Pacific Translation and Interpreting Forum, the apex regional translation body. He sits on several government committees, including the National Translation Committee, the National Arts Council Arts Advisory Panel and the MCI Television and Radio Advisory Committee Panel of Experts. Books that he has edited or co-edited include Singapore Shifting Boundaries (2011), Indonesia Rising: Islam, Democracy and the Rise of Indonesia as a Major Power (2009) and The Chinese in Indonesia (2008).

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